I was honored to share my thoughts on yoga as a healing modality for military veterans with the Huffington Post this week. I got to use a lot of personal pronouns and tell a few stories. This is rare – I’m usually discussing the subject with my researcher’s hat on.
Yoga has done amazing things for me and I love sharing it with fellow veterans.
Yoga: Authenticity, Healing, Resilience
I came to yoga as an athlete looking for something fun to try, something new to master, and something to help me bend my unyielding muscles a bit more easily.
What I found on the mat changed my life entirely. I found a practice that was about more than my body and my training. This was something I could practice and study while joyously never “mastering.”
Our bodies were made to move in constant search of unity with our minds and spirits. It’s a natural stillness that those who have felt it love, pursue, and fight to regain if lost.
When we discuss the sorts of trauma and injuries our veterans have experienced, we need to bring yoga and mindfulness into the conversation around treatment and prevention. Pills and therapy are not enough to return this active, passionate community to full health after trauma. We won’t seek them out and we won’t ask for help.
As a Marine, I know: The default mindset in warrior culture is “you can keep your couch.”
I’ve come to realize, however, that an honest leader can be real about where they don’t have it all together. What if I had completed training designed to increase self-awareness and promote resilience? What if PTSD was something I knew to look for in myself and others, rather than ridicule as the province of the malingerer?
The answer to our ongoing crisis in veterans’ health has to lie outside the contemporary standard of care. Yoga has invaluable tools to offer, and must be part of any new paradigm.
While clinical health services exist for soldiers and Marines with existing mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress, they are not stemming the rising tide of service suicides. Framing mindfulness training as a way to “bulletproof your brain” renders the practices palatable within the confines of warrior culture.
Marines and soldiers are competitive people who respond much better to notions of challenge than to victim or patient identities.
I teach yoga because it asks the practitioner to work at creating mental fitness and resilience, and I know no other way to reach my peers with such effect.
Whether speaking as a yoga teacher or health scientist, –
“I have confidence in the potential of our little subculture to bring about change.”