"Why I started Yoga for Vets"
Captain Anu Bhagwati
When I left the Marines in 2004, I was dealing with numerous service-connected physical injuries, uncontrollable stress and feelings that ranged from depressed and hopeless to angry and homicidal. Treatment at the VA Hospital and counseling at a Vet Center only helped me up to a point.
I got really tired of being offered little white pills for my pain, and feeling like I had no control over my life. When I decided to become a Yoga teacher, a lot changed. I learned that I did not have to be a victim to my thoughts and emotions. By meditating and regulating my breathing, I could actually calm down and even feel better about things.
Because of my injuries, I learned to accept that I would have to slow down and take things one day at a time. I learned Therapeutic Yoga, which uses bolsters, blankets and other props to place just about anyone, including wounded and older people, in regular yoga poses so that everyone can experience the health benefits of those poses. Lots of vets say that the Therapeutic Yoga is their favorite part of class, because it is so relaxing, and you don’t have to think about anything while you’re doing it.
I think that anyone who has been through the military is an expert at sucking up pain and functioning well under extreme stress. I try to make the class a place where you don’t have to push through any of that anymore. You already know how to sweat. I think it’s more challenging for most of us to calm down, and let things go. In this class, it’s okay to rest and relax, or to just flat out not do a technique or pose that doesn’t work for you. Many vets have already pushed their physical and mental limits beyond imagination--yoga is one way to allow yourself to release some of those expectations, to get some peace of mind, and to place your feet back on the ground again.