Bringing It Home: Shit Yogis Say

I come home from yoga and ask if anyone wants to go out to Panera for breakfast. It’s my way of alleviating what can only be described as Mom Guilt –a nagging sense that a perfect mother would have been there on a Saturday morning making pancakes for everyone, spreading a batter of love throughout the kitchen and household for a Norman Rockwell version of the first meal of the day.

As we’re leaving, the husband and daughter both ask if maybe we can stop by Macy’s on the way. Apparently, they are annoyed by my yoga pants.

While I think my yoga pants are pretty cool, they’re not to other people. They’re probably more appropriate to a Hare Krishna gathering in Honolulu than to a breakfast in a conservative middle class town.  I like how they flop, but admit, they might be the yoga version of a Halloween costume. Just add a black top, a pointed hat, I could be the yoga witch. Sometimes we are so into our groove, we forget the yoga world can veer off into spaced-out in one breath.

Needless to say, I assume the role of “Mother, Teen Age Tormenter.” I’m going to wear my pants because they bug my teenage daughter. So I suggest that we take a few moments to breathe, channeling some good energy before we eat. It’s good for digestion I add. They frown, but I can’t resist asking the cashier,  “Do you have goji berries?”

The conversation rolls over to my husband’s command ceremony. He’s stepping in as the point dog at a Forward Surgical Team at Fort Bliss. There will be a formal ceremony. Believe me, I had been wondering what kind of Army-Wifey dress I should scare up. But then it seems more natural to pull on a pair of yoga pants. I ask my military husband if his company would want to do any stretches beforehand –a simple forward fold, maybe a downward dog, then in for some breath exercises and a few nice long Oms. He gives me a military look that says, “Just be normal.” As if I knew what that was. As if it were desirable, even possible.

I’m enjoying my role as Yogi-Tormenter, when my daughter says, “My goal for the new year is to get mom to quit talking about yoga…. and the military!”

Point taken, kid. From now on I’ll change clothes before barreling out the door.

Enjoy this! And have a very happy new year!

What We Can With What We Have

During this years War Retreat in Cambridge we not only introduced the participants to yoga, we brought in Liên Zayhowski who did acupuncture with the participants. Even I participated, although I have a huge fear of needles, and was pleasantly surprised.

In an article posted in the Air Force Medical Service News, the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group discussed the benefits of acupuncture and its ability to help manage stress-as well as many other physical issues.

Acupuncture, like yoga, may be a completely new idea to you. But it never hurts to try something new.  Seeing the incorporation of alternative and complimentary medicine such as yoga and acupuncture is a great step in the right direction.

But there is still progress that needs to be made, as only a handful of VA hospitals and military bases have fully developed yoga programs. Even working with big city VA’s, such as the one here in Las Vegas, where there is a yoga class here and there but no program where there should be one.

I know we say this quite a bit, but to all those yoga teachers that want to work in a VA; don’t limit your focus there. Look outside the box. Look at the studios close to bases and close to VA’s and try to set up something there. Volunteer at the outpatient clinics first and then start talking about yoga to the workers, spreading the word that way. Or even if you are a yoga teacher who is a spouse or friend to some Veterans, teach at home! I’m not saying run a business out of your house, but I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve taught to my boyfriend and his Marines in our living room.

 Just do what you can with what you have.

Taking Some “You Time”

During many yoga teacher trainings, the topic of seva is often covered in great detail. For my RYT, YogaFit requires us to complete at least 8 hours of community service yoga, bringing our new teaching skills to groups of individuals who otherwise may not be able to have a yoga experience.

But many of us are cramming in working a “regular job” with teaching, with family and friends and LIFE. Last night while sitting on the deck after work I finally realized I was not in Michigan anymore. I have been living in Las Vegas since September and I had yet to take a minute to myself to realize everything that had been going on. Since getting here I have been working non-stop, while going to school full time, trying to set up a Trauma-Sensitive yoga program at Nellis Air Force base and at the VA hospital here. Fitting in time for seva, is few and far between and I know I’m not the only person who feels this way.

Sometimes it is alright to just say “no”. You don’t have to volunteer for everything that comes your way. Sometimes it is more important to take a day off for yourself, just to chill out and breathe instead of working for 11 hours and then going home to do more work. It is perfectly fine (and actually a great thing in the long run) when you realize it is important to take time for yourself. It is hard to not feel like you are letting others down when you say “no”, but honestly, what good will you be to anyone when you are overworked and overstressed? Exactly :)

 Your Assignment (for veterans, active duty or families), due by January 1: So I have a homework assignment for everyone who reads this entry. Tonight just take 10 minutes for yourself. Set a timer and go read, take a bath, or just bundle up and go sit outside and watch the sunset. In your own way, take a break, forget about anything you had going on before the “you time” and set aside anything you have to do after it. Think of it as seva for yourself.

The first five commenters either on our Facebook Page or this blog, will receive their choice of Tibetan Prayer Flag from the Tibetan Nuns Project or a copy of The Military Wives Cookbook by Carolyn Quick Tillery (we have three of the cookbooks). Assignment & comment must be posted by January 1.

Leg 2: The Holiday Journey Continues (Plus January Events!)

The drive home from Tucson was lovely and uneventful. For me, the turn of a car key, and the open road is an irresistible lure. The drive (one of my favorites) through the Sonoran desert punctuated with the stately saguaro was just what I needed. 

Home for a few days, long enough to set up a tree, have dinner with friends, create a fantastic family dinner, take a yoga class, and pet both cat and dog.  As I get older, I love being at home. I no longer lust over (or impulsively take) exotic vacations or long for considerable periods of time away. While for the first time in my life, all of that is accessible, my travel choices are made with my true nature as a guide. What I like are short trips away, and coming home to our funny little house with the green tile, mismatched furniture, and walls that need painting. I like my cat, dog, and routine. I like hearing our daughter sing, and talking to the mail carrier. I like that everyone in our supermarket knows me. It’s taken a long time to get this to point. On the journey, I found where I’m comfortable and know I can always come back.

January 7, Honoring The Path of The Warrior in San Francisco

Now, I’m off to Fort Bliss for a few days. I’m looking forward to the trip, meeting my husband’s new Forward Surgical Team. The apartment has nary an internet or cable connection so once again –I’ll be traveling sans computer. I look forward to meeting his team.  My only job is to make people feel good, offer a smile, a laugh, a kind word (once you finish running a surgery clinic in a major city, you pretty much are done running things period). I have SGM LaMonta Caldwell to thank for defining my role.  Last year, while we traveled with Tim Hetherington on the film Restrepo, SGM Caldwell outlined what I should do as I retired into this new life as a military spouse. My only hope is that one day I’ll be the grey haired lady getting the base commander to join me in a round of yoga.

Jillian takes the wheel for the rest of the week. I’m super proud of her, and I think she’s onto having an amazing career –doing whatever she wants.  I’ll join you when the new year rings in. Just a few upcoming events.

  1. January 7 –San Francisco, Honoring the Path of the Warrior for Persian Gulf, OIF or OEF veterans sponsored by the San Francisco Zen Center
  2. January 6-8 Massachusetts (Kripalu)  Frontiers of Trauma Treatment with Bessel van der Kolk, MD
  3. January 8-13 Massachusetts (Kripalu) Teaching Yoga & Meditation in Military Settings with Sue Lynch, Executive Director of There And Back …Again.
  4. January  6-8 Bethesda MD Veterans Yoga Project Mindful Yoga Therapy For Veterans Coping with Trauma (A training for yoga teachers) sponsored by the Give Back Yoga Foundation
  5. January 19-20 Los Angeles. Neurotrauma and Neurocritical Care of the Future Symposium at UCLA. 19-20 January, 2012. For health care professionals.

Have a great rest of the week. Take care of yourself!

PTSD and The Holidays: Coping Skills For Everyone

Matthew Tull, PhD writes about handling Stress and the Holidays, specifically for people with PTSD. 

“Spend some time just thinking about what the holidays really mean to you, and then try to come up with ways that you can connect with that. In the end, you may prevent undue stress and anxiety while at the same time increase feelings of happiness and satisfaction.”

Mary Tendall and Jan Fischler have written on This Is VietNow about the impact on families during the Holiday Season and how they can alleviate the stress when a loved one has PTSD.

“Finally, acknowledge this difficult time and offer verbal and nonverbal support. Most important, remember that the key to having an enjoyable holiday is to forget what the season is supposed to be like, and create experiences that work for you and your family.”

Do It Like This: The Art of Levitation

Zipes On Board (Founder, Yoga For Vets, not to be confused with Paddleboarding For Vets, or General Badassery During Yoga For Vets).

Thanks to yoga badass Paul Zipes for sharing the secret of levitation. We were so worried we would never be able to master it.  But hey, everyone needs a little support. Even modern day yogis.

More From Path Of The Warrior

Earlier in the week we posted a Press Release for an event in San Francisco from Honoring the Path of the Warrior, a program that assists post 9/11 and Persian Gulf veterans in making a positive transition from military to civilian life. Here is a link to some of the ways that you can support them!
Here is a link to the previous posting.
Please consider supporting this very important work!  Make a tax-deductible contribution through our fiscal sponsor, San Francisco Zen Center.  To donate online, please go to:   

You can also join our mailing list for event notices and news about us here:

We love our contributors

Did you know that if you contribute an article or event to WarRetreat, we’ll send you a Tibetan Prayer Flag from the Tibetan Nuns Project?  You can even use our easy Press Release Maker.  Sending people who make our blog a community effort a gift is our way of showing our appreciation for their generosity and diligence. Here, Kriste Gerhard of the blog, Patriotic Hippie Chick shows us hers.  

They are absolutely PERFECT! This is where I have my morning coffee. I read the news and look out the window at the squirrels and the birds; the view out this window has become very special to me and the flags have made it even better. If you look in the lower right, you’ll see Buddha sitting on a flat, black river rock and a tiny white elephant next to him. The window on the right is stuck shut… so it’s now chock full of various bits and pieces that are special to me. On the left? Well, I have zero counter space so my cooling racks are on the desk. Really glad right now that I went with the stackable set! This is my favorite place to write and use the laptop but I’ve been spending a lot of time at the larger table behind me for Operation Card Stitch. Thank you again! Namaste

Connected Warriors: Free Yoga Classes in Southern Florida

In Southern Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky. From the website:

About The Connected Warriors Program

We deliver free yoga classes to servicemembers, veterans and their families across the country by soliciting the support of local yoga studios, community veteran centers and other donated spaces in communities where we can connect servicemembers, veterans and volunteers. We rely on local yoga teachers to support the free classes, which often include a number of volunteer assistants based on the age and mobility of the students.