Why yoga for Veterans?
By Capt. CJ Keller, USMC, Retired
After experiencing the devastating toll the Vietnam conflict took on our nations Warriors, and recently fighting two full military wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are now tasked with ensuring our active duty, reserve and Veteran populations are not taken for granted, and not forgotten.
Across every branch of service, we train for and execute missions in austere and high stress conditions, most people would agree that this is our “bread and butter”. We take great pride in the sacrifices we make mentally and physically to be successful in training and defending our nation in combat. We do this all in the name of honor, courage and commitment. There is of course a dark side to this noble cause, and in order to allow an individual to cope with and manage the resulting mental stress or physical impairments, we need something on the other end of the spectrum to balance us out.
So, why would a Veteran try something like yoga…Isn’t it just for soft, pacifist,hippie types that burn incense and chant crazy talk? There are many different forms of yoga, and it is important to understand that the style we utilize is non-denominational and emphasizes simple but physically challenging postures, breathing techniques and relaxation. These proven methods are geared toward balancing your mind and body inorder to cultivate a feeling of strength, confidence and relaxed calm in both the mind and body.
As Veterans and members of our modern military, we are very good at wearing and polishing our armor. We don our finest dress blues, pin our medals on our chest and stand tall with pride and honor. All too often, we find that underneath that shiny exterior is a sea of turmoil churning and folding. We don’t really talk about what’s below and in many ways, we don’t really know how to. This closed, inner world governs and can dominate our thoughts and actions. Yoga invites us to keep our pride, armor and medals, but to open up and safely address some of the disconnects that keep us stuck in a moment or pattern of behavior. It allows us to put words on feelings and to find happiness from within, creating balance and fulfillment again.
Whether you take one yoga class a week or five, you can to start somewhere and we suggest that there is no better place than a simple yoga mat. Let 2013 be the year you come to the mat and bring yourself home.
Semper Fi and Namaste.
CJ Keller is the Yoga Development Director of Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness