Hello my name is Jacki Alessio and I came to know the 100 Hour Mindful Yoga Therapy program through my home studio director Suzanne Manafort. I have to first of all express my gratitude to Suzanne and my fellow student peers who have honored my brief service to the Connecticut Army National Guard (August 2017-February 2018). I truly believe I've arrived in a unique niche of the yoga community and thus my experience thus far in this training has been a transformative one.Personally,I've sought out psychotherapy for 20 years for relief from anxiety, seasonal and grief related depression, addictions and codependency, and from automatic responses as a result of interpersonal violent traumas. Professionally, I've worked in the field of mental health/social work for 10 years; empowering survivors of abuse and neglect, advocating for civil liberties at the local and state level, taking care of the elderly and those with physical disabilities/ABI's/TBI's and providing clinical support to those involved in the criminal justice system.
In November of 1978, English rock band, The Police released their debut album, …which we could argue could have been titled, The Police-Greatest Hits Volume 1. One of the songs on this album is titled “So Lonely!” It is perhaps the happiest song about being completely alone. The Police were HUGE…MEGASTARS…ON TOP OF THE WORLD. Yet, Sting the lead singer of The Police (in case you live under a rock), felt empty, “being surrounded by all this attention and yet experiencing the worst lonely feeling.” You wouldn’t have guessed it by the upbeat rhythm of the song, but by all accounts…Sting was suffering from depression. This song really peaked my interest. Why did it seem Sting was on top of the world…even though he seemingly and albeit joyfully reaching out for help? Two questions came to mind: 1) Does your individual perception of depression control the effects of depression and 2) Is it OK to be depressed?
According to a recent study, depression can be subdivided into four neurophysiological subtypes (‘biotypes’) defined by distinct patterns of dysfunctional connectivity in limbic and frontostriatal networks. This study suggests that depression is another spectrum issue that presents itself differently in every case. Jeff Masters is a yoga therapist, teacher, and author. Masters has been researching consciousness and the human energy field for over 30 years. He describes depression is a multi-phasic progression which needs to be addressed individually. It can be viewed through the lens of the Gunas as being of the nature of stagnation (Tamas) or exhaustion (Rajas). Perhaps in Sting’s case…he was exhausted by all of the attention, but felt like he had to keep doing whatever needed to be done in order to promote the album and the band. Masters adds that regardless to the source, depression requires mindful engagement…not avoidance.
Question 1: Does your individual perception of depression control the effects of depression?
Jeff Masters has been a somatic therapist and clinician for more than 30-years. He suggests, past experiences which inform your perception of reality, and impact your reaction to similar triggers, begin to unwind and arise into your consciousness. As this occurs your discerning mind (still unconscious) is activated and, if you haven’t yet done the work within the Yamas and Niyamas, will trigger your limbic system - the seat of your emotions. Which means your past impressions are experienced as occurring in the moment as opposed to being relegated to the past.
Depression triggers the hippocampus and the amygdala to activate the sympathetic nervous system. Masters says when this happens, “We have an on-load of stress hormones into the system. This can be of an acute level - causing anxiety, panic, fear, or anger. Or it can be sub-acute causing "feelings" of unease or insecurity.”
This is a cool point! In 1978, Sting, whose real name is Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, was just an English rockstar struggling with success. However, in 1990 he began his yogic journey and has ever since had a very strong yoga and meditation practice. Interestingly…there also have not been any songs like “So Lonely.” Perhaps, yoga and meditation work? Perhaps Sting…who could easily still suffer from depression from time to time…has done the work…and now his perception has changed, thus the way he presents it to the world has changed?
Question 2: Is it OK to be depressed?
I have been practicing yoga since 1999. Not a very long time in the grand scheme of life…but to be sure…a long enough time to have experienced the joys of relief it brings on so many different levels. I can remember when I first learned about yoga and struggled with my preconceptions. Did I have to wear a black speedo, grow my hair out and never wear a shirt again? (My first experience with yoga was a VHS tape of Rodney Yee. HA! ) Would I have to give up meat? Would I have to speak only of rainbows, unicorns, chakras, and peace? Would I have to completely change who I am? I could go into great length answering these…but I will be short in my answer: I believe yoga makes you the best version of you…regardless of any of the above mentioned thoughts/requirements. You still get to be you…just a much better version of you.
These thoughts however are valid! If yoga and meditation help with depression…then am I…or YOU…allowed to be depressed? According to Masters, there is a deep well of practitioners in Yoga / Self development field who feel like experiencing "negative" emotions is to be avoided. However, the Practice of Yoga (POY) innately accesses the recesses of our consciousness, our body, our energetic matrix which underlies it all. As this occurs and we continue the practice, we will increase the transformative heat within these specific aspects of being. In other words, as we do the work, there is a good chance past trauma can surface and present itself as anger…and over the long-term if not properly addressed…depression.
So…if I am understanding this correctly…YES…it is OK to feel angry and perhaps even depressed! The important aspect is what we do when these feelings arise. Masters says, “Your state of consciousness at the moment that you re-experience these impressions is crucial to denature or down regulate these mental and emotional triggers.” He suggests before these feelings become uncontrollable to set a Boundary of First Resistance, “take a breath and back off slightly. Begin surrounding the practice with the breath and stay as centered as we can in the calm awareness of the Buddhi mind (where the Mind and the Prana are one).”
The practice of Yoga WILL bring things up. Masters says to avoid the artifacts and their echoes that arise, is to “re-embed the traumas.” The goal of yoga/meditation is to assess the breath (prana and the mind), adjust the practice and to take refuge in the sadhana. Additionally, Masters highlights the importance of Self-Awarness and Ahimsa…aka no shame, “if you feel that the experience is too overwhelming to manage, then seek out assistance in the form of Sangha or even professional assistance. When in doubt seek it out (help).”
David Bowie - Changes I 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:
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.
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.
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!
When 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.
Mindfulness 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:
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,
Amanda 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
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.
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 relationship 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. There are many free resources available to help you find support. You can find them HERE!
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 practicing 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.
There are many free resources available to help you find support. You can find them HERE!
Sunday, Suzanne Manafort appears in the Hartford Courant as a Hometown Hero. Suzanne started working with veterans eight years ago. Words like “hero” have no place in the vocabulary she uses to describe herself. So for this recognition, she offers most humble thanks, and asks that people consider learning more about Mindful Yoga Therapy, the program she co-developed.
Mindful Yoga Therapy...for heroes
With an emphasis on strength, resilience and acceptance, Mindful Yoga Therapy was designed to help veterans--the true heroes--move forward toward recovery. The nonprofit’s mission is helping veterans to find a calm and steady body/mind to continue productive and peaceful lives through the support of the mindful practices of yoga and education.
By both training yoga teachers, and teaching Mindful Yoga Therapy in therapeutic treatment settings, Suzanne aims to bring Mindful Yoga Therapy to the widest possible audience.
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.
Today the New York Post features an article on John Neib, Vietnam vet and student of Mindful Yoga Therapy. John talks about how Mindful Yoga Therapy helped him sleep better and his love of the community at Newington Yoga. He plans to assist MYT founder Suzanne Manafort in a future yoga teacher training program.
Read the full article on the New York Post site.
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
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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."
Dear 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.
Once 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....
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.
Extra-long, extra-wide, extra-sticky deluxe yoga mat....check! Mala beads...check! Meditation bench...check! Designer yoga shorts...check! First-name basis with yoga instructor...check! (Luchadora mask and championship belt optional!) Why then am I not ZEN YET? I mean really? If you're like me...you've put in the time. My practice started back in earnest in 1999. I've been teaching steadily since 2007. I offer free classes for Veterans. I donate money to several different non-profits that work with Veterans. I donate mala beads. I meditate pretty damn regularly. I have a daily list of mantras to read. I write about topics like compassion, peace, and hope. I even wrote and recorded a yoga nidra this past year. So why then am I (and maybe you) not ZEN yet?
First of all...if you totally agreed with everything you just read...and really felt a connection...go back and count how many times you see the word "I!"
Truth be told, it was a real tough year for me. It was my first full-year of retirement from the Air Force. I went from being in charge of a large group and responsible for a rather important mission to a stay at home dad. Don't get me wrong, this is equally challenging, but the scale of my responsibilities were greatly reduced. I have a special needs son who has been home-bound for well over a year. He has debilitating OCD and autism. I no longer am able to travel and work with Veterans and fellow yoga teachers like I use to. I could easily add to this list, but I think you understand where I am going. LIFE HAPPENS...and that is when YOGA helps!
Several months ago I was talking with Rolf Gates about my meditation practice. I told him that I felt my Transcendental Meditation mantra was no longer working for me. He confessed not to know much about TM, but asked me if I was using my meditation practice and mantra as a pill, or as a way of life? DAMN! Was I sitting because my phone reminded me it was time to sit? Have I been meditating because that is what yoga instructors do? Was I only putting a band-aid on my wounds?
"Things don't come up when you want to fix things, they come up when you're ready to fix them...when you have enough bandwidth to focus." - Rolf Gates
In Chip Hartranft's translation of the Yoga Sutra, he suggests that Pantanjali believes most physical and mental actions arise from a fundamental misunderstanding of reality and therefore entail suffering. So...if you're like me and are suffering, most likely it is because of a 'fundamental misunderstanding of reality.' How then do we stop taking the pill of yoga?
Look no further than the Yoga Sutra!
"And if you wish to stop these obstacles, there is one, and only one crucial practice for doing so. You must use COMPASSION." 1.32-1.33
Yoga and meditation have the ability to work in two ways. From the outside in and from the inside out. When you use them as a band-aid, you are only able to work from the outside in. While this is still better than nothing at all, you're not truly practicing compassion. In order to be compassionate, we have to practice self-care. We have to love ourselves enough to engage in a loving and caring relationship with ourselves. Taking a daily pill will only temporarily provide comfort. However, a daily practice of 'yoking' (yoga and meditation) will create the opportuinty for compassion to pour freely from every part of you. In the Yoga Sutra it describes this daily practice as a way to control the tendency of your consciousness to gravitate towards misunderstanding. (Why am I not Zen?) Instead, it helps teach you how to turn inward and realize the true nature of what is causing us to be in a mode of judgement, rather than compassion. Rolf Gates says compassion is the opposite of judgement and that when we are judging, we are not understanding.
So...WHY ARE YOU AND I NOT ZEN YET? Most likely because of life and our in ability to understand why things are happening to us the way they are. In Anatomy of the Spirit, Caroline Myss recommends that we must first stop asking why things happened to us, as this is a form of judgement and not compassion. I would suggest the need to cultivate rather than regulate a daily practice. Work from the inside out with breath work and meditation and from the outside in with asana. Notice and practice non-reaction instead of judging and asking why. Most importantly...LOVE YOURSELF for who you are, not for who you were, or who you think you should be.