Yogis all know that the practice of yoga is a peaceful and meditative act that is more akin to a way of life than it is a simple activity. Yoga means mastering the mind and body to find relaxation, peace, and relieve stress.
What activity could be better for our nation’s military veterans, who have often gone through extremely stressful times during their time in the service?
Transitioning back to civilian society and adapting to normal life with completely different stressors such as employment, interacting with family, and dealing with the effects of one’s military service, is different for every vet.
Miami-Dade County in Southeast Florida has been trying to use yoga to teach relaxation techniques that can help with anxiety, mindfulness, and stress for our military veterans. Supported by its Mission United veterans support group of Miami, they recently held “Warrior Wednesday,” where over forty veterans and community members came together to practice yoga and its techniques by expert yoga instructors.
This was an introduction to yoga for many of these military veterans, and many found themselves profoundly affected by the end of their relaxation session. Topics during the sessions include transitioning back to civilian life, finding employment, devoting time to acquire mindfulness every day, and to utilize meditative techniques that reduce stress and anxiety when it arises, and allows the veteran to focus on the present moment through yoga techniques.
Many veterans have problems when transitioning back once they are out of the military. Leaving a high stress life that one has adapted to, and coming back to completely different stresses (financial as opposed to life threatening, or emotional turmoil rather than following orders in dangerous places) is often a long road vets journey down.
Trauma, PTSD, combat injuries, emotional trauma, and even substance abuse that vets may have turned to in order to calm themselves and their feeling after coming home, can be treated and combated with yoga. This does not work for everyone and is not a cure-all, but yoga for veterans is a type of therapy that can really help them, especially when they practice yoga with other veterans who they can speak with about their experiences and who know exactly what they are going through.
One of the interesting things that Mission United said they found in common with the community members and the military veterans was two things:
- Busy Minds
- Restless Nights
The causes and levels of this stress and anxiety are different for everyone, whether they served or not. Some have PTSD, some are finding it hard to find employment, some are worried about how they are going to survive or support their family, some may have physical or mental trauma they are working through, and many suffer from anxiety, depression, and sometimes substance abuse to get through the days filled with financial worries, civilian transitioning, environmental changes, emotional trauma, and the range of human conditions.
Using yoga to specifically target these issues for veterans can be a great addition to therapy, meetings, opening up to family, mingling with civilians again, supporting fellow vets, medication, or any other action that they are taking in order to cope with their new lives.
Veterans often feel alone when they come home, no matter how many friends or family are waiting for them. The same goes with civilians going through traumatic experiences, depression, and other problems. This is where yoga can help all of these individuals, and help them find peace of mind and lessen their anxiety and fears while empowering themselves.
Military vets are no stranger to self-discipline, taking orders, challenging their minds and bodies, and mastering tasks.
Yoga is the perfect activity to continue this military mindset: learning mental discipline in a new and peaceful way, learning and mastering physical yoga techniques, and challenging their bodies and minds to the rigors of yoga is appealing for many veterans who find themselves trying yoga.
Doing this within a community of other veterans can be therapeutic and can go a long way in letting veterans know that not only are they not alone, but they can finally belong in a place where they don’t feel alone.
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