Ch Ch Ch Changes...

David Bowie - Changes 115908378I still don't know what I was waiting for And my time was running wild A million dead-end streets Every time I thought I'd got it made It seemed the taste was not so sweet So I turned myself to face me But I've never caught a glimpse Of how the others must see the faker I'm much too fast to take that test

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange) Turn and face the strain Ch-ch-Changes

At the most basic level...Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) is a natural response to an unnatural event. Of course from this point...there are many jumping off points we can explore which would further define what PTS is. It is safe to say that after a traumatic event, your body and mind...change. The opening lyrics of David Bowie's "Changes," seem so fitting when it comes to describing the changes warriors with PTS go through. For me...I could easily change the lyric: "...and my time was running wild," and replace it with "...and my mind was running wild!" Bowie continues with the lyric, "turn and face the strange." This could very well be the first step in post traumatic growth! In yoga terms we might call this santosha. Santosha has a direct translation to contentment, however, I like to translate it as acceptance. It is often very difficult for those struggling with PTS to feel...to feel comfortable being themselves...to face the stranger that is now them.  - Chris Eder | MYT Director of Communication

Mindful Yoga Therapy strives to provide the appropriate tools to help those who suffer from PTS. Additionally, our 15 and 100-hour training programs strive to provide a teaching protocol that will help cultivate not regulate a daily practice for these warriors. Perhaps...even leading to some amazing life changes.

These changes often extend to the yoga teacher as well.

We asked our Outreach Coordinator for Veterans, Anthony Scaletta how the 100-hour MYT training changed him! Here is his answer:

Desert Camo

The Mindful Yoga Therapy (MYT) training pretty much changed everything about my practice. I feel that it took my understanding of yoga much deeper than the physical and into the layers of the subtle, mental and emotional bodies through our in-depth exploration of the nervous system. MYT training asked me to both learn about and then directly experience how the various tools of yoga affect the nervous system. For example, MYT taught me how to use yogic tools such as the breath in relatively simple ways that can have profound results on the practitioner. For those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD,) we are perpetually stuck in the fight/flight response with our ‘foot on the gas pedal’ and in MYT we learn how to ‘pump the breaks’ and balance out the nervous system by activating the parasympathetic or relaxation response via the yoga practices in the MYT toolkit. As someone with PTSD, I find using the tools of MYT in my yoga practice to be very supportive and grounding. I have found a lot of healing in a regular practice of Yoga Nidra, which MYT training helped me to explore. Perhaps, the most significant change to come from undertaking the MYT training was that it laid the foundation for my formal seated meditation practice. Prior to MYT training I had dabbled with many different forms of meditation but never settled into a formal daily practice. That all changed when MYT Founder and Director, Suzanne Manafort, challenged us to commit to sitting for 40 days straight during our 100 Hour Training Program. If we missed a day, we would simply start again and continue until we strung together 40 consecutive days with a seated meditation. I had a few slips before I completed the challenge but it was highly effective in teaching me the benefits of a daily mediation practice. I have not missed a single day since I completed the challenge and that was over a year ago. Hands down the greatest change in my life and my practice to come out of MYT training has come from the meditation practice that I learned. It has been a total game changer.

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Anthony will be teaching at the White Lotus Wellness Center in College Park Maryland March 10-12. You can register here for this training.

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 Guiding Principle | Mindfulness (Part 2)

MadMimi Banner_Mindfulness-01

It's funny...the more I depend on technology to make me more efficient, the more it seems my life is full of things to do. I feel the very same technology I use to keep up in this fast-paced life...the more hectic my life becomes. Sometime to the point where I don't even get to...or more importantly...forget to enjoy it!

Mindfulness in its simplest form breaks down like this: paying attention, on purpose, in this moment, and without judgment. The mindfulness aspect of Mindful Yoga Therapy consists of two primary components:

Vietnam veteran John Reib practices Mindful Yoga Therapy1. Paying attention to the present moment 2. Maintaining an attitude of acceptance and non-judgment

Today, Suzanne Manafort, MYT Founder, follows-up with Part 2 of Mindfulness which deals with acceptance. Acceptance (Santosha)

Acceptance is an important part of mindfulness, and santosha is a key component of any therapeutic yoga practice. Santosha is the yogic principle of contentment and acceptance of what is actually arising in the body-mind. This acceptance does not at all infer non- action, but rather is the basis for transforming patterns in the body-mind. Santosha involves a degree of “allowing” that can be practiced only when inner support, grounding, and connecting to the earth have been firmly established.

The emphasis on acceptance is especially important for veterans with PTS due to the high incidence of guilt and moral injury that arises from the traumatic events they experience during military service. Many veterans have participated in activities that they later feel intense guilt and shame about. Conversely, other veterans feel a strong sense of guilt and shame about things they did not do or could not prevent. These negative feelings about past events, and the tendency to replay these events in the mind, prevent many veterans from living in the present moment. This negativity is often manifested as anger, restlessness, struggling, and isolation from others. By fostering santosha in our students, we can help them not only feel better about these past events, but also become more comfortable living in the present.

Peace & Love,

Suzanne

MYT Guiding Principle | Mindfulness (Part 1)

MadMimi Banner_Mindfulness-01Mindfulness is a major buzzword in today's fast-paced, I want it now world we live in. Slowing down for some seems so far fetched...and perhaps even unachievable. Mindfulness in its simplest form breaks down like this: paying attention, on purpose, in this moment, and without judgment. The mindfulness aspect of Mindful Yoga Therapy consists of two primary components:

Suzanne Manafort, founder and director, Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans

1. Paying attention to the present moment 2. Maintaining an attitude of acceptance and non-judgment

Today, I want to talk about how we can pay attention to the present moment in Part 1 of Mindfulness. Present Moment Awareness The cultivation of mindfulness can be very challenging, but it is an important piece of any yoga therapy practice for veterans with PTS. Often they live outside of the present moment, avoiding painful reminders of trauma or actively re-experiencing traumatic events. At other times, people who suffer from PTS are in the present moment, but are there with a great deal of fear and anxiety because they experience elements of their current situation as threatening and unsafe. Avoidance and hyper-vigilance are primary symptoms of PTS. The meaning a person gives to internal physical sensations has enormous implications for physical and psychological health. Often, individuals with PTS interpret internal sensations as abnormal or frightening. As a yoga therapist, you can help your students minimize symptoms by normalizing the sensations experienced, reframing their meaning, and reducing the tendency to catastrophize. In Mindful Yoga Therapy, we are invited to intentionally focus on the sensations in their yoga practice, both to find comfort and to learn to be present and non-reactive to sensations of discomfort. The comfortable sensations then become a source of support, and the uncomfortable sensations become dissociated from fear and anxiety.

Peace & Love,

Suzanne

Memorial Day Growth

Memorial Day Growth-01Memorial Day is a very interesting day. For some, it is the official beginning of summer, highlighted by family barbeques. For others, it is a day to mourn the loss of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Some even celebrate the brave men and women who are currently serving. I have had the honor to serve with some amazing heroes over the past two-plus decades. Included in this list are many who have never wore a uniform, but proudly support, honor and cherish those who have. One of those is a friend, and fellow Frog Lotus Yoga graduate, Lisa Bassi. She recently posted these words…and I found them to be very fitting:

Memorial Day and Veteran's Day come once a year. It is only right that we should give thanks for those who serve and protect us. I know it is traditional to dedicate Memorial Day to those who gave their lives but I think we should also consider those who gave the life they knew and now live a different life. They planned to serve and then to come back to what we all have but, for many, coming back is not so easy. The life they dreamed of is no where to be found. Instead they have a life they never conceived of - with PTSD, illness or injury. Help them hold on. Remember them now, when they need us most. Flags and wreaths and ceremonies are great - but a kind word, supporting a business, a phone call, letter or helping hand - these things make a difference too. So, this Memorial Day, honor the fallen and also those who gave their lives. Their sweet simple lives, for us. -Lisa Bassi

The reason you celebrate aside, I’d like to take a few moments to talk about an often over-looked military population worthy of our mourning and celebration…the Vietnam Veteran.

I am not suggesting there is a group of warriors more or less deserving, rather I want to publically mourn a group of warriors who came before me. I often tell those who will listen, that I don’t know where I would be today if I didn’t have a strong yoga and meditation practice before I went off to war. The Vietnam Vet in most cases didn’t have one…and the battles they faced and face on a daily basis are unspeakable. Additionally, there were no KickStarter campaigns to help cover medical and housing costs. None of them jumped onto Twitter to bash the local Veterans Affairs office on the lack of services available to them. Times were indeed tough. In the book, What It Is Like To Go To War, Karl Marlantes writes about the need for a “psychological and spiritual combat prophylactic.” Marlantes suggests the reason is because going to combat is much like unsafe sex, “it’s a major thrill with possible horrible consequences.” Imagine how that would have played out today with the proliferation of mobile technology, narrowcasting, 24-hour information/news cycles and citizen journalism at an all-time high. The memes alone would generate enough attention and dare I say money to fund the above mentioned housing and medical costs.

As a journalist, I have seen with my lens and the lens of my fellow combat journalist the physical, emotional and spiritual toll of war. What I have learned of trauma is that it sees no religion, gender, creed, nor orientation. It equally spreads its grips across all socio-economic boarders. The effects are real. They are painful. They are 100-percent indiscriminate. Often they paralyze their captor to the point of no return.

The National Vietnam Veterans' Readjustment Study (NVVRS) highlighted some alarming statistics about the Vietnam Veterans. Overall, the NVVRS found that at the time of the study approximately 830,000 male and female Vietnam theater Veterans (26%) had symptoms and related functional impairment associated with PTSD. Just so you know, Columbus Ohio is the 15th largest city in the United States with just about 836,000 people. Can you imagine what we would do as a nation if we decided to ignore the entire city of Columbus? If we decided it was no longer important to us to take care of them? The  NVVRS study found just shy of 31% of men and 27% of the female worries who fought for us in Vietnam suffer from lifetime PTSD. I can tell you first hand with all of the resources at my disposal, the past 13 years have been in a word…HELL. I can’tYoga-Readiness-Initiative-Military-Patch-300x300 imagine 41 years of it…with little to no support. Mindful Yoga Therapy is honored to have the Give Back Yoga Foundation (GBYF) as our parent…so to speak. GBYF is launching their Yoga Readiness Initiative this Memorial Day. This project aims to bring free Yoga Readiness Kits to active duty military and their families. These kits offer service men and women a way to explore the practice of yoga as a tool to heal from the traumas they experience through deployment.

 

_()_Namaste,

Chris Eder, Retired Air Force

Istanbul was Constantinople...and soon Newington Yoga will be...

Newington Yoga Center

THIS IS BIG NEWS!

 

The Mindful Yoga Therapy team is extremely honored to announce the Newington Yoga Center will soon be the Mindful Yoga Therapy Training Center...basically, our new Headquarters. MYT Founder, Suzanne Manafort has been operating the two separately, but over the past few years, there has been more and more requests for training. Suzanne says this transition, "is a natural evolution."

Not only has there been more requests for training, but our team is getting bigger too. Suzanne believes a dedicated home base will allow MYT to, "expand the way that we serve our local community with our center."

Mindful Yoga Therapy is for everyone and so too will be the training center. According to Manafort, "The center will be open to all. The focus at the MYT training center will be mindful programs and the ability to work with people that have experienced trauma, or are dealing with stress and anxiety."

Rob Schware is the co-Founder and Executive Director for the Give Back Yoga Foundation. MYT is one of the four programs GBYF supports. Schware believes having a dedicated training center will enhance their mission of bringing yoga and mindful-based programs to underserved and under-resourced segments of the community. "MYT is not just for veterans. Having a dedicated training center will help train yoga teachers and people living with or managing eating disorders, stress and anxiety disorders, drug and alcohol addiction, and domestic violence."

For the Newington local yogis, it will be business as usual. Same great classes and same great teachers. A new sign may be in the works.

Support Precedes Everything with Suzanne Manafort

The principle of support preceding action states that if we want to feel connected and integrated in our movement, we need to know where our support is coming from before we engage in any action. For example, in Mindful Yoga Therapy we learn to recognize the earth firmly beneath us in order to allow ourselves to receive its support. Knowing we have the support we need before we make any move forward, take our next step in life, or even simply move into a yoga posture is essential. In other words: Support Precedes Everything

Maintaining your own practices and keeping your body and nervous system healthy are of utmost importance. Your personal yoga practices are as important as what you are teaching. Your Pranayama, Asana, Yoga Nidra, Meditation, and Gratitude should not be neglected.

The grounding connection to earth lets us know that we have the support we need to move forward safely and with stability. This earthy, grounded feeling provides a calm presence, steadiness, and sense of ease.

With continued practice, our students may find new sensations of having support under them in many different areas of their bodies. They may begin to spontaneously initiate movement from those supports. When our students know where their support is coming from, they find more comfort. Finding this connection and relationship with earth may help our students begin to find a renewed relationship with themselves as well. Finding and nurturing this relationship with the self, and feeling fully supported by the earth, allows them to begin to explore their relationships with others.

One of the 6 supports

Connecting to Earth

Connecting to earth, or grounding, is one the earliest supports we begin to explore and this creates an active Grounding Feet1relationship between earth and us. Planting our feet or hands on the earth is the primary foundation for nurturing an understanding of what it is to be in relationship. By yielding into the earth, we are better able to receive its support and stay grounded in the present moment. This process teaches us to be in relationship with ourselves as well as with the earth on which we stand or rest.

We ask students to imagine being able to walk through life feeling fully connected to earth and to themselves. Developing a conscious relationship between self and earth fosters an ability to trust the support beneath you. This trust may lead to a sense of ease in relationships with others as well. MYT Mandala Logo_Clear-01There are many free resources available to help you find support. You can find them HERE!

Christine M SPA-01

 

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 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.