Category Archives: Uncategorized

Product Review: Mindful-Way CDs for Mindfulness Meditation

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Last year, WarRetreat purchased two audio CDs by teachers Beth Mulligan PA-C and Hugh O’Neill from  Both Beth and Hugh are skilled teachers in mindfulness meditation. Beth is a Physician’s Assistant with experience in helping patients with stress-related illnesses in the inner city clinics in Los Angeles. Mulligan runs retreats and ongoing classes to help those with chronic stress learn a new shift in perspective through mindfulness training. If you go to her website, you’ll see her 2013 Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course information (including her blog).

War Retreat is very grateful to Nyk Danu who volunteered to review them! Nyk Danu  is the creator of Real Yoga For The Rest Of Us. She is a teacher of Yoga for Back Pain, Hatha & Yin Yoga, a self-professed yoga geek, green tea addict and a lover of life. Nyk practices & teaches in Calgary. 

Nyk Danu, Yoga For The Rest of Us

Hard Core: PTSD Conferences & “PTSD Won’t Stop Me”

Watch this great video by A Piece of The Master, provided by A Backpack Journalist. Backpack Journalist bears mentioning because it was created to help at-youth risk, and military teens find their voice, and develop resiliency in the face of a multitude of changes that threatens the stability of their lives. More after the jump.

urlThe more we learn, the deeper we begin to understand, the more choices we have. So many yoga teachers have advanced degrees in other fields, and many have asked us where to learn more. Rather than send them through yoga conferences,  consider academic symposiums where they can meet people on the cutting edge of trauma research and treatment. When trying to understand and be conversant in trauma,  looking outside the yoga world is essential.  Ideally, it’s great to take an interdisciplinary approach to collaborate with others and expand what there is to offer.

Mention here does not constitute an approval or endorsement. Please research these links to see if it’s the best match for you.

Freedom & Recovery 2013 Integrated Mental Health & Addiction Treatment For Service Members

  • When: April 3-6, 2013
  • Where: Coronado CA
  • About: “This unique conference gathers psychologists, professionals, therapists, interventionists, social workers and addiction counselors to share evidence-based practices through a combination of instructional levels. The following objectives will be met:
    • Explain techniques to help treat trauma and addiction
    • Identify methods for integrating families into treatment
    • State suicide prevention strategies”

The Amygdala Stress, and PTSD Conference 

24th Annual International Trauma Conference: Psychological Trauma, Neuroscience, Attachment and Therapeutic Interventions

  • When: May 29 – June 1, 2013
  • Where: Boston MA
  • About:  By The Trauma Center at JRI: “The objective of this course is to present current research findings on how people’s brains, minds, and bodies respond to traumatic experiences; how they regulate emotional and behavioral responses; and the role of relationships in protecting and restoring safety and regulation.”

The Brain At War: The Veterans Health Research Institute (Northern Californian Institute for Research & Education NCIRE)

  • When: June 20, 2013
  • Where: TBA. Last year it was in San Francisco.  New website for 2013 has not been set up. Please check the NCIRE site and find them on Facebook.
  • About: The sixth annual meeting of the leading national conference on the neurological and psychological wounds of war. NCIRE is exclusively for veterans health.

National Biennial  Symposium For Veterans, 2013 Invisible Injuries of War: PTSD/TBI/TEI and Poly-Trauma

  • When:  Oct 4-5 2013
  • Where: Milwaukee WI
  • About: The Wisconsin Veterans’ Foundation is spearheading this event. “Designed on a biennial basis this timing provides the Leadership Council the time necessary to adequately define veterans’ issues, their contents, locate experts in respective fields, and develop a forum upon which to address the issues coherently and with content aimed at the professionals in search of the tools and resources to aid veterans, their families, and community.”

OMEGA: Veterans, Trauma & Treatment

  • When: October 18-20, 2013
  • Where: OMEGA, Rhinebeck NY (Special pricing available for vets & families)
  • About: “Veterans, Trauma & Treatment offers professional information on the same mind-body modalities that the military is currently exploring as a complement to traditional drug and talk therapy. It is intended for health-care professionals, psychologists, social workers, caregivers, and counselors working with veterans who suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and their families.”

International Society For Traumatic Stress Studies 29th Annual Meeting: “Resilience After Trauma: From Surviving To Thriving

  • When: November 6, 7, 8, 9, 2013
  • Where: Philadelphia PA
  • About: “The ISTSS Annual Meeting is a unique opportunity to learn the latest in traumatic stress research, hear about clinical insights and innovations, earn continuing education credits, and network with colleagues.The 2013 meeting in Philadelphia will be the year’s largest gathering of professionals dedicated to trauma treatment, education, research and prevention. More than 100 symposia, workshops, panel discussions, cases and media presentations will be presented on a wide variety of topics related to traumatic stress.”

A Reminder From Yoga For Vets: Some Veterans Are In Great Shape


By Paul Zipes, US Navy Veteran, Founder, Yoga For Vets

The journey Yoga For Vets has been on is incredible with its many challenges. One of the best new challenges is from yoga teachers who want to help. but don’t understand some vets already are advanced yoga students and don’t want beginner or vet only classes. They just want 4 free “regular” yoga classes. This never happened a few years ago, perhaps because yoga was so much newer to the military.

Another issue arises from vets who want to know what the “catch” is. No catch, we just want to say welcome home and offer free classes if they want them.. I look forward to our FB page going over 1000 likes soon. In the mean time, keep reaching out to our vets and talk up Yoga For Vets. If anyone knows a webmaster or financial donor who wants to help take us to a more visible platform, let me know.
Thanks and again for your support and positive energy.

The Healing Power of Nature: Sierra Club Veterans & Military Families Initiative

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“We  have 18 service members a day committing suicide. What are we doing to conserve this resource?” -Stacy Bare, Executive Director, Sierra Club Mission Outdoors, December 2012*

As Jillian wrote earlier, here at WarRetreat, we see yoga as one tool in an arsenal of weapons to help veterans and their families as they transition from battlefield to home. What we hope to cultivate is the feeling that it’s okay to explore things you’ve never considered before, or to go for things you’ve always wanted to do. Whether it’s getting back in touch with your breath on a yoga mat, climbing a mountain, taking up painting or drawing, taking a drama class, or working to rebuild areas hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy, what we want you to do is not be afraid of what others think.

You fought for freedom, and you have choices.

Sierra Club Veterans & Military Families Initiative, also known as Sierra Club Mission Outdoors, is an organization that provides retreats and outings for veterans and families. Rather than bla-bla-bla, we’ll just let Stacy Bare, Executive Director tell you the story.

*Update: The latest number issued by the VA is 22 veterans a day take their lives. This includes veterans of all eras, not just ones from recent wars.

Sign Up Now for Free Veterans Retreat: Expedition Balance

Read about the Ropes Course
Read about the Ropes Course

Carl Salazar, US Navy Veteran and founder of Expedition Balance writes:

I got the call around 11:00. The number wasn’t familiar and I let it ring. A few minutes later, I listened to the message. Her words reminded me of the other callers – mothers, wives, and Vets. I could hear their voices. This time it was the wife of a Vet. Her husband served in Afghanistan and suffered from PTSD. Like most things, this condition varies by degree. On the mild side, you might have headaches and nightmares. At it’s worst, PTSD destroys lives. It inflicts through drug & alcohol abuse, homelessness, violence, suicide. For the kids who go out and fight our wars – and their families – their lives are the price of our freedom. They are never the same again.

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Click to sign up!

I’m urging you to go over and read the rest of his piece over on tumblr. Carl is in the good fight like the rest of us. Please tell people (or apply yourself) for one of the slots at the Expedition Balance retreat on May 16-19 for a few days of yoga, meditation, and the added physical challenges of hiking, a bit of horseback riding, archery, and an obstacle course that you have not seen since Boyscout bootcamp. Check out this post about one participant’s experience.

It’s fun, it’s building a small community, a chance to break beyond those four walls whether physical or mental, and be a part of something that will give you what you deserve –freedom from worry and fear, and most of all, a few days of fun. When you leave, you’ll have re-found your balance.

  1. What: Expedition Balance Veterans Retreat
  2. Where: Texas, about 2 hours outside of Houston
  3. Cost: Free
  4. Who: Expedition Balance (founded by a veteran, created by veterans for veterans)
  5. Sign up where: Right here
  6. If you haven’t done yoga: that’s okay. Most people in the world haven’t done it either. Go, have fun. Try it!
  7. If you can’t go, then consider donating to keep the organization going. If you want to find free yoga in your area, go to Yoga For Vets. Carl


San Francisco: Free Yoga Teacher Training to Work With Veterans

Connected Warriors and Yoga Tree SF will present a free yoga teacher training in San Francisco, led by Connected Warriors Director Judy Weaver. The training is for certified yoga teachers who want to work with veterans and their families to bring a sense of wellness and peace as they transition from battlefield to home.

Tuesday March 14 2013  12:00 – 4:00  Rsvp to the address below.


Spartan Races and Tough Mudders? Yoga Isn’t For Everyone…

…and we understand that.

Although I’m a yoga teacher and I wholeheartedly believe in its benefits, I realize it isn’t for everyone. Even in my own life, there are days when yoga just doesn’t cut it for me and I need something more, which for me is when weightlifting comes in. Here at WarRetreat we are well aware of the many different avenues available to Veterans to help them regain balance after war and Team X-T.R.E.M.E. does just that.

10-mile tough mudder obstacle course
10-mile tough mudder obstacle course

Spartan Races, Weightlifting, and Tough Mudder races are all other options available to individuals looking to re-gain control, re-connect with their breath, and develop a new understanding of personal and mental strength.

Recently Team X-T.R.E.M.E participated in a Spartan Race Demo in New York City and some of their participation was recorded by Rob Bailey, who runs the lifestyle brand Flag nor Fail. Rob compiled some of the footage of his wife, IFBB Pro Dana Linn Bailey, and Team X-T.R.E.M.E. during this event and released a video with some of the highlights. If this video doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will.

After watching that, you don’t have any excuses on why you can’t do something. So just keep that in mind. Even if yoga isn’t for you, there is still something out there that is, so go find it.

Breathing Promotes Awareness –Awareness Heals Warriors

US Army Veteran Gerald Vest, accepting the Social Worker of the Year Award, 2012. Photo: Maria Bagwell

By Gerald Vest, US Army Veteran and retired Social Worker, Ft. Bliss Restoration & Resilience Center

Breathing may be one of our most important guides readily accessible and available to us every moment of our life. Tarthang Tulku Rimpoche, author, teacher and Founder of the Nyingma Institute, describes breathing as our most effective means for healing, interacting and supporting our whole being.

“Once we know how to contact the energy of breath, breathing becomes an infinite source of vitalizing energies.” Furthermore, he states: “…breathing charts the life rhythms, the way we breathe signals the disposition of our energies.”

It is for these reasons and because meditation has been a daily part of my life experience that I encourage all of our warriors and families to learn about their breathing patterns. I love to sit or work with Qigong/Kath State Exercises and observe my breathing while enjoying Nature’s relationship with us.

For example, every evening the Doves and other birds come for their early evening feeding, bath and strut around our back yard. They are very brave as are our four dogs who love to chase them from their territory. Cody, for example, our Shepherd, will take them out of the picture when their instincts are not focused. I realize that animals and Nature are not in competition, but rather possess an instinctual form of behavior that we all possess.

Wouldn’t it be great if our World Leaders would sit and observe their breathing prior to or during diplomacy and peace meetings? Opening our mind with our Breath offers us a real opportunity to engage and interact with others in order to find peaceful solutions to every problem as well as to discover the peaceful alternatives to war and conflict.

It is often hard to accept that All is Known; however, as we enter our mind with questions, challenges and concerns, our Mind discloses Truth and responds accordingly. An example of this knowing can be understood as we agree or disagree during our teaching-learning processes and experiences. As described in The Tarot, the Book of Life Experience, our knowledge, wisdom, love and truth are an unfolding process of ego and spiritual development of our whole being. The Minor cards show our ego development while the Major Arcana introduces us to our spiritual or essential qualities of maturation.

It is for these reasons and for our understanding that it is important to maintain a “continuum of awareness” of our senses, breath, pain, blocking, and flow of energies so that we can experience the Gestalt or Holistic presentation of life, Nature and our relationships.

We know that Nature or Mind has no judgment, as in the beliefs and rules established by our family and our society. Nature operates in a lawful and absolute Way—No Contradictions, only “collisions of energy” as described in particle science—All is in Total Interaction whether we are aware or not. It is only our Egos who are in conflict with Nature—the Self Preservation; Relations, and Adaptation Instincts respond to any dangers or insecurities as protective and supportive mechanisms. I suspect the greater the number of beliefs we hold, take us further away from the opportunity to be united with our True Nature and respond effectively or skillfully to symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.

Therefore, observing our breathing and becoming aware and mindful allows us to restore our health and wellbeing and become closer to who we are while offering us Hope and an opportunity to fulfill our aspirations and destiny to be complete loving, responsible, compassionate and respectful Human Beings.


I dedicate this log to SSG Woody who served as our NCOIC in the Ft. Bliss Restoration & Resilience Center, leader of the Wolf Pack and retired a year ago from military following 20+ years of successful leadership and following several tours of duty in Iraq. Woody reportedly took his life on May 3, 2011. God Bless you Woody, my dear friend and comrade. I hold our politicians responsible for these deaths as they had other alternatives and chose not to follow their instincts and past experiences of Wars.

Please join our SNM Alliance and serve as a volunteer, advocate, sponsor or friend of our injured warriors and their families.

Author’s Bio: 

As a former social worker for the premier US Army Warrior Restoration & Resilience Center (R & R Center), Ft. Bliss, TX, my responsibilities included meeting with soldiers and their families diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress (PTSd). I met with Warriors individually, in couples and in groups. Additionally, I served as the Coordinator of Health Education administering weekly programs, offered a daily meditation/relaxation program, and facilitated our weekly, water polo activity. Our experimental and experiential holistic approach for PTS recovery, incorporates integrative and medical practices–Medical Massage, Yoga, Reiki, Acupuncture, Tai Chi, Qigong, Braintrain & other neurological programs, and other therapies, such as, Expressive Arts, and Therapeutic Field Trips. (2008-2010)

In addition to my practice with soldiers, I created and often teach “Social Work Practice with Elders”), NMSU School of Social Work, founder and team leader of the international community of certified partners of the 15-Minute StressOut Program; Team Leader, Las Cruces, Health Promotion Team with Elders; and, Stress Management/Health Promotion Instructor, 3 hr. classes US Army Community Services, & Wm Beaumont Army Medical Center, Social Work Services, Ft. Bliss, TX (1981-2008).

Currently serve as TRICARE Provider, UNM Hospitals; an Integrative/Holistic Health Practitioner & Social Worker; Consultant-Trainier & Teacher; National & International Presenter; and, Co-Team Leader, SNM Integrative Health Services Alliance with Vets, Injured Warriors & Families, Las Cruces, NM 88005 (575)524.2379

 Reprinted with permission from SelfGrowth.Com

Getting Comfortable To Breathe

-1You’re upset, your mind is churning, and it seems to be a constant state. People are telling you to “Find your breath,” or “Let go of the emotions.” But you’re really not sure what they mean.  But you take their suggestion and try some breathing exercises that range from slow breathes in, with an equally slow exhale. You might even fiddle with your nostrils with your fingers while trying to breathe in one and out the other, even though you have the cold from hell and you think the boogers from Mars are going to fly out in a huge green mass. But worse is when someone suggests you meditate, and all you can think of when you hear an Om is “How long do I have to do this for?”url

Then there’s the physical aspect. You haven’t sat on the floor since you were a kid.  Your thighs feel like they’re on fire, your hip joints are stretching, and your butt is falling sleep. Your neck starts to ache, and what’s with your shoulders?  Up or down?  And what is that loud, annoying ventilator sound that the person next to you is making?  If you’d wanted to listen to a vacuum cleaner, you would have stayed home. Maybe this breathing stuff –this pranayam isn’t for you. You don’t understand why it’s supposed to help,  and you really can’t take one more 1-2-3-4-5 hold 5-4-3-2-1.  Isn’t there a way to keep it simple?

Yoga Props
Use bolsters, pillows, blocks or blankets.

Sure there is! The teacher may be sitting cross-legged, but a  good one knows that everyone’s body does things differently. If your legs don’t cross, by all means, grab 2 blocks, or a blanket and put them under your knees. Sit on blanket or a bolster, lean against the wall, lie down. If there’s a chair nearby, use that. Experiment at home with rolled up towels, a pillow, or yoga blocks.

Then do yourself a favor and get to class 20 minutes early. Set yourself up with whatever you need.  Find a spot near the wall so you can lean back on it. Get comfortable and experience the restorative benefits of breath.

Watch Rodney Yee go over getting comfortable, and telling you the rudiments of breath.