Celebrate All Who Made Sacrafices

For the better part of last week and most of this week, I have been looking at all of the different offers I can take advantage of this Veterans Day. Everything from discounts and free meals at some of my favorite places like Tijuana Flats...to free lifetime membership at Top Flight. There are no fewer than three free yoga classes within an hour of my home too. I'm pretty sure I could spend the entire day driving around enjoying all of these perks offered to me because I served.

However...I did notice something. 

While I am very appreciative...and to be totally honest...I do love a free meal/shirt...I noticed very few actually included everyone who made a sacrifice. In other words, the majority of these salutes to Veterans left out the extended family. Sons and daughters...husbands and wives of the Veteran. I can tell you first hand they equally served and equally shoulder the sacrifice.

So this Veterans Day...all of us here at Mindful Yoga Therapy want to honor all those who served...including those who didn't wear a uniform...but instead wore a cape...or some other super-hero outfit. We ask that you do the same. While you're out and about this weekend (or anytime) and you see a Veteran...take an extra moment and acknowledge their family members too.

 

_()_ Namaste,

Chris

Retired Air Force (1990-2013)

Did Yoga Find You...or Did Yoga Find You?

In the book, How Yoga Works, by Geshe Michael Roach, a young girl named Friday is arrested when she crosses the boarder with an ancient copy of the Yoga Sutras. While in jail, she notices the Captain is suffering from pain. Over time...and I mean...a long time...Friday teaches the Captain...how yoga works. In this story, yoga found the Captain just at the right time. Over the years, I often ask people, "How did you find yoga?" The answers generally fall into two categories: I found yoga, or yoga found me. I asked this question to our Outreach Coordinator for Veterans, Anthony Scaletta this question...here is his answer.

Pearl Harbor

Yoga found me. I believe that’s just how it works – when you are ready (i.e. life’s challenges and experiences have prepared and opened you to receive the teachings) the practice of yoga will find you. It’s a spin on the old maxim that when the student is ready; the teacher appears. Well, I feel that when a person is ready to begin practicing; the yoga appears. The scope and diversity of yoga make it intrinsically adaptable which lets the yoga practice meet someone right where they are in a way that is most useful and meaningful to them at the time. It is in this way I feel that yoga finds you. That’s how yoga found me. I was in a lot of pain mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually and I was seeking to ease my suffering. It provided me (and continues to do so) with many tools to address the various layers of my being while carving out the path toward healing and wholeness. Yoga found me about a year after I separated from active-duty and gave me a way to reconnect to my body and find some support and grounding. In this way it really helped as I struggled to reintegrate into civilian life. I honestly don’t know where I would be if yoga hadn’t found me at such a critical time because I had been on such a destructive path with drugs and alcohol and some really risky behavior. That was over a decade ago and yoga still seems to be finding me in new ways as it continually supports me through all the ups and downs of life. The challenges I face are my teachers and the yoga provides me with the tools to skillfully navigate them. I believe that yoga is truly a gift and I mean it when I say that yoga saved me. That is why I am now so committed to sharing the practice of yoga with others, particularly my fellow brothers and sisters that have served, because I wholeheartedly believe in its transformative powers to heal, empower and inspire people to step into their fullest potential.

 

Anthony will be leading a 15-hour Mindful Yoga For Trauma Training For Yoga Teachers program at White Lotus Wellness Center, (College Park MD) March 10-12. Space is still available. Register Here!

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MYT Teacher Highlight - Susann Spilkin

elephant-love-774430_10151443717508420_680415199_oWhen Susann Spilkin first tried yoga during the early 70's, it wasn't to learn the ways of the enlightened, rather it was a way to escape for a night out with her husband. However, it wasn't long before the allure of listening to the Beatles playing in the yoga classes that yoga turned from 'something alternative to try,' to 'joy from being inside her body' in a way she had never been before. Similarly, that is the one of the goals of Mindful Yoga Therapy. The tools provided in the MYT practices are a powerful complement to professional treatment for Post Traumatic Stress. Tools that when used in tandem with professional talk therapy help veterans reconnect to their bodies. Susann's father was in the Air Force Reserves. She recalls a trip to the Detroit VA where she took her father for an appointment. While walking through the hallways she experienced great joy, much like her first yoga experience. She really enjoyed sharing a smile, or even eye contact with the Vets at the VA. Perhaps a felt experience, or perhaps an authentic experience. Susann's Veteran connection begins and ends with her dad, but that doesn't mean she isn't connected. "I may not have experienced anything our vets have experienced in their service, but we are more alike than we are different; we all want the same things….to feel good and to live a life with as much peace and joy as possible."

Susann is in fact spreading peace and joy. She teaches yoga using the MYT principles to veterans at the Detroit VA Medical Center as well as the Domiciliary Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program. Additionally she has presented MYT at the Michigan Association of Treatment Court Professionals Annual Conference in the hopes of introducing MYT into the Michigan Veteran’s Treatment Courts. Rolf Gates often says in his class, "plant good seeds...and good fruit will grow. Well, the seeds have been planted and they are already beginning to grow. Susann has been contacted by the Ann Arbor, Michigan VA Transition Management Team to bring yoga to their post-911 vets; the Detroit VA Medical Center Military Sexual Trauma Department for a women’s only MYT program; and the Macomb County Vet Center wants a MYT program as well.  If you think that is a lot of work for one person to handle...you're right! Three of our recent 100-hr graduates are stepping into these opportunities.

A mindful, embodied yoga practice can provide relief from symptoms and develop the supportive skills that veterans need in their everyday lives. Yoga has proven to aid in a veteran’s healing journey. This healing power, or journey is not only for the veteran. It is a two-way path. Susann believes her personal practice has been fortified by her MYT training and teaching. She says the principals were always present but now have a deeper meaning.  "The actions and effects that I took for granted truly seem like precious gifts now. Gratitude plays a much bigger role in my own practice/teaching and life. I am more aware than ever of the power of the practice to support a balanced nervous system and can equate that to the yogic quality of sattva."

Getting a yoga student to take a teacher training class is pretty easy. Easier still is getting a yoga teacher to take a yoga class. However, it still seems somewhat elusive to get veterans to try yoga. Susann offers this advice. "Remember the old Life cereal advertisement?....'Try it, Mikey likes it!' Ask your buddies who have tried yoga; you are more likely to believe and trust them than me.  Those who have tried it are likely to tell you they are sleeping better, have a handle on their anger, that their relationships with their families have improved and they have a level of self-acceptance that they haven’t felt in a long time. You are likely to hear them tell you that they are less often numb or controlled by their emotions and that they are feeling more and in a good way."

Solid advice to be sure. However, what if you don’t have a buddy letting you know how yoga has given them tools to deal with life? Susann suggests grabbing one or two of them and finding out together.

If you're a veteran and are looking to try yoga, but are not sure where to start...contact our Outreach Coordinator for Veterans, Anthony Scaletta. If you're a yoga teacher who is interested in taking one of our programs, check out the program schedule for a class near you.

Support Precedes Action in Colorado

902707_636102863139375_7326619904782601498_oAmanda Neufeld and Colten Peed own and operate Yoga Studio Satya in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They have a very clear and focused mission statement:

To Bring Joy and Health to the Body and Mind, to Inspire and Love Without Judgment and Create a Community Beyond the Walls in Which we Practice.

And this is exactly what the two of these yogis from "The Springs" are doing. They have already hosted a 15-hour Mindful Yoga Therapy weekend course, as well as a 100-hour teacher training program. Colten and Amanda have also signed up to host another 15-hour course next year.

Colorado Springs is a perfect location to reach out to and serve Veterans. Colorado Springs is home to five military bases so a a good portion of the population is currently serving or has served. When they opened their studio they initially wanted to be a local non-profit that supported yoga in the community...that is how they found The Give Back Yoga Foundation (GBYF). GBYF has several programs for under-served communities...one of which is Mindful Yoga Therapy, which seemed appropriate for their demographic. So, they reached out to Suzanne Manafort to host a 15-hour training. According to Amanda, once they met Suzanne Manafort, "we knew were a part of something really incredible." Of the tools in the the MYT Toolbox, Amanda and Colten (like Suzanne) believe Support Precedes Action is the most important, "we must learn how and be willing to support ourselves. Support Precedes Action...whether this be in body, environment or relationship, there is a willingness to be receptive and aware." According to Colten and Amanda, this MYT principal allows you to return to a natural flow without trying to fix or change yourself.

For Amanda and Colten, what makes the Mindful Yoga Therapy training standout is the educational focus on the nervous system, guided nidra and calming breath practices that are sometimes overlooked in other training programs that are more asana based. Additionally, they believe the training is very helpful in discussing the military culture and language that is appropriate, while understanding PTS and levels of severity and how it effects the health of the individual.

"I think this training was the path I was looking for to deepen my own studies of therapeutics and trauma and I feel much more prepared to meet my clients with the tools we've learned through this training." - Amanda

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Getting a Veteran on the mat can sometimes be super easy...and sadly...sometimes hard. Colten and Amanda have a pretty straight-forward idea on how to approach Vets to practice yoga.

"Although yoga can be perceived as fancy foot work, too difficult or it seems too fluffy - I say find a place that seems like a good fit and give it a try! There are several classes around town offered to veterans for free, there are classes at the VA and there are a few studios in town that also work privately if that is a better fit. If you're physical body is in pain or you've had an amputation: yoga can help increase range of motion, build strength and balance and help decrease pain, if you have PTS, anxiety or depression: yoga can help you increase breath capacity which calms the nervous system, if you have a hard time sleeping: yoga nidra can help you find rest without pills. There are many positive benefits of yoga that will meet you where you are."

So far this year, with the help of MYT, GBYF & Gaiam, Yoga Studio Satya has been able to donate yoga mats and tool kits for TAPS & the 127th MP CO. Colten and Amanda believe the MYT program has been so thoughtfully developed and truly cares for each veterans as an individual. More importantly, they say they are grateful to have the opportunity to support such tremendous work these men and women do and offer a way to serve them and their families.

If you are interested in helping serve the Veteran population, or perhaps you own a yoga studio and want to host a MYT event, please send us an email.

Support Precedes Action and the Patterns of Life

  Support Precedes Action is one of the...say it with me..."most important tools" in the Mindful Yoga Therapy toolbox.  But what does it mean to you? Tanya Del Priore is a Navy Veteran and yoga teacher who completed the 100-hour MYT training at Studio Bamboo in Virginia Beach. Here is what Support Precedes Action means to her.

By Tanya Del Priore, 18 Jan 2016        

I first encountered the phrase and principle of “support precedes action,” during the Mindful Yoga Therapy 100-hr teacher training in Virginia Beach, VA.  The best explanation of the expression is an exploration of how the principle manifests itself in everyday life, on and off of the mat.  I have reflected over my 52-years of life and have come to understand two things.  First, I have been pract12573105_10205818522883527_4092485831782063747_nicing this principle of support precedes action even though I had no words to describe it.  Secondly, in life, things always happen in patterns.  When two patterns are put together, a third will appear.  Let me explain.

My first pattern in life occurred during my childhood where I experienced a traumatic event.  I received immediate support from my family members and was able to move forward in life.  The action was moving forward and not hanging onto the traumatic event.  Learning, at a young age, how to move forward will serve me well during my next pattern in life.  My second life pattern was serving for 23 years in the United States Navy.  I was supported by years of training that taught me how to “react” appropriately in a stressful and traumatic events and I have been exposed to many unnatural events.  I have fought fires onboard ship, collided with other ships, swarmed by low flying unidentified aircraft, I have seen many people seriously injured, and witnessed suicides.  I was able to manage my way through each of these events with the support of fellow Sailors; you could say we were all in the same boat (a Sailor’s term of endearment for ship).  It was the support of these Sailors and the sense of community that supported me through things that do not happen naturally in life.

After serving for 23 years, then came my time to leave the Navy and I retired in 2008; I was happy and sad at the same time.  I was happy to be with my family at home but sad to leave my Navy family community behind.  Then a third pattern emerged when I started practicing yoga in 2011.  I was supported by those in the class and by the teacher.  I was sharing the expressions of yoga poses even though our individual experiences were different.  I met so many people who shared yoga with others for different reasons.  Why did this place of yoga feel so familiar?  It was because if felt similar to the place I had recently left and had served with for 23 years, the Navy.  Today, I practice yoga because I am supported by others and I support them.  I practice yoga because every pose is a “safe action” and for 23 years in the Navy I experienced plenty of “crazy military action”.  Yoga provides a safe place for good, appropriate, and natural occurring action to happen.  Each day, I practice recognizing patterns, triggers, and then I support myself with the tools of yoga to help me “act” (not “react”) in a manner that is beneficial to my health and well-being.  Remember, support ALWAYS precedes action.

 

ThMYT Mandala Logo_Clear-01ere are many free resources available to help you find support. You can find them HERE!

 

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Happy Veteran's Day

Happy Veteran's Day!

 

The brave men and women wh serve our country are sent out to fight wars without being given the choice of wether or not to do so.  You might not agree with the wars we fight but that is no reason to show anything but respect for these brave souls.  They sacrifice their time to their families and anfriends and many have sacrificed their lives.

 

This Veteran's Day, reach out and thank a Veteran.  Not only will he or she feel good because of your thoughtfulness but, by expressing your gratitude, you will immediately feel a sense of happiness.

 

From everyone at Mindful Yoga Therapy, we'd like to thank you, Veterans, for all that you have given of yourself so that we can continue to have and enjoy our freedoms here at home.

 

The Noble and the Brave: A Veteran's Day Tribute

by Joanna Fuchs

 

When America Had an urgent need

These brave ones raised a hand

No hesitation held them back

They were proud to take a stand

 

They left their friends and family

They gave up normal life

To serve their country and their God

They plowed into the strife

 

They bought for freedom and for peace

On stage and foreign shores

Some lost new friends; some lost their lives

In long and brutal wars

 

Other veterans answered a call

To support the ones who fought

Their country had requirements for

The essential skills they brought

 

We salute every one of them

The noble and the brave

The ones still with us here today

And those who rest in a grave

 

So here's to our country's heroes

They're a cut above the rest

Let's give the honor that is due

To our country's very best

 

 

Anthony Scaletta interviewed on Reload Radio

_JTA8795 (1) MYT's Anthony Scaletta was interviewed on Reload Radio.  Listen to the full interview here.

Anthony, Mindful Yoga Therapy's Outreach Coordinator for Veterans and a graduate of our 100 hour certification program, served as a US Navy Special Warfare Combatant Crewman (SWCC) with Naval Special Warfare Group 1 out of San Diego, California from 1998-2003. He was an 11 Meter RHIB operator and did two deployments to the Northern Arabian Gulf region conducting Maritime Interdiction Operations and reconnaissance missions.

As a result of his service he was diagnosed with PTSD, Anxiety, Depression and OCD.  He also suffered chronic pain and underwent spinal fusion surgery. It was through these “opportunities,” which he used to call obstacles, that yoga found Anthony--and it immediately resonated with him as the way to heal and reintegrate after his military service.

Meet Anthony and learn more about his Mindful Yoga Therapy mission.

Happy Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day. To everyone, living and fallen, who has sacrificed so much so that we can enjoy the liberties we have, we give thanks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEs4ke7cdNQ#action=share

 

JUST A COMMON SOLDIER
(A Soldier Died Today)
by A. Lawrence Vaincourt
He was getting  old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.
 
And tho' sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we'll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world's a little poorer, for a soldier died today.
 
He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won't note his passing, though a soldier died today.
 
When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.
 
Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?
 
A politician's stipend and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.
 
It's so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,
That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.
 
Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?
 
He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier's part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
 
If we cannot do him honor while he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.

#22aDayChallenge

Ali Warrick (Yoga With Ali Warrick) and Chris Eder (MalaForVets) are leading the charge for a 22-Day Challenge to raise awareness about the daily rate of Veteran suicides. The two hope to raise, not only awareness, but funds for two non-profits making a difference in the quality of life of Veterans: Save A Warrior and Mindful Yoga Therapy. For 22 days starting May 1st, Ali and Chris will post various pictures and videos of themselves performing a yoga move, yoga sequence, or fitness-related exercise on their Instagram pages (Chris: @afnbroadcaster, Ali: @yoga_w_ali ) These posts will also be shared on their Facebook pages. The goal is to encourage others to do the same. This share & post social media campaign is the thrust behind the awareness component of the campaign. To make things sweeter, Mindful Yoga Therapy has offered up some swag and MalaForVets has offered up a Strength & Courage mala. Guidelines are below on how to be entered to win

HOW YOU CAN HELP!

OPTION 1

For 22 days (starting May 1st), post a picture of yourself doing the daily pose tagging all hosts and sponsors and using #22aDayChallenge! Beginners welcome! All of our poses will be accessible to ensure every yogi can participate!

OPTION 2

Yoga isn’t your thing? Donate $22  and take a screen shot of your confirmation! Post and tag us using all of the hashtags to let us know you chose to support in a different way!

To be eligible for prizes:

  • Follow our hosts & sponsors on Instagram: @afnbroadcaster, @yoga_w_ali, @givebackyogafoundation, @mindfulyogatherapy, @saveawarrior, @fractal.9, @flexiblewarrior
  • LIKE our hosts and sponsors on Facebook: @MalaforVets, @Yoga With Ali Warrick, @givebackyogafoundation @saveawarrior, @mindfulyogatherapy, @flexiblewarrior, @heather’s treasures, @Fractal 9
  • Repost this Challenge Announcement to help spread the word, tagging all hosts and sponsors.
  • ADD these hashtags to all of your posts: #22aDayChallenge #SaveAWarrior #MindfulYogaTherapy #Gratitude #GiveBackYogaFoundation #Yoga_w_Ali #MalaforVets #afnbroadcaster

Your profile needs to be public so we can see your posts!

Thank you to all who choose to join in on this challenge and help spread awareness for our veterans and the organizations that support them.

Stand Down Marine - A Veteran's Testimony

1009954_1415912508723922_3344808858957432595_nStand Down Marine - A veteran's testimony

From Day 1, as a Marine it is ingrained in our very moral fiber never to surrender, quit, or leave a man behind. To keep the moral values of honor courage and commitment is something many Marines strive for even after leaving the Corps. For many of us in combat situations we endure things that are horrific, and painful. Though as a war fighter we shut the pain off in order to continue with the mission, often replace it with rage and heightened sensitivity. When you are deployed you live with your guys day in and day out ready to lay down your life for your buddy. There is no way to explain the bonds we create to someone who has never been. Though I can say my fellow Marines are as close, if not closer, to me than my own family.

We come home after being deployed, and we are sent to a few classes about PTS, told not to drink and drive, fight, or get into domestic disputes. We come home from being so close, and for many of us we come home to not much of any family, or social life. I often would listen to someone in conversation, and be asked “Andrew, did you hear anything I just said?” I was gone, off in my own mind.

With PTS, I began, like many of my Brothers and Sisters do, to medicate. I would drink, until I was medicated, then the drinking stopped replaced by meds, or a combination of both I did whatever it took to be numb. My thoughts raced, I had nightmares, and I wanted to die but didn’t have the nerve to kill myself. I was miserable in my own skin, and to make it worse I had lost 3 years of sobriety when I drank coming home from deployment. The last 4 years has been a struggle, sober, drinking, depressed, and repeat. It’s a vicious cycle that eventually made suicide seem like a legit alternative. I wanted to die, and was starting to feel the courage to do it. Thank God, for God - that feeling that we get when that guardian angel whispers “no.”

I’m broken, but I’m fixable, if I can be an example of getting sober, then I can be an example of starting over. Today I’m Andrew; I have a problem with PTS, and Whiskey, but most of all I have a problem with what’s going on in between my ears. Today, I’m sober.

It’s very difficult to admit defeat, but it is necessary to recover, so I surrender. I need help. “Please help” was the hardest, most rewarding thing I ever did. Please ask yourself honestly, “do I want to be a testimony or a statistic?” Suicide is not the answer; whiskey, pills, depression, and isolation is not the answer. For many of us we have a dual diagnosis, addiction, alcohol, post traumatic stress. I have backup, a quick reaction force, I like to call him God. I was told, when I began my journey to recovery, to find Him and ask for His help. The shame is not in surrender, it’s in pride and ego telling you that you can do it on your own. Until that pride and ego tells you that “your nothing, no one cares, screw it,” then you may find yourself like me, seriously considering, some days, just ending my life. That’s not the answer, if you don’t see it I hope you do after you read this. Giving into PTS, or Suicide is like a 3000 mile sniper shot taking you out from the Middle East. I, for one, do not want to give those bastards the satisfaction of knowing I wasn’t strong enough to endure being here at home.

There is no difference for this Marine to stick a gun against my head or take a shot of whiskey to feel numb. It will all lead me the same place, morally, spiritually, or physically dead. There is hope though, to all the veterans out there who drink to be numb, think of friends lost, live in guilt, are hurting daily, or just waiting to punch their ticket. I just want to say I feel you, and you are not alone. Yoga, clinical professionals, and treatment are all answers. So I quote one of the men who saved my life. One of my heroes, mentor, and friend Sgt. Major Mackey, when he told me, “Stand down Marine, the battle is over, you’re not alone. Your brothers are here to help you, and the ones who didn’t make it home deserve better for their memory than you to throw away their sacrifice by messing your life up.”

Funny thing is in surrender, I have found victory, because I’m Andrew, I’m human, I’m hurting, need help. Great thing is, I found it. I found help through organizations like Semper Fidelis Health and Wellness, Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans, Treatment, and Veterans Services. It’s ok to ask for help, it’s not ok to try and survive on your own. The war is not over; we are losing the battle here with suicide, addiction, alcoholism, dereliction, homelessness, and spiritual suicide. Many veterans every day are thinking about or have succeeded in ending their own life. I’m sad to say in the course of writing this I can almost guarantee suicide has crossed a service members mind.

Yoga, along with proper treatment, and support is a great set of tools to help you along your road to recovery. So, please hear me when I say, stand down, the battle is over you’re home, we are here to help. Please, if you need it cry out for it, and stop being alone. God Bless and I hope this can help someone, because today I want to be a testimony of recovery, not a statistic.

Semper Fidelis,

Andrew

USMC RET.

Yoga Journal Karma Awards

Hello everyone! We are humbled, and excited, to announce that MYT founder Suzanne Manafort will be receiving a Karma award from Yoga Journal in September of this year.

She has also been selected to receive a Seva award! The Seva awards are awarded to "yogis who are doing seva, or selfless work, by bringing the healing practice of yoga to underserved people either in their own communities or around the world."

There will be a scholarship award given to one of the 13 Seva winners to help carry on their work.

We'd like to ask you all to vote for Suzanne by visiting her bio page.

Vote by May 1st.

We are eternally grateful for your support!

From Yoga Journal: "In choosing the 13 Seva Award winners, the editors at Yoga Journal, along with our advisors Rob Schware, Executive Director of Give Back Yoga Foundation, and John Kepner, Executive Director of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, searched for yogis who have been volunteering consistently (week after week, month after month, year after year) for at least eight consecutive years; who are doing pioneering work with an underserved population; and who have made progress against serious odds in a difficult situation."

A Letter From A Veteran

Army YogisDear Veteran, Often times people say that I’m way too intense, way too committed, way too aggressive for my cause of wanting to help veterans deal with PTSD. I was told that writing is a form of therapy, and this being one of those sleepless nights I figured I would just see what comes to mind.

So, why am I intense you ask? I think I’m intense for a few reasons, some might say I’m a product of my family environment growing up, others may say its my training as a Marine. I might say it’s because I’m deep down terrified of funerals. I was told to tone it down more than a few times by people in the community, but for me this is a much different journey.

My trauma manifests in my compassion. See to me losing a veteran to suicide, ptsd, drugs, prison etc…. is the same as losing a veteran on the battlefield. Honestly, a little piece of me breaks every time that I hear of one of these incidents. My platoon made it 5 months and 22 days before one of our squads personally took a KIA. Justin was a great kid, and his memory resonates in everything I do. The scary thing is the Marine next to him, severely wounded, was one of my best friends to this day.

Honestly, I think this is where a lot of my fear/intensity comes from that I may lose another Marine, Friend, Brother. Trauma is trauma, and I get that, but there is something different about help from someone who has been there. Twenty-two veterans a month commit suicide, for every 1 servicemen killed there have been 4 wounded. Alcohol and Drug addiction is at an all time high. As well, homeless vets, incarceration, and un-employability due to undiagnosed PTSD. So yes I’m intense because I still live by the motto never leave a man behind.

Just tonight I sat with a 15 year staff sergeant who is extremely decorated. This staff sergeant struggles with what he saw in combat, he does art therapy. The man explained to me when he is drawing and concentrating on his pen stroke he is not thinking about the trauma he endured and it becomes less. I have seen this in yoga - friends of mine who have not slept for days trusting me enough to close their eyes and let me guide them through breath. Funny, some even fall asleep. Yoga has broken walls in me that were impenetrable. Yoga has helped me heal by taking me from a state of hyperventilation, to a place of maybe 4 minutes of peace. Yoga has taught me to activate my parasympathetic nervous system to reduce my flash backs. I’m a Marine who suffers more from survivor’s guilt than combat stress. I don’t need to recall the horrors of combat nor do I need to act like I have been more or done more because I haven’t, but what I have done is come home and slowly but surely walked out of darkness.

So please if you think Im intense and on a high horse take a walk and let me do me. You and most people haven’t seen the shit we have, and that’s ok but just keep in mind I take what I do as a life and death matter, because more of my friends are dying here as a result of PTSD and other things than in combat. I practice non violence, and honesty. I try to practice surrender even though its against a Marines nature, it is the nature of a Man. The best lesson I have taught my self is the practice of restraint. To keep my mouth shut and smile, but it is hard after a 2 am phone call from a brother who is drunk asking why he is alive, why he made it home and not a fellow brother. Shit wears on your mentality, and so yes to me yoga is very intense, because its how I keep from snapping.

A year from now I will be in a different place, but today yoga and the practice has taught me these emotions are ok. I should let them flow like water while instilling the lessons my teachers have taught me. I often refer to a dristi as a rifle scope, I breathe, focus…..breathe…..posture……focus…..dristi……breathe…..focus….notice in this process with time and strength trauma is wiped from my mind, focusing on the objective at hand. If I can focus on posture and breathing I can slow my mind, calm the trauma, quiet the screams, explosions, the horror between my ears, and just focus. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

So yes, to my fellow Marines, I’m intense because I know from my own experience how dire this situation really is. This war has not stopped, thousands upon thousands of vets every day deal with some sort of Combat trauma, and I myself thank god for my sweet calm ladies in the yoga studio who were so nice to me when I walked in as a ball of rage and emotion, who let me cry and sit in a corner, but the first message of yoga did not come from them. It came from a Man, a Marine who said, "look dude nothing else has worked, you look like shit, try this way."

It's what I needed to be where I am now. So…I will continue to be intense. Its okay to seek help, there is no defeat in the surrendering of knowing you can’t do this on your own. If you need help seek help. Your brothers and sisters wouldn’t leave you on the battlefield and, if you ask, we won’t leave you here.

That is all, thanks.

Sgt. USMC RET.

Mindful Yoga Therapy in the News - Cincinnati

Jennifer Wright teaches yoga to Veterans in CincinnatiOnce again, the Mindful Yoga Therapy program is gaining recognition in the news... In Cincinnati, Jennifer Wright is making mindful magic happen, helping veterans in the Veteran Court system.

Here she is being interviewed by Deborah Dixon of Cincinnati Local 12 News.

Local veterans with post-traumatic stress and other problems are learning how to deal with anxiety, depression and addiction in a peaceful way....

Congratulations To Our MYT Yoga Teacher Training Graduates

100 Hour Graduates In August, 2014, twenty-two yoga teachers embarked on a yoga teacher training journey which would forever change their lives and the lives of those they came in contact with. One weekend a month they would travel to Newington, CT from various parts of the U.S. - Rhode Island, Ohio, Florida - to learn the set of tools that have been developed over the past seven years to help Veterans who suffer from PTSD "to find a calm and steady body/mind to continue productive and peaceful lives through the support of the mindful practices of yoga." Five months later, they would meet one last time and, in the end, graduate with their certifications to bring the practice of  into the world.

We'd like to congratulate the graduates of Mindful Yoga Therapy's first 100 hour Yoga Teacher Training Program. We are SO grateful for your dedication and are honored to have been able to work with every one of you. We look forward to hearing from you all and can't wait until our reunion in 2016.

Are you a certified yoga instructor interested in taking our next 100 hour course? Join us in Virginia Beach on July 10th for the first session of our second certification course.

Connecting the Dots - Military and Yoga

Dui Mora

Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans is a powerful tool to promote tranquility and healing for the body. In this succinct program, my dear friend Suzanne Manafort introduces the practice of Yoga to our heroes. The wisdom contained in this program is now a significant part of my personal and professional life.

Throughout the years, I have combined my military career with a fulfilling yoga practice. My warrior quests have taken me all over the world. I have served in two major armed conflicts and worked at the largest center for military strategy, the Pentagon. Despite my triumphs and adventures, I have also experienced a few downfalls. Due to the high demands of my military service, I too, have found myself depressed and stressed for periods of time. Additionally, I have seen the reality of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) up close and personally: in friends, co-workers, and my brothers and sisters in uniform. It is not easy when someone you love falls into a dark place of isolation, anxiety, and despair.

As a yoga teacher and a military veteran, I wanted to connect the dots and develop my own conclusions for what I believe to be an effective, accepted, and comfortable yoga approach to support our veterans and their families. While working on my advanced yoga certification, I decided to write my final thesis on “Yoga for Veterans Coping with PTS. As I embarked on this journey, I met wonderful teachers, and learned and experienced different methods. I have no doubt that Mindful Yoga Therapy is by far the soundest approach available to the veteran community. The combination of intentional practices of breathing, asana, yoga nidra, meditation, and gratitude offer a wide range of possibilities to teachers and veteran practitioners. Moreover, I admire Suzanne’s efforts to promote the program at minimal or no cost to veterans. Her love for our heroes, dedication, and hard work in partnership with the Give Back Yoga Foundation has made the program widely accessible to our community.

I am happy to say that I have successfully included Mindful Yoga Therapy principles in the yoga classes I teach at the Pentagon Athletic Center and at various workshops and Wounded Warrior Camps. For a teacher, there is nothing more rewarding than completing a hero’s yoga practice and feeling the joy and tranquility permeating the space. As a veteran practicing yoga, the feeling of connection to other warriors, and the sense of being safe and grounded while nurturing rest and healing, is priceless.

Mindful Yoga Therapy focuses on supporting veterans, but I truly believe this approach also serves as a physical and mental resilience-building tool for people from all walks of life. By applying Suzanne’s “toolbox” while cultivating a steady yoga practice, you will experience a wonderful and positive transformation for living well and better! It is my honor to present it to you.

Dulia Mora-Turner

RYT500 Yoga Teacher and Captain, United States Air Force

The Battle Within Our Brains - The Ultimate Yin and Yang

Aligning-Stars "Cause you're a sky, 'cause you're a sky full of stars...I'm gonna give you my heart

'Cause you're a sky, 'cause you're a sky full of stars...'Cause you light up the path

Chris Martin of Coldplay

cavemanpainThere are about 100 billion neurons in your brain. Each of them connects to another via a neural pathway.  On average, each neuron receives about five-thousand connections, called synapses from other neurons. (Lindon 2007)  The number of possible of connections between all of these neurons is roughly 10 to the millionth power, or a 1 followed by a million zeros.  In theory, this is the number of possible states your brain can achieve.  For perspective, scientist estimate the number of atoms in the universe to be "only" 10 to the eightieth power.

The same brain that has evolved over time to protect us from extinction with super survival skills is also responsible for our pain and suffering.  Even though the majority of us would classify our lives as good, happy, and fulfilling, our brain is programmed to initially respond counter to those thoughts.  These thoughts are known as explicit memories, or memories which you can recall.  For example, I felt really good after yoga.  I totally remember how I felt after the class...I was sort of on cloud nine.  Here is where the problem lies...our brains have a default setting that scours our entire brain for unpleasant experiences.  These experiences are known as implicit memories.  This is an unconscious memory based on years of accumulated "lived" experiences.  It is the jest of who you are.  Scientist believe our brains are like velcro when it comes to negative experiences.  In other words, that stuff sticks with us...forever!  Conversely, our brains are like Teflon when it comes to positive experiences...that stuff just won't stick!

It is important to know and understand that this evolutionary development is very important to our survival.  It is the President and Chariman/Executive Officer (CEO) of our Central Nervous System or CNS.  There is also the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) who runs the Autonomic Nervous System. (ANS) The two major departments within the CNS are the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) andParasympathetic Nervous System. (PNS).  The SNS is responsible for signaling all of the different parts of our mind and body to get up and get out!  The PNS does the opposite, it relaxes you and comforts you.  It signals you when it is OK to chill out.

The SNS and PNS are in fact a Yin and Yang duality.  We need them both.  It is the SNS that alerts us that even a baby shark is still a shark...that a rattlesnake is poisonous...or that a person with a knife running towards you screaming is a dangerous scenario...you too must now run!  The PNS is totally the opposite.  It is cool, calm and collective.  It allows us to rest and digest.  Both of these two systems are automatic...hence they belong to the Autonomic Nervous system.

argh.jpgSo...where is the problem?  Well, since they are automatic, we really can't control them.  Remember how our brain defaults to our implicit memories...or the negative/unpleasant?  Well, when these systems are out of whack...which by the way, they are defaulted to do for survival purposes, the rest of our body systems will follow suit and thus also be out of whack.  Oh...and it gets worse!  According to a study by Maletic et al. 2007, even a single episode of major depression can reshape circuits of your brain to make future episodes more likely.  THANKS!

We have to fight back...with COMPASSION!

"The root of compassion is compassion for oneself."  - Pema Chodron

"The root of compassion is compassion for oneself."  - Pema Chodron

thoughts, emotions, actions

In a nutshell, we have to create more happiness, joy, love and positivity.  Esoterically, we have to pull out weeds and plant new seeds. (implicit memories) Scientifically, we have to create new neural pathways.  I like to call this, "Taking in the Good!"  There are three neural systems if you will that will help us along this Pursuit of Compassion.  Actions, Emotions, and Thoughts. If we can change our actions, emotions, and thoughts, then we can according to Dr. Rick Hanson and his book, "Buddha's Brain," bring happiness, love and wisdom to our lives. Who do you chose to feed?Who do you chose to feed?

This is where the REAL battle comes into play!  There is an old folklore story about the two wolves that live inside each of us.  The wolf of Hate and the wolf of Love.  As the story goes, which ever you feed will prevail.  But remember, it is so much easier to feed the wolf of Hate...it is our default setting.  I liken it to getting upset almost to (and sometimes over) the tipping point when someone cuts you off on the interstate.  Our first reaction more often than not is, "what a jerk!" (or some other colorful expletive!) That is is us feed the wolf of Hate.  What if...the person who just cut you off was rushing to the hospital because his wife, who is in the back seat is going into labor?  If you knew this...would you still think the person was a jerk?  Ah...the wolf of Love!  Yet another Yin/Yang battle.

Here is a very simplistic approach on "Taking in the Good."  We have to change our Actions, Emotions, and Thoughts with small positive actions every day that will add up over time and build new neural structures.

ACTIONS:  I had a yoga student come up to me prior to a yoga class and tell me she finally figured it out!  It was her actions to others that was causing stress, not others causing her stress.  Perfect!  That is a clearheaded response.  It is virtually impossible to change the person or thing that irritates you, that makes you mad, or causes you stress.  However, you can change how YOU react to it.  Sometimes called the "Second Dart" syndrome.  It works like this.  If I were to tell you that you were a failure who really didn't meet their true potential...you have two options.  Option #1 - Strike Back!  "How dare you say that to me?" "Who are you to judge me?" "You're life isn't so great either...you big loser!"  (Feeding the wolf of Hate...super easy, instant gratification.)  OR Option #2 - You could pause, tap into your explicit memories, rather than your implicit memories and instead of sending a "Second Dart" back at me, change you ACTIONS to that of compassion.  It is nowhere near as easy.  There is also a good chance there will be no instant gratification.  However, you are now feeding the wolf of Love.

EMOTIONS:  Our brains need to have a regulated flow of Nuerochemicals.  Chief among them (for the purpose of this blog) are Serotonin, Dopamine, and Oxytocin.  Serotonin regulates our mood and a deficiency can cause major depression.  Dopamine controls our reward and pleasure systems and helps with our "emotional" responses.  Low levels in dopamine can effect your ability to think clearly, and reeks havoc on your ability to focus and concentrate.  (Think ADHD.)  Oxytocin aka the kissing hormone, promotes nurturing behaviors.  When we kiss someone, or are in a romantic/loving state of mind we produce oxytocin.  Low levels of this neurochemical is linked to autism-spectrum disorders...as well as poor social functions and depression.  We can actually think "Happy Thoughts" according to a study in the Journal of Psycharity and Neuroscience.   Additionally, breathing practices and physical exercises like yoga can alter and even regulate the levels of these neurochemicals to help regulate your emotions.

THOUGHTS:  Oh the thoughts..the self-doubt, the worries, unfounded conclusions.  The list could go on and on.  My personal opinion is that changing our thoughts is the most difficult task.  We now are working on both explicit and implicit memories.  However, the task is still very worthy of our attention.  And...with some basic building blocks we can begin to build a practice and daily routine that will over time become very powerful and rewarding.

Start with smiling!  Yep...that easy.  The simple act of smiling excites several neurochemicals in our brains and we begin to feel...HAPPY!  Try this.  Sit in a comfortable and supportive position.  Close your eyes and listen to your breath and pay attention to your thoughts.  After a few minutes, put a smile on your face and notice how your thoughts change.

We can also bring change to our thoughts through meditation.  There are many different styles and approaches to meditation.  I believe meditation is like pizza.  There really is no such thing as bad pizza, nor bad meditation.  For the purpose of this article, I would highly recommend compassionate/kindness-based meditation.  Meditation that will trigger neurochemicals (limbic-system) such as oxytocin (rewards/emotions) and will begin to engage your Prefrontal Cortex. (PFC) The PFC is kind of like the quarterback in your brain.  It sets goals, makes plans and directs actions.  It also allows and sometimes inhibits us from doing things.  It works mostly on a conscious level.  One of my favorite types of compassionate/kindness based mediation is Loving Kindness Meditation. (KLM)  In KLM you will be meditating for...bringing love and kindness to, three different people.  The first is someone who you love...who brings value to your life.  The second is someone who you'd much rather slap in the face...so to speak.  In other words, someone who brings strife or conflict.  Perhaps the person who cut you off on the highway.  :)  The third person...and this might be the most difficult person...is YOU!  Self-Compassion as Pema Chodron describes it above.   I have added a sample of one that I really enjoy.  I would highly recommend keeping a journal next to where you meditate to keep track of who you are picking as your #1 and #2 just to see what happens of the course of time.  Another word of caution...if you are new to meditation, I would recommend not going for the jugular for your #2.  Start small and work your way up.  I went right for the biggest issue in my life and got very sick.

Another real easy compassionate-based practice is the practice of Gratitude.  Mindful Yoga Therapy uses this practice with Veterans with PTSD.  The simple act of taking time to be grateful for something no matter how big or small is very powerful.  It too triggers all the same neurochemicals that simply and easily make you feel good!  Or as is the case with Vets with PTSD...simply feel...something.

There is one person in this world who holds all the power, maybe even the greatest power over you.  It is the future version of you.  You have the ability to be the best you that you can be.  It might not be the You...you're use to, nor the You...you once were.  It is however...the You...that you are...NOW! The power is in your hands...in your control.  Which wolf do you choose to feed?

You see, if we know that our brains are programmed to default to highlight negative experiences, our goal is not to suppress our negative thoughts into a deep dark place.  Instead, we need to cultivate more positive experiences.  Taking in the Good!   We do this by practicing on a conscious level.  We practice changing our Actions.  We practice by changing our Emotions.  We practice by changing our Thoughts.  In the beginning we act happy, loving, kind, grateful, and calm.  Over time, millions of new neural pathways will shape...and instead of "acting," we will simply...BE!

_()_Namaste - Chris

Mindful Yoga Therapy in Cincinnati

Ohio is the third most heavily recruited state in the nation, and home to over one million Veterans in addition to thousands of civil servants and active duty military members. Since introducing Mindful Yoga Therapy to Cincinnati and the surrounding communities, our programs have grown to support Veteran and active duty personnel ranging from Dayton to Northern Kentucky. Jennifer Wright leads a Mindful Yoga Therapy class at Tier 2 in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati programs represent a key part of the thousands of Veterans across the nation that are now served through Mindful Yoga Therapy. Led by Jennifer Wright Schneeman, Director of Holistic Health at  REAL Human Performance. Mindful Yoga Therapy programming is now being offered at the following Cincinnati locations:

  • REAL Human Performance Wellness Center, a facility that offers holistic fitness, performance and defense services to the general population and veteran community (about a 60/40 split).
  • Veterans Court in Cincinnati, where Mindful Yoga Therapy classes were introduced in April 2014.
  • VAMC-Fort Thomas, where Mindful Yoga Therapy is offered as a complementary therapy in the eight-week TBI/PTSD Residential program, in conjunction with Cognitive Processing Therapy.
  • Joseph House - Marx Recovery Center in CincinnatiThe Joseph House, a shelter for homeless Veterans located in downtown Cincinnati. The “JH” is certified by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to offer housing and in-patient chemical dependency treatment, out-patient treatment and reintegration support in the Ready & Forward program. As part of the VA's Community Outreach Division, the Joseph House's Marx Recovery Center strives to meet the needs of homeless Veterans suffering from addiction and other co-occurring challenges by providing the needed holistic support.REAL Human Performance's trained Mindful Yoga Therapy instructors work in conjunction with mental health professionals and the clinical team to maintain a commitment to a sustainable recovery and to thrive within the community.

Earlier this year, REAL Human Performance received a supply grant from the Give Back Yoga Foundation in support of the Mindful Yoga Therapy program in Cincinnati. Through free Mindful Yoga Therapy practice guides and yoga mats and blocks generously donated by Gaiam, the grant helped to jumpstart new programs for inpatient residential Veterans.

The Cincinnati MYT team is positioned to implement additional programs across the Tri-state area, and are working to establish clinical studies to quantify the benefits observed in conjunction with clinical treatment. For more information, please call Jennifer Wright, REAL Human Performance Director of Holistic Wellness, a 513-271-0380

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Join the team: enroll in our upcoming Mindful Yoga Therapy training at REAL Human Performance on October 24-16, 2014.

Spring Has Sprung for Mindful Yoga Therapy

Sit quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself. —Zen saying

HELLO SPRING!  For many of us it has been a long and cold winter.  Record-setting snowfall in many cities.  In fact, it snowed here (Baltimore) just last Sunday.  That is crazy! We had our first snowfall back in October.  That is six months of snow.  Six months of potentially staying indoors.  Six months of potentially little to no activity.  Six months of what I call...preparing my Buddha belly.  I guess on the flip-side, I haven't mowed the lawn in more than six months too.

As the grass begins to green over and grow, and the flowers...oh the flowers begin to bloom, get outside.  Get moving.  Enjoy the outdoors with a great sense of mindfulness.  It is amazing.  In the mornings I enjoy sitting out on my deck to watch the sunrise.  I've also been enjoying the company of the birds.  Two new types of birds hanging out with me in my backyard this year.  As the temperatures rise, the bunnies begin to come out too.  Turns out, they like daffodils just as much as I do.  However, they don't enjoy looking at them, rather they enjoy eating them.   I even had a raccoon hanging out in the backyard yesterday.  Spring is definitely alive and well.  So is Mindful Yoga Therapy. A lot has happened over this long winter.

First of all, we became the Yoga component of The Give Back Yoga Foundation. “Give Back Yoga Foundation already has a non-profit infrastructure that’s both effective and efficient,” said GBYF Executive Director Rob Schware. “By freeing up key Mindful Yoga Therapy staff members, we can allow them to focus on what they do best — teaching and helping veterans.”  Teaching and helping veterans is exactly what we've been doing!  On Veterans Day (way back in November) we held a nationwide fundraiser.  In May, The Oracle Band is holding a concert at the American Legion Post 40 in Glen Burnie Maryland. (FACEBOOK EVENT)   The money raised will help fund even more scholarships.  Speaking of scholarships, we were able to provide $6437.50 in grants to Veterans to attend our 15-hour course as wells as one lucky Vet will be going to a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training. Coming up this year we have committed to give 1 full scholarship and 2 half scholarships in the amount of $2250.00 for the 100 hour program.

Suzanne Manafort and Robin Gilmartin have been tirelessly working on our brand new 100-hour program.  The 100-hour Mindful Yoga Therapy program consists of five modules, presented over five weekends. It includes our Beginning Mindful Yoga Therapy Program and our new Resilience Program. 
The 12-week Resilience Program is the follow-up to the Beginning Mindful Yoga Therapy Program. Both programs include a 12-week protocol that includes Embodyoga® supports and all five “Tools” from the “Tool Box”.   Programs fill up quickly, so you should seriously consider checking our schedule and signing up today.

Suzanne and Robin have also worked out our second phase of training which answers the question "What happens next?"  In other words, what happens after Veterans with PTSD have successfully completed  our 12-week program?  One word kept coming up in the discussion our team would have.  That word...RESILIENCE!  What is Resilience?  Psychology Today says – “Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever.”  As we move into this Resilience program with our initial “Tools” from the Mindful Yoga Therapy Beginning Program in place, we begin to add more “Tools." We will add three new breathing practices and a new Yoga Nidra called Warrior Nidra. They will all be included on our new CD.

SpringpicONE MORE THING!

We are starting to put together a database of all of our MYT trained instructors.

 If you'd like to be on the list, send Chris Eder an email. Include: Name, RYT hours, City/State, where you were trained with date. Please also let us know if you are teaching at a VA, and/or if you are offering a free class to Vets.  We are starting to get several emails from people looking for a MYT class. 

There is so much more going on too!  Stay tuned.

Warrior Compassion and Nidra

Our Director of Communications, Chris Eder has been keeping busy.  He has "Warrior" on his mind.  Warrior Compassion and Warrior Nidra.  First off...Warrior Compassion.  In Chris' latest blog he talks about being compassionate even if you're a warrior. punch-yellow

WAIT A SECOND!  How can I be both a Warrior and a compassionate person?  How can I play a pivotal role in the destruction of physical property, ideology, and even...human life...and still live a life worthy of living?  A life of love and loving?  A life instep with that which I believe to be true?

 

READ MORE...CLICK HERE!

 

 

 

 

 

1654072_10153197893182837_280805222_nChris and our Audio/Video guru Paulie Miller just recorded the Warrior Nidra.  This track will be available on our upcoming Resilience CD.  Also included on this CD will be some additional breathing exercises.

 

 

 

 

Stay up to date with all that is happening with MYT on our FACEBOOK page.