Today I volunteered with a group of incredible professionals at the VA in Asheville. Approximately 25 veterans age ranging from late 20's to 70's were in attendance. This population of men and women suffer from a range of health concerns including: PTSD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, chronic pain, addiction, etc. The Asheville Yoga Centerhosted the event and there were yoga therapists and teachers, an acupuncturist, psychotherapist, meditation teacher, a Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner, integrative health coach and a representative of Helios Warriors on staff for the day. Ashley who works with Asheville Yoga Center and Helios Warriors did a fantastic job organizing the event.
9-9:45am Group Yoga Practice
9:45-10am Break with Fruit Infused Water and Granola Bars
10-11:30am Small Group Sessions, topics included:
I lead the breathing small group and thoroughly enjoyed getting to talk to the veterans about their needs. Most of them were interested in breathing practices to help calm them down and promote relaxation. Several students said they experience shallow breathing, anxiety, overwhelming negative thoughts and physical discomfort. I taught two simple techniques to each group with a combination of: belly breathing, breath retention and/or hand breathing. The students practiced breathing for a total of 8 minutes and spent several minutes talking about the experience afterwards. Here are some of their unfiltered responses:
"I feel calmer."
"I can see better."
"The breathing made me feel anxious but when I focused my mind on the air conditioner noises I felt better. Paying attention to my body makes me more aware of my fears."
"I feel like if I practice regularly this it will be easier to get up off of the couch everyday."
"I feel relaxed."
"I feel more alert."
"I used to breathe like this when I was high on drugs and wanted to look like I wasn't tore up. I would take 4 deep breaths and drive home. It makes me think clearly."
"My belly feels stronger."
"I feel grounded."
"I feel good."
and lastly..."that was hard."
Overall, there was a visible and understood sense of ease, relief, and lightness in the veterans as they experienced each small group session in the multipurpose room turned peaceful haven. By the end of the day everyone was talking, making eye contact, some smiling and even laughing. It is so incredible to see the shift that can happen in such a short amount of time when human beings come together for a good cause. Today's experience was just another reminder that yoga aids in healing process and that a little bit can go a long way. In my experience as little as 20 minutes per day breathing, meditating and doing yoga postures can improve mood and wellness significantly. For the yoga teachers out there it is easy to start up a program like this in your area but can take time. Start by speaking with those you know in the local hospital network in VA hospitals Recreational Therapists are often a great resource. Most hospitals in our area are now open to exploring collaborations with alternative and complementary care practitioners.
Keri Marino is an internationally Registered Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist. She's owns and operates Yoga Unique offering therapy, classes, workshops and yoga products. Keri teachers both privately and publicly around the Cary area.
I'm a Yoga Therapist, Teacher & Mama Bear who is all in on mindful authentic living. This blog is a collection of my passion for all things yoga, nutrition, health and cooking. Subscribe to the blog for monthly goodies delivered right to your email!