Stiggy’s Dogs

It isn’t always about yoga here at War Retreat. Sometimes we like to talk about other groups that support the military or PTSD in other ways. Today I would like to introduce you all to Stiggy’s Dogs.

Stiggy’s Dogs is a non-profit, which offers Psychiatric Service Dogs (which are former shelter dogs that they train specifically for each Veteran…how cool, right!) to Veterans dealing with PTSD and TBI.

Jennifer Petre is the founder of Stiggy’s Dogs, which she began in memory of her nephew HM3 Ben Castiglione, who gave his life while taking care of “his Marine” as a Corpsman in Southern Afghanistan in September 2009.  I became aware of Stiggy’s Dogs because I went to high school with Ben back in Michigan.

This program not only helps Veterans but it also helps shelter dogs at the same time. The dogs are taught tasks such as reminding the Veteran to take their medicine, waking them up from a nightmare or when an alarm clock is ringing, to directing them through a crowd. The best part is the dogs are free to the Veterans. Stiggy’s Dogs supplies all of the training as well as the supplies for the dogs (crates, bedding, toys, leashes, and they are all up to date on immunizations).

So please, check out Stiggy’s Dogs on their website, on Facebook or Twitter and make sure to pass them on to anyone you think might be interested.


Cultural Sensitivity: Do’s and Don’ts

After an encounter on base at Nellis last night and after the mention of the Warriors at Ease training on our Facebook page, I thought this was a good time to mention cultural sensitivity.

Unless you were (or are!) in the military or you have some sort of military understanding and background, it can be overwhelming going into a military setting. There are many more rules to abide by on base than off base. For example, when I first moved to 29 Palms I ran to the Exchange one afternoon to grab something for lunch. As I was walking in I was stopped by a female Marine who proceeded to tell me I couldn’t go in wearing flip-flops. What? I couldn’t wear flip-flops? Since then the rules have changed, but it was my first taste of the on base experience.

The moral of this story is to show you that teaching on base is not as simple as getting the job and teaching the classes. You need to educate yourself on the population that you are working with. You need to be aware of the rules and regulations that change once you get on base.

The reason I mentioned the Warriors at Ease training was because cultural sensitivity and the military environment are topics that are greatly covered in the workshops. It can be very helpful for those who are completely new to the experience and it can be a refresher for those who have had these experiences before.

I thought this would be an informative post after an experience I had last night as I was heading to teach yoga on base at Nellis. The end of the duty day on base is typically marked by a ceremony, where the flag is lowered and “Retreat” is played. All activity, even if you are driving, on base stops for those few minutes and then proceeds once the song completes.

As “Retreat” began, I slowed and stopped, just beginning to exit a stop sign. Although all the other cars around were doing the same thing, one car pulls up (quicky) behind me and lies on their horn. I pause for a second, hoping she will realize everyone is clearly stopped. But she does not, honks again,then manages to speed off around me.

Normally I would just shake my head and try not to let it bother me. But this ceremony is a tradition in which to honor the U.S. Flag, explained in detail in this article. Is getting to your destination .3 seconds earlier really that much more important than stopping to partake in something that is such an important part of military tradition? I don’t think so.

So please, those of you who are interested in working with the military community. Invest in educating yourself about the history, traditions and rules and regulations of being on base. Please :)

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, here is a video from YouTube of the end of the duty day ceremony.

Wait…Yoga Helps To De-Stress?

While I have been working on getting set up with the Las Vegas (Southern Nevada) VA, I have been keeping my eye on articles pointing out programs for Vets both in and out of hospitals and bases. Yesterday I came across this article from the Houston Chronicle, about Army Vet Weldon Holder and his experience with yoga.

One of the most stand-out statement to me was: “He says the relaxation and breathing techniques he’s learned help him overcome insomnia and lessen the headaches he gets from a traumatic brain injury he suffered in Iraq.”

Photo: James Nielsen / © 2011 Houston Chronicle

That is the most satisfying part of doing this work. When you have someone say how much better they feel after class, that provides an indescribable feeling of joy when you know you were able to help someone feel better.

So please, check out the article. And always keep on the lookout for more articles like these, they are appearing more and more frequently. Which is definitely a good thing :)

Great Article and a Study (in case you missed it on our Facebook page)

If you follow War Retreat on Facebook or Twitter (@warretreat) you may have seen some of the many articles or research studies floating around this week. If you haven’t, then you are able to find them here! We have posted the links to some articles and studies that we find particularly important, so please check them out when you get a chance.

First up is an article from Psychology Today by Alex Korb, PhD. He discusses all the changes that can take place in your brain from stress and how yoga can help improve the negative symptoms. I thought this article was great, providing a large amount of detail on how yoga positively impacts the negative changes that can happen when you are under too much stress.

Next up is a research study published in The American Journal of Occupational Therapy titled “Effects of Sensory-Enhanced Yoga on Symptoms of Combat Stress in Deployed Military Personnel”. This is an important study, showing how the yoga was effective in improving the quality of life factors and mental health factors measured. As a psychology major I am very aware how challenging research studies can be to read if you are not used to them, but please check it out! :)

Stay tuned for updates from Kanani’s trip to the West 2012 conference!

Where is Jillian?

Sometimes, when it comes to blogging, I feel like that creepy family member that only makes random appearances and no one really ever knows what they are up to. So I figured I would give you all an update on why I’m not around all the time and give those of you who are looking for trainings, something to look forward to!

Part of my sporadic appearances is due to finishing my last few semesters of my undergrad and putting the finishing touches on my applications for graduate school in the fall (hopefully), so please bear with me! :) I am also still working with my regular clients at the private fitness facility as well as working with the Southern Nevada VA to help them get a yoga program started up!

But the most interesting part is this: back over the summer after finishing my trainings for my 200HR RYT, I decided I wanted to continue working with YogaFit in some way. They had just started putting the trainings together for a Yoga Alliance approved 300 hour Yoga Therapy program. After talking with some of the YogaFit Master Trainers it was decided that we would put together Yoga for Stress Management in relation to mental health, where I am writing the part on PTSD.

When I started my 200HR RYT with YogaFit I got two types of feedback. That YogaFit was great and also that YogaFit was not “real yoga”. But honestly when I did my training at Kripalu for Trauma-Sensitive Yoga, I felt like my YogaFit background helped me immensely which is why I felt so passionate about continuing my work with them.

Another benefit of YogaFit is they try to make the trainings as accessible as possible. The training I am working on will make its debut at YogaFit’s Mind Body Fitness Conference in Minneapolis, MN in June. That is the only one scheduled so far, but there are 5 conferences’ scheduled after that one through the end of 2012, so there will likely be more. There is also the chance that the training can be held on its own outside of the conferences, which is based on requests to hold the trainings.

So please, if you are interested, look into it!

I also just wanted to take a second and thank everyone who reads WarRetreat and passes it along to others, Kanani and I appreciate it so much! 

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.