Tag Archives: give back yoga foundation

WarRetreat’s “Great Big Book of Everything” Giving Edition

Are you looking for a fantastic way to thank a Veteran, but don’t really know how?  Many people stop at saying they “Thanked a Vet.”  However, here at WarRetreat…we work with and have relationships with several non-profit organizations that support veterans with anything from yoga and meditation to adaptive sports…and just about everything in between.  Getting veterans to move is a key component to their general health.  Here are a few of our favorite non-profits you might want to consider “giving” to.

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The GiveBack Yoga Foundation has a simple goal…To bring our Yoga For Veterans Toolkits, developed by expert teachers with years of experience in working with soldiers with post-traumatic stress, to at least 10,000 veterans across the country. To help make that happen, they are currently hosting a crowdfunding campaign to bring yoga toolkits to 2,000 veterans by the end of the year? If you haven’t, we hope you’ll check it out – when you donate $10 or more through December 31st, we’ll send you a gift of thanks! 

Major-Missy-MeditationChoose from goodies like download links for guided meditations, inspirational books about the power of yoga, or a one-on-one session with Mindful Yoga Therapy founder Suzanne Manafort. Or join Give Back Yoga’s trauma-sensitive teacher training at Sedona Yoga Festival in February, while helping us to fund yoga toolkits for over 60 vets and service members. Some of our “thank you” gifts are limited, so act now. With your help, we can share the healing practice of yoga and mindfulness with veterans who are recovering from trauma. 

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Outward Bound Veterans just published their 2014 course schedule for veterans and have over 600 slots for veterans and active duty soldiers on courses all over the country. They help returning service members and recent veterans readjust to life at home through powerful wilderness courses that draw on the healing benefit of teamwork and challenge through use of the natural world. In the military many veterans experienced courage, and camaraderie  while deployed. Outward Bound gives veterans and service members the opportunity to re-experience these strengths in themselves in a different context, thus helping them to transition back to civilian life. All courses are fully-funded including travel to and from the course of their choice.
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Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation (WWIA) provides world class outdoor adventures to assist with the mental and spiritual healing of Combat Wounded Purple Hear Recipients.  WWIA takes small groups of heroes out for  long weekends as a way to help them re-integrate back into a community,  increase their self-reliance and self-confidence, form peer to peer relationships and enjoy the wonderful aspects of the great outdoors -all in concert with a cadre of expert sportsmen who share the same values and ethos of the Heroes they support.
Right now, Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation is participating in the “CrowdRise Holiday Challenge” starting RIGHT NOW! It is a fundraising contest where WWIA keeps all the money raised, but also gets to compete with other participants for the possibility of winning even more money and exposure through contests held within the challenge. How can you help?

Click HERE to donate!   Be sure to make a comment under “donor comments” and share with others about why you love WWIA.

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Help Our Wounded (HOW) is here to serve as a mentor, support system and knowledgeable resource to caregivers and wounded veterans.  HOW provides accurate and actionable information and guidance based on the collective experience of those who have already worked within the system for many years and know where to go, what to do, who to ask and HOW to ask.
Founded by Rosie Babin in 2009, Help Our Wounded’s mission is to help severely wounded service members, and those who care for them, by providing direct aid, resources and support – unique to their needs.  While there are many resources for caregivers, the needs of those caring for the wounded veterans are unique and more complex. HOW has helped me out (Chris E.) three times.  Rosie has always been very kind and generous.  She is an ANGEL.
YOU can help them out many different ways.
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Mindful Yoga Therapy has a multi-pronged approach to helping Veterans.  First, they provide clinically tested programs for Veterans in several in-resident Veteran Affairs programs.  Secondly, they have resources available to Veterans…specifically their “new and improved” practice guide. This guide is a collection of simple but effective yoga practices developed by the authors through practical and clinical experience working with veterans coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psycho-emotional stress. MYT also provides training to yoga instructors to prepare them with the tools they need to work with Veterans with PTSD.  Lastly, they provide scholarships to Veterans who are interested in becoming Yoga instructors.
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Save A Warrior uses safe, innovative and evidenced-based resiliency programs, we offer an alternative to suicide so that returning veterans may thrive. Save A Warrior™ embraces our returning veterans in a healthy and nurturing environment that stimulates growth beyond any program available.

We can only help with your support; and we thank you for partnering in fellowship to bring returning veterans all the way home.

Through your generous donations, we team with evidence-based and innovative resiliency-training service professionals, clinicians and licensed practitioners who provide the following:

  • The Warrior Meditation Project™ shown to heighten cognitive function and promote a “threshold” experience
  • Art of mindful living activities to target core issues of post-traumatic stress
  • Best practices for accessing the Post 9/11 GI Bill to receive maximum benefitMy-Idea
  • Equine Assisted Therapy and Wild Horse gentling
  • Self-motivation strategies to inspire and create a “life worth living”
  • Leadership, Behavioral-typing and Team Building Rope(s) Course
  • Continued engagement and mentoring through community-based programs and veterans outreach
Every returning veteran who completes our training has the fighting chance against becoming another suicide tragedy. But we need your help to keep returning veterans on the road to recovery… make your pledge today to Save A Warrior™ .
ParadoxSports-vectorFinalParadox Sports offers veteran-specific mountaineering trips. This past year, we did Mt. Rainer, the Grand Teton and Yosemite National Park. In 2014, we plan to expand to five events. Our first 

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veteran climb was Wyoming’s Grand Teton on Sept. 11, 2012. This was spearheaded by Executive Director Timmy O’Neill and Exum Mountain Guide Mike Kirby, an experienced Special Ops Army Ranger who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. After leaving the military in 2011, Kirby was involved in an avalanche which caused the eventual amputation of part of his frostbitten right foot. Since then, he has guided dozens of wounded veterans up mountains across the US. Most recently, Kirby joined two other injured veterans to successfully make the first all-veteran adaptive ascent of El Capitan with Paradox Sports on Sept. 11, 2013.
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Yoga Across America’s initiative, “Yoga for American Soldiers,” is saving lives and healing the wounds our soldiers are returning home with from war. YAA is sharing yoga, meditation and breathing exercises to active duty soldiers and veterans. We are reaching out to all branches of the military, teaching yoga to hundreds of troops.
“Yoga gave me faith that my body has more power than I believed it had.It gives me freedom to believe in myself,” states Tim Taylor, Army Specialist and Wounded Warrior, Afghanistan.
Soldiers are experiencing healing, inspiration and possibility through practicing yoga with YAA. They tell us they enjoy the practice and would like more yoga in their lives.
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BOOTSTRAP is a ten-week home-based program to help service members and veterans heal from post-traumatic stress and other chronic stress conditions. Combining the best of modern science with the ancient wisdom of yoga, BOOTSTRAP has been proven effective in less than an hour a day of use. Best of all, BOOTSTRAP is free of charge to troops and veterans in need. Learn more atwww.bootstrapUSA.com.
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MalaforVets is Chris Eder’s (WarRetreat Staff Member) Seva Project to raise money for Veteran Yoga projects like: Mindful Yoga Therapy for Vets, Save A Warrior Project, and the Give Back Yoga Foundation.  Chris is a certified Vinyasa and Hatha Interdisciplinary yoga instructor.  He is the Marketing Director for Mindful Yoga Therapy for Vets, a VYP Ambassador, Sivana Ambassador, and is currently working on his 500RYT.  He also has PTSD and A.D.D.
All November long MalaforVets is running a fundraiser suggesting you give back to Veterans wh

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o have already given so much to you.  They will donate $5 per Warrior Mala bead sold to Mindful Yoga Therapy. PLUS…all of the Warrior Malas sold will go to a Veteran currently in one of MYT’s yoga programs.  BUT WAIT…it gets better.  For every Warrior mala you buy…your name will be put into a drawing to win a Support Precedes Action Mala bead.

How Yoga Helps Vets – A Response from a 23yr Air Force Veteran & Yogi

Dear Mystery Veteran,

My name is MSgt Chris Eder…and I’m just shy of 23 years active duty service to THE United States of America as a Combat Correspondent in the Air Force.  Since 9/11, I have found myself in some interesting places.  Sometimes by myself, sometimes with people I had never met, and sometimes with people who I love(d) as a brother or a sister.  I want to make it perfectly clear that anything I say is not meant to “one-up you,” try to be better than you, or try to compare to you.  Rather, I want to provide perspective and insight as we both wear combat boots and serve as warriors & protectors of the USA!

I know exactly how it feels not to sleep.  For many years, I just told people I was a “morning” person.  That was maybe less than half true…as I really do enjoy being up before anyone else.  Hot showers, fresh coffee, etc.  But the truth was…I couldn’t sleep.  I used to spend as many hours as possible working.  People thought it was because I was a hard worker.  OK…they were right!  However, as I have learned over the years…working hard is also an unhealthy coping mechanism.  Avoidance!  It is hard to tell something is wrong when you continue to out-perform everyone!

Al Rasheed 1In 2003, I found myself traveling throughout Iraq by any means possible.  I was equipped with a 9mm, no ammunition, a flak vest I think my dad wore in Vietnam, and my camera gear. For a short period of time, I called the Al Rasheed Hotel home.  That is until Oct 26, 2003 when insurgents attacked it with 68mm and 88mm rockets.  Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was in the hotel that night. Check the story out, Sec Wolfowitz is wearing my flak vest! Things got worse after my second deployment to Baghdad during the “Surge of Operations.”  Damn…the insurgents had our location dialed in!  20+ attacks a day seemed “normal” for so long.

So…why yoga?  Hell…why not?  What is the worst thing that can happen?  I started yoga back in 1999 because of a pinched sciatic nerve and a diagnosis of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.  I instantly was hooked! During my 2007 deployment to Iraq, I was actually teaching 5-6 classes a week.  Anyone…and I mean anyone… can do yoga.  I introduce to you Lieutenant Colonel Tom Bryant.

Lieutenant Colonel Bryant, US Army is my friend/mentor and hands down the best person to ever come from Alabama. LTC Bryant is the last person I thought would try yoga.  He is a typical Southern conservative, “Roll Tide!”-preaching, family loving, church going, hunting/fishing military kind of guy.  He would often poke fun of me when we worked together about how I taught and practiced yoga.  Tom recently sent me a Facebook message:

“Are you sitting down? You should.

Last night I did yoga. And since I’m deployed, you know I wasn’t drunk or high. It lasted 20 minutes, was cal

yoga-meme-300x187led relaxation yoga or something like that. Really just seemed like a lot of stretching to me, but this Japanese guy with a ponytail on the video kept talking about “seeing your breathing” and “step mindfully downward on your heels” and a bunch of other platitudinal crap I didn’t understand. But the stretching stuff was cool.”

Even this staunch yoga antagonist found yoga to be at the very least, “cool!”  There is a good chance what you think Yoga is…is not at all what it really is.  Yoga can be whatever you want it to be…killer workout, awesome stretch, or a time to reset and restore your batteries.  For me, I *try* to start every day with 15-30 minutes of meditation and yoga.  I also end each day with some grounding breath work to help clear and prepare my mind for sleep.  Trust me…I know it sounds fruity, crazy, or even esoteric…but IT WORKS!  I’ve been practicing yoga since 1999 and teaching since 2007.  I often wonder where I would be today without yoga.  I see my brothers and sisters-in-arms who share *our* nightmares, panic attacks, alertness, relationship issues, memory problems…the list can go on forever.  I know just how tough my life is…and wonder how much tougher and often debilitating it would be without yoga in my life.

Lastly, I’d like for you to stop breathing for 20 minutes. What…you can’t?  You think you might die.  I agree!  So…public math here…if I can increase both the quality and quantity of your breath…would that not increase the quality and quantity of your life?  Check out this free sample from Suzanne Manafort: 

 

Dear Yogis: We Own This War

“The world belongs to humanity. America belongs to the American people, not the Republican or the Democratic party.” -The Dalai Lama talking to Piers Morgan

This is a true story. The names have been omitted to protect the truly loving and caring.  A group of well-heeled yogis, who have every earthly possession to make their lives comfortable, were given the opportunity to donate a few bucks to support our new community yoga classes for veterans at the VA and a local base. Their response: they didn’t think they should have to donate something that the government should already be providing.

This response isn’t atypical of those who are far removed from the realities of the politics that control the conditions of our veterans and their families. The truth is that funds are stretched, and while one would think that the VA provides yoga teachers at every single hospital, it doesn’t.  We think it should too, and have written about the disparity of funding for yoga and other movement-based therapies in governmental institutions. However, to lounge on principles is akin to driving in a luxury car through a tough neighborhood and pretend to not notice the stress and suffering out the window.

Rob Schware, the Big Poppa of the philanthropic yoga movement and co-founder of the Give Back Yoga Foundation, writes in the Huffington Post, Veterans Trauma and Yoga: Are we moving quickly enough?  He writes: 

Are there enough yoga teachers and therapists to complement the work of other health professionals addressing the growing health crisis those now face who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and even Vietnam? 

Rob lists several resources, including our grassroots partner, Yoga For Vets. A civilian, Rob has an interesting professional background, and could easily sit back on the laurels of his career. But thankfully, he doesn’t. 

I think the real issue is whether people are willing to put aside their personal politics, and help those in need.  War is one of the less desirable products of our own humanity, and because we are a part of it, we at WarRetreat accept the consequences (both good and bad) that come from it. We know personally that war brings tragedy and suffering on every level. Driven by our own humanity, we own it. Because of this, we’ve witnessed the fruits of ownership, which is a sense of community, caring, and the creation of ways to address the suffering of others to offer a helping hand.  Without ownership, we might as well lease a big car and drive through life, ignoring our environs.

This isn’t to say that we would dissuade anyone from being politically astute and even active.  However, WarRetreat draws lines when it comes to bringing politics onto the mat –there is a fine line between activism and politics, especially in the U.S. where we live in a highly divided political environment that is both provoking and suffocating.  One thing for sure, talking about politics makes people talk in short, desperate sounding choppy phrases. It tenses people up and closes people off. It seems to be the antithesis of finding stress reduction through yoga. Our goal is to help those who have been through the confusion of war find a bit of peace so that they may live the productive lives they desire. 

Want to offer yoga to veterans? Advice from a Marine.

Hugo Patrocinio, US Marine Corps. Photo from There And Back Again, a veteran reintegration organization. Click photo to be taken there.

“My advice for anyone wanting to offer a yoga class to veterans without any military experience: Be Yourself. The military community can seem kind very tough, it’s in our nature. Be yourself, respect the service men and women, learn about the culture, learn about the things we do. Most important be genuine, be in tuned with your intuition, and learn from these men and women who have been through so much.”  -Hugo Patrocinio, US Marine Corps

Good friend Hugo Patrocinio talks on a radio show with Give Back Yoga Foundation’s Rob Schware speak about its new program Giving the Gift of Yoga to Veterans. Give Back Yoga Foundation is raising funds to send Yoga Nidra CDs to veterans to help counter the effects of traumatic stress and PTSD suffered by 37% of those who have deployed. The goal is to make the materials free to veterans. The goal is to have the materials ready by November, and donations may be made at their site.   Radio hosts Jessica Durivage and Dianne Ferraro are teachers who admit they have little to no experience with military or veterans, which to their credit –they’re asking questions and taking the first steps to getting involved. Listen to their show, “Where’s My Guru?”

Hugo, today, with the Art Reach Foundation where he volunteers for their Project America. Click photo to be taken to site.

Military community members might be put off by the whooshy sitar music, but get through it because Hugo has a lot to say.

Challenging the Exclusivity of Yoga

The truth is, for “yoga progressives,” what would give us the bigger kick is the elusive crossover opportunity.

Yoga and iRest instructor, and Marine wife Cheryl LeClair of North Carolina’s Second Wind Eco Tours shared an interesting article that appears on  The Society Pages, Sociological Images Blog. Contributing writer Christie Barcelos takes a critical look at the yoga population, and also the images being touted sell an idealized image by Yoga Journal.  Barcelos points out that by appealing to a seemingly homogenous group, yoga becomes exclusive rather than inclusive. This is a recommended and thought provoking piece.  What follows are my thoughts about the article.

Black Leg Acres --Totally Cool, Let's Go.

Yoga (as a phenomenon) is commercial as Barcelos points out. The cost of a class, or even a pass can be beyond the means for those who have to choose between yoga and groceries.  Compounding the financial demand is what’s touted commercially. But searches for “the right” mat, clothing, blocks, retreats and workshops can be costly, and isn’t what really matters. This being said, intentional exercise is exclusive whenever it involves cost. In other times people would get their work out by walking, plowing the fields, or doing chores. Now we spend money to buy the equipment or pay to “work out.” Either we do yoga or buy forty acres and a mule.

The "truthiness" of yoga exclusivity

But for all the “truthiness” of exclusivity, people who do yoga aren’t necessarily exclusive to yoga. The average American participates in many sports –from T-ball to football, volleyball, walking, bicycling, hiking, and skiing. Yoga is one of many things they have tried in their lifetime, often doing yoga one day, something else the next.

Before anyone gets upset about missing the transformational side, one must never assume everyone who walks in the door seeks something spiritual, or even knowledge about the 8 limbs of yoga. If they live better by feeling better, we can accept and be grateful for that. But it is worth remembering that in the United States, yoga is often combined with beliefs redolent with both subtle and overt political undertones. This is something we are acutely aware of here at the War Retreat. Our experience has shown it can be distancing and even destructive when trying to build a relationship of trust.

Barcelos examined 186 covers of Yoga Journal and found a consistent image based largely on an idealized version beauty and fitness. Tiresome, yes, but Yoga Journal is not a spiritual guide. They are writing it to inform and make money by targeting a specific image of health and wellness that is proven to be profitable. In this regard, Yoga Journal is like other magazines touting lifestyle. It doesn’t make it right, and arguments over western standards of beauty, body image, and gender influencing just makes the editorial decisions at Yoga Journal disappointing and dated. But the truth is, for “yoga progressives,” what would give us the bigger kick is the elusive crossover opportunity.  Dave Emerson leading a yoga nidra session for top drivers at NASCAR; Cheryl LeClair leading a workshop at a conference of military bloggers;  the yogalebrity Rodney Yee taking the track in an episode of Top Gear. Yee, the son of an Air Force Colonel, no doubt burned rubber while growing up on airbases. (Rodney, come back to us).

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What Barcelos’ survey on imagery didn’t factor in was the scope of yoga –where it’s practiced, efforts to expand its reach and reasons why.  Many people come up with a variety of movements, practice at home and that is their yoga. (Watch Kevin Kline dance in The Extra Man). As more online programs develop, people have more options.  Yogis Anonymous offers free online classes 24/7. In studios,  Paul Zipes’ Yoga For Vets, is soliciting yoga teachers nationwide to offer 4 free classes to veterans, and the Give Back Yoga Foundation works steadily to bring yoga to forgotten populations. Both efforts add ballast. For those without  online access –books and DVDs can be found in almost any store or library.

The path clearing through the vines of popularity to scientifically affirm yogas’ therapeutic validity is underway. Studies have been funded by the NIH, the Samueli Foundation, and also  by the US Military to gauge the effects of yoga on patients with complex, chronic PTSD. The results of the newest long-term study, utilizing brain imaging comparisons by Bessel van der Kolk’s team at the Trauma Center at JRI, is due out this Fall. Lastly, despite the narrow statistics Barcelos shares from a 2008 demographic study of the yoga community,  the number of reasons people try yoga ranges from wanting to look good, to treatment for full-blown chronic, complex PTSD. We can never make assumptions about why people try yoga.

Paul Zipes former Navy Diver, Founder, Yoga For Vets

Last year Jillian and I, along with Sue Lynch who is the founder of the non profit yoga organization There And Back… Again, agreed that we need to take the “whooshiness” out of yoga and in its place settle on a more common language. After all, what we want is nothing more than people understand how stress manifests itself in their body, releasing of tension from muscles and mind, finding their breath, and feeling better. Or as Paul Zipes once said, “I just want veterans to get a good night’s sleep.”