We love our veterans and thank them for their service. Not all veterans served in a war, but those who did—whether they saw action in World War II, the Vietnam War, Iraq or Afghanistan—changed. It’s no secret that many of our military still suffer from the invisible, psychological scars of war after being deployed. Many also return home with physical challenges. All have been altered in some way. And they need help.
Since late 2001, about 1.64 million U.S. troops have been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq. Based on a survey conducted by the Rand Corporation, 18.5 percent of Afghan and Iraqi war vets now have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or major depression. Further study revealed that only about half of the veterans needing treatment for these conditions seek it, and just 30 percent of those in need of treatment receive minimal care.
That’s why veterans like Sue Lynch, who was diagnosed with PTSD, want to introduce these people who often suffer in silence to yoga. She believes sharing yoga with her fellow vets will give them tools for immediate relief. Lynch doesn’t want them to suffer for decades like she did, not knowing what was wrong.
“Yoga gives us choices, allows us not to have to try so hard, which is contrary to military training (‘no pain, no gain’ and ‘pain is weakness leaving the body’),” says Lynch, who founded There & Back Again, an organization that gives returning combat veterans free whole-body wellness services. “Yoga connects us to ourselves. This connection in turn allows us to connect with our loved ones and our communities.”
Practicing yoga not only reduces PTSD symptoms, but the ancient art also helps with stress and physical injuries. Not being able to sleep or having recurring nightmares takes a toll on a vet. When these warriors relax both during and after a yoga session, they experience relief from insomnia and their bad dreams.
Many combat veterans have reported a sense of well-being, an ability to control anger and strong emotions, which helps them deal better with life in general. Hopelessness seems to fade and they cope with their fears better when they adopt a yoga practice. That enables them to reconnect emotionally with their friends, their family and their community.
Besides helping to heal these unseen scars, yoga also alleviates some of the physical pain from war injuries. Yoga addresses damaged muscles, emphasizes flexibility, reduces joint pain and restores balance.
Former Navy Deep Sea Diver Paul Zipes wanted to do something to support our troops after they returned home. So in 2007 he started a nonprofit called www.yogaforvets.org. Those yoga studios and instructors registered on the web site offer veterans four or more free yoga classes. Zipes became a yoga teacher and currently teaches many types of yoga including hot yoga and yoga for kids.
To find a yoga class specifically designed for war veterans, visit the following sites:
www.yogaforvets.org – search by zip code for free classes for vets – the site has more than 700 listings across the country.
www.exaltedwarriorfoundation.com – adaptive yoga instruction for wounded warriors.
www.warriorsatease.com – search by zip code for yoga instructors specially certified to work with veterans and others who have experienced extreme stress and trauma.
www.givebackyoga.org – has a selection of sponsored materials available to veterans or active duty service members at no charge.