Working with heroes

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 veterans at Newington Yoga Center

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.

Find more information on the Mindful Yoga Therapy website, where you’ll find a more detailed description of the programs and the populations they were designed to serve.

Find the full article in the Courant.

Mindful Yoga Therapy second 100 hour program graduates

Twenty Yoga Teachers Graduate from 100 hour Mindful Yoga Therapy Certification Program

Meet our second graduating class!  The Mindful Yoga Therapy 100 hour certification program awarded certificates to 20 new graduates in November. We're so proud to have worked with this group, and honored to know they will share what they've learned.

Mindful Yoga Therapy 100 Hour Certification Graduates - November 2015

The 100 hour journey for these teachers began in 2015.  To build on what they had learned in our 15-hour program, they enrolled in the 100-hour, one-weekend-a-month program at Studio Bamboo Yoga  in Virginia Beach, VA.  With Suzanne Manafort and Ann Richardson, they learned the set of tools to help Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress “to find a calm and steady body/mind to continue productive and peaceful lives through the support of the mindful practices of yoga.”

In November, they graduated with their certifications, and aim to bring the practice of Mindful Yoga Therapy into the world.

We’re honored to congratulate the graduates of Mindful Yoga Therapy’s second 100 hour Yoga Teacher Training Program. We are grateful for every one of you, and look forward to hearing from you all.

Are you a certified yoga instructor interested in taking our next 100 hour course? For teachers who have completed our 15-hour program, we offer 100 hour courses in Newington, CT beginning in March, and Virginia Beach, VA beginning in July.  Please check our schedule page for program details and registration information.

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.

MYT student and Vietnam veteran becomes yoga teacher

John Neib, Vietnam veteran 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.

How do we practice yoga?

from the Enhancing Your Yoga Practice series by Suzanne Manafort- Yoga Practice in Life When we begin a yoga practice, our focus is on learning the asana. As our practice begins to mature, we learn that the yoga practice makes it way into our whole life. The practices teach us to stay present and to grow into a whole, healthy, and sensitive person.

One of my teachers, Beryl Bender Birch, taught me that there are no mistakes. All things happen for a reason. We should stay present and connect to the lessons in all of our life experiences. As Beryl always says, “Pay attention."

I live on a lake, and every year the geese come home to the lake in the spring and mate. We have a bunch of new babies each year. I feed our geese and have created a relationship with them, even though most people feel that they are a nuisance. This year the babies hatched on Mothers Day. The parent geese brought them over to dock on Mothers Day to meet us. It was such a great Mothers Day gift.

The day that they are all hatched their parents get them in the water. My husband tells me that they are safer in the water than on land, and I am quite sure he is right.

Geese on the lake

This year began with 11 babies.  Now there are 8.  Other animals that live around the lake are their predators. It is so difficult to see them show up in the morning missing family members.

It is particularly beautiful to me to watch them grow from what looks like yellow rubber ducks to geese. They start with fuzzy yellow feathers, they grow tails, then wings and finally their neck and head turn black as their body color also changes.

At the beginning of June one day, as I was enjoying their company out by dock, one of the babies came dragging over to me making a sound I had never heard a goose make before. He got rather close to me and I was horrified to see that he had a huge hole in his neck and another in his chest. The bones in his chest looked as if they were showing and his neck was wide open. I sat with him for a long time and talked to him. I kept telling him he was going to be okay. He listened to me closely. I tried to remember carefully that he is a wild animal and that he is food for coyotes, but I saw him as a living suffering being that has consciousness the same as I do.

He came daily to see me. He would walk over to me and sit with me. I fed him cracked corn to help him build strength to get well. He is now the biggest of the babies in his flock, because of all of the cracked corn that I fed him.

In the beginning it was very hard for him to swim. I asked my friend Beverly, who is a farmer and has domestic geese, to come and take a look at him as he was healing. She thought because his neck was so injured, and because they use their necks to swim and to fly, that he might not fly.

This is how he looks today with healed wounds, but still disfigured:

Injured Goose

As the baby geese begin to mature, their wings grow and get strong and they learn to fly. It is so comical to watch them learn. They flap and flap and flap, get a little air and come crashing into the water. They look like drunken geese, ha-ha!

I imagined that my friend, the injured goose, would eventually be left behind and I was prepared to feed him some cracked corn all winter.  After about a month of loving care, I was incredibly surprised as I watched my goose friend flap his wings and jump off a dock and get a little air.

Recovering goose

He has grown from one of those little babies next to the dock to this magnificent animal despite his injuries. What an incredibly resilient being!  Today he is flying with his flock! They are still building strength and only flying across the lake, but he flies and has stayed with his flock. I am now quite sure that he will fly south this fall.

What have I learned?

Learning to pay attention in every moment is the ultimate yoga practice, whether showering, building a back deck, paying bills or watching geese. This effort to be present allows us to see the great miracles in every moment of this beautiful life we are living, and this leads to a happy, healthy, full life

In the clinical word this has been labeled as Mindfulness--paying attention, on purpose, in this moment, without judgment--but as yogis, we have always known this as part of our practice.

All living creatures have consciousness, and it is possible to coexist and to create a peaceful relationship with any living creature.  How do we teach peace and tolerance to others? By leading by example and showing others what is conceivable.

Virabhadrasana - The Warrior

Virabhadrasana - The Warrior

from the Enhancing Your Yoga Practice series by Suzanne Manafort

The mythical story of The Warrior begins when Shiva learns of the death of his wife Sati. He is first shocked, then saddened, and then enraged. He falls into the deepest and darkest place he can find. He tears off one of his locks, and throws it to the Earth, creating the fiercest of warriors. Shiva names this warrior Virabhadra, from Vira (hero) and Bhadra (friend). The scene is total havoc.

For anyone who’s ever sweated and worked through Virabhadrasana I, 2 or 3, it may come as no surprise that the asanas (postures) were inspired by cosmic chaos and destruction. Many yogis, especially beginners, feel genuinely embattled by their complexity: the persistent tug-of-war between pouring down into the earth and reaching up and out, twist and backbend, and strength and flexibility.

The yoga poses that comprise Virabhadrasana are not at all at odds with the peaceful ahimsa of yoga practice.   Ahimsa is one of the yamas (moral and ethical practices) and means “non-violence”. For in this pose we are not celebrating a warrior who caused a scene of destruction and carnage. Instead, in this posture, we acknowledge our own spiritual warriors who every day does battle with our own egos and avidya (self-ignorance), which is the ultimate source of all our suffering.

We learn to use discernment in our lives or to use Viveka, the faculty of discretion or discernment, which enables us to distinguish between true and false, reality and illusion.

The pose, in other words, is about the resilience of spirit, the true spirit of yoga.

Virabhadrasana I

According to the ancient texts, Virabhadra thrust his way up from deep underground with his sword held over his head in both hands, an essence reproduced in the posture Virabhadrasana I.

Virabhadrasana II

Next, Virabhadra made his presence known by standing with his sword poised and ready to strike. Essentially, the posture Virabhadrasana II embodies this quality.

Virabhadrasana III

Finally, Virabhadra lifts his sword into the air and strikes. You may think of this as the sword of discernment or Viveka.

 

Strength and Clarity

We learn from these postures to use the power of Viveka to differentiate right from wrong and useful from useless,  important aspects of the yogic path.  The next time that you work your way through these postures, think of the spirit of their creation as you work toward strength and clarity in your body and mind.

~Suzanne

Mindful Yoga Therapy in the Middle East - notes from Suzanne

Teaching Mindful Yoga Therapy in the Middle East We set out on May 22nd 2015 for Tel Aviv with our training manual and Practice Guide translated into Arabic for the trainings. It was a 10-hour flight.

Ramallah - a square in the center

There were 5 of us. The group consisted of me (Suzanne), Rob Schware (Executive Director, Give Back Yoga Foundation) Rama Jyoti Vernon and Ruth from 7 Centers Yoga Arts. The last two yoga teachers have worked in this area before. Alice Trembour, Rob’s wife, joined us the next day, and she provided a tremendous amount of support as Rob was not allowed into the women’s trainings.

We stayed in Jerusalem overnight and headed for Palestine in the morning.

Marketplace in Ramallah center

Farashe Yoga Center, Ramallah - Women's group training with Suzanne Manafort

We did four trainings in Ramallah and were greeted by a group from Farashe Yoga Center (the only yoga center in Ramallah) who also provided us with translators.

The first training was for women yoga teachers.

Farashe Yoga Center, Ramallah - Women's group training

For the first group, we conducted a four-day training split between Mindful Yoga Therapy training and the other two yoga teachers that came from Arizona.

The participants were incredibly eager and hungry for as much information as possible. They also shared some information with us about their culture, experiences, and their lives. They were convinced that these practices would make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others.

From left: Mohammed Khatib, Suzanne Manafort and Rob Schware in Ramallah

The second training was a private training for a young yoga teacher named Mohammad.

A young Palestinian, that would love to see change in his country and the world, Mohammed believes yoga can help to do that. He is also training for the 2016 Olympics as a sprinter. After the Olympics, he is committed to teaching yoga in Palestine and using it to change the world. I believe that he will!

See Mohammed's thoughts about the training.

Farashe Yoga Center, Ramallah  - Mindful Yoga Therapy Training for Psychosocial Workers in Refugee Camps

The next two trainings also separated the men from the women. They were for psychosocial workers that work in the refugee camps and with trauma on a regular basis. We were asked to bring them training on some simple practices that they could use with their patients and an explanation on why they work. They too are planning to use these practices as much as possible personally and professionally.

This trip was such a cultural experience, and the people of Palestine are the warmest people I have ever met. If you admire something they have, they will buy one for you. They are so kind and generous!

The cultural difference took a little getting used to. An example is the separation of men and women. Some people shook hands, and some people touched their own heart when they met you. I am still unclear on when to shake hands or not shake hands.

Mindful Yoga Therapy brought them each a mala for their new mediation practice.  They couldn’t have been more grateful and seemed very committed to using and teaching these practices.

The truth is, trauma is trauma no matter what culture you are submerged in and, in fact, some cultures and populations experience more than others. Our hope is that these yoga practices are adopted in this place, half way around the world, and that they are as successful as they have been for us.

We returned home on June 6th 2015. We (The Give Back Yoga Foundation and Mindful Yoga Therapy) will be working a plan to support our programs in this country and others. Stay tuned.

Namaste Palestine

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."

From Warrior Marine To Warrior 2, My Journey From PTS to Yoga

I chose to write this not as an individual, but for a community. To show what in my own words yoga has done for me and my journey since then. People tell me that I’m very intense in my need to want to help my fellow Marines with this wonderful practice that is yoga. One thing about me is that I have always been intense, but at one point I had accepted that if someone in my squad had to go I wanted it to be me. Sad thing about life is that we don’t always get the hand we expect. I came “home”, but many of my brothers didn’t, some did but they had lost limbs or had been seriously injured. It was the weirdest thing coming home it was like I was on patrol then I was home, like no time had passed yet an eternity of innocence was gone. I sat for what seems now like an eternity just staring, reliving scenarios in my head while my loved ones learned to just operate around me. I slept on the couch because I scared my ex wife with how I would wake up screaming, if I even slept at all. I was sent to train Marines, but all I could see in the faces of the young men I was teaching was the glimpse of my fallen brothers moving amongst the crowd of formations. I would scream at these young guys but I would have tears in my eyes not really knowing if I was angry or sad. I became dependent on self medicating like so many of us did. I often wanted to die, but I didn’t want to kill myself. I would never hesitate to place myself in a dangerous situation though. My ex wife said to me one day that I had never come home, that the man she knew never came back. I would wake up screaming, the bed sheets soaked, I would cry for no reason, be angry, and have illusions of seeing hurt and wounded friends and enemies. I drank and drank a lot, I could not get over the survivors guilt, what could I have done differently. What could I have done to have saved my friend, why him, why not me? I was too broken for war; to crazy for society, I was lost.

Until one day I met a Man, a fellow Marine who introduced me to Yoga. Not because I wanted to be calmer, but because I was to physically incapable of doing much due to injuries. It took him two months to move me past what I know now as child’s pose. We worked by skype because of distance, and I hated leaving home. Slowly we worked building my physical and mental capacity until I could get past my fear of leaving my home to sign up for a studio on my own.

My first ever hot yoga class was with a teacher in a town I didn’t know. It was after my failed marriage I had started dating a girl who wanted to take me to yoga where she lived. The whole class I over worked, was hot, and at the end of class we laid down in the dark. The teacher led us through a guided meditation, until a point I relaxed my mind. That was a mistake; I had a very bad panic attack hit the wall and was out the door. I was hyperventilating, and crying but I couldn’t figure out why. I called my teacher and told him. My teacher explained the process of unlocking emotions as we go through our journey in yoga.

I eventually went to a different studio, and talked to one of the teachers. I told her I was a veteran of both of Iraq and Afghanistan, and would not be laying down. She smiled and said ok. I sat at the end of class for a few weeks with my eyes open and my back to the wall. Eventually I was able to lay down with my eyes open.

During this time I was self medicating, and still dealing with lots of issues from my PTS, but I kept going. I met a teacher, 1 of 5 who has so far changed my life, she saw me one night at the end of class with tears in my eyes trying really hard to keep it together. She asked if we could stay and talk awhile.

She and I started talking, and she basically came right out and said it that she could see the pain and hurt in my eyes that it radiated when I walked in the room. I asked her for help, we sat we worked on breathing. I started to feel the flash back coming, the smell of the sand, the hot air, the sweat on the back of my neck the anger, the fear, my chest was caving I was screaming on the inside. Yet on the outside I could only force a single tear, she said to me “As this pain comes let it feel like water, feel the breath the cold beautiful air enter your nose as a white light, and the heat exit as all that is not needed” something along those lines. More tears came I began to sob, but I kept working on my breathing focusing on my breath, slowly the air didn’t smell like the middle east, my neck began to become cool and I started to come back from the middle east. I wasn’t in combat I was in yoga studio breathing.

Since that time my anger, self medication, PTS, and everything has had its ups and downs, some days have been better than others but I have tried to remain on the Mat. I have blown up on people, made amends, had breakdowns, and break-troughs’. Just for today I haven’t had a drink. I have slept almost entire night, I meditate, and I try to share the gift of yoga with fellow veterans. I live by the motto that we learned as Marines, never leave a Man behind so when people say I’m intense, I try to understand as I have been taught to see where they are coming from, but it’s hard when I have lost more friends to suicide and drugs or alcohol than I have lost to combat. I don’t know if I would still be here had I not been introduced to yoga. For me this is a mission to help the people I love and served with make it back from hell. Having PTS doesn’t mean you are broken, it means you have seen the worst the world has to offer and you are still here, still holding on and that you are strong. I practice regularly, and now when the class ends this Marine can actually lay in a room full of people, in the dark, close his eyes and let his relaxation happen (sometimes), but I have learned PTS or not we all face those days. Yoga is a gift and a tool I feel is more valuable to any veteran than any bottle or pill. The people who shared the practice of yoga with me really did save my life. Thank you all. I always wear my bracelet, and on it our 3 Names, every day I feel like quitting or giving up it’s a reminder as to why I need to live my life, and try to help others. More than that those 3 Names are a reminder that no matter what anyone says my mission is my mission and I must follow that like another veteran’s life depends on it. Please don’t ever stop sharing this gift, 22 veterans a month commit suicide, and I can honestly say because of Yoga, this Marine will not be one.

God Bless,

Anonymous

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 Colorado Springs

Amanda Neufield and Colten Peed teach Veterans Yoga in Colorado SpringsAmanda Neufeld and Colten Peed are the owners of Yoga Studio Satya, where we completed a 15 hour Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans training for yoga teachers program over this past weekend, in Colorado Springs. Amanda was interviewed on Southern Colorado's FOX21 News prior to their event (see the interview below).

A follow-up interview took place during the program and was aired on Sunday night as well.

 

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.

Why Am I Not Zen Yet?

Zen-YetExtra-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!

RolfGates

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 cont10538576_10152626301294516_7729233770178224118_nrol 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.

 

_()_Namaste,

Chris