In Service: Veteran’s Yoga Project

ON May 17, 2019
Veteran's Yoga Project

Our focus on Service this month at Namaste is meant to shine a light on how we can all contribute to a kinder, better world. With Memorial Day quickly approaching, we wanted to highlight the Veteran’s Yoga Project, the work they are doing, and how you can be a part of it.

Perry Chattler is a registered yoga teacher and a certified yoga therapist, and is on the Northern California Regional Director for Veterans Yoga Project. He shared a little bit about why this project is important and how it is shaping the lives of veterans for the better.

Q: What inspired the Veteran’s Yoga Project?

A: Veterans Yoga Project (VYP) came about from the work done by Dr. Dan Libby, who at the time was a clinical PhD psychologist at the Veterans Administration. Dan had a yoga background and began practicing with veterans suffering from PTSD. He saw significant improvements in resilience and well being among the veterans he worked with. Soon thereafter, he created Veterans Yoga Project, a non-profit organization intent on bringing mindfulness practices to veterans, active duty military, as well as to the families of those groups.

What services do you provide as an organization?

VYP’s mission is to support recovery and resilience among our veterans, their families and their communities. We accomplish this mission by providing free mindfulness-based practices to veterans, by providing trauma-informed training for yoga teachers, and by offering healing retreats to veterans and their families. VYP is a nation-wide, non-profit organization offering classes and trainings through out the nation. We conduct nearly 130 weekly yoga classes around the country, serving approximately 2,200 veterans every week. Here in Northern California we provide twenty weekly classes for veterans, including 15 classes right here in the Bay Area. VYP also provides a practice library on our website enabling veterans to see videos and listen to audio guides for asana practices, meditations, and yoga Nidra practices.

Q: Why is this work is so important and valuable?

A: Many veterans return from conflicts suffering from Post Traumatic Stress, Military Sexual Trauma, and long term pain. Many turn to medication or substance abuse to deal with returning to the semblance of a day-to-day life. Vietnam veterans have been suffering in silence for a very long time. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans receive better, albeit limited, support. Mindfulness practices assist greatly in recovery for these veterans, providing practices and tools such as mindful movement (asana), breathing practices (pranayama), yoga Nidra, and meditation to assist in recovery. And, the VA is coming on board with a mission to bring these practices to veterans because the research shows that these practices work. Trauma-informed yoga practices not only improve relationships and help veterans integrate into society, but most importantly, these practices save lives.

Q: Can you share any inspiring stories?

Veteran's Yoga ProjectA: The stories are almost too numerous to count. I personally witness transformations taking place nearly every week in my classes.

Here are some words from a Vietnam veteran who struggled with alcohol and depression for far too long, finally diagnosed with PTSD, he says,

“Some words come to mind as I think about the positive effects yoga has had on my life – centered, balanced, breathing, being – being in the moment..being conscious and aware, not melancholy or depressed, but calm, hopeful and confident in how my day will unfold. Yoga has opened the door to a new way of life, to live in every moment. Yoga has benefited me greatly.”

Q: How can our community of students help?

A: Your students can help by donating to Veterans Yoga Project (VeteransYogaProject.Org). Donations go directly to supporting our programs, and being sure to earmark donations to help support our work right here in Northern California. We are always looking for volunteers (administrative tasks, marketing, fund raising, photography, video, etc.) to help support our efforts.

Q: How can our community of yoga teachers help?

A: Teachers can help in three ways.

  1. Bring awareness to how the practices of yoga (movement, pranayama, mediation) can serve veterans suffering from PTSD, insomnia, opioid addiction, and long-term pain.
  2. Second, by considering taking the VYP trauma-informed Mindfulness Resilience Training for yoga teachers, a 15-hour (CE) program where teachers learn about PTSD and how and why these practices work, and then joining our Northern California team.
  3. And finally, consider holding a donation-based yoga class either during the period around Memorial Day, or Veterans Day, or any time, or simply donate one of their regular weekly classes. Many students during these donation-based classes find inspiration in donating more to support our veterans.

Tell us about your upcoming events in the Bay!

Memorial Day event on June 2, 2019 on the USS Hornet in Alameda. We will have a veteran-led yoga practice on the flight deck of the Hornet, overlooking the SF Bay. Please come join us!

We will also offer our yoga teacher training in the Bay Area in the fall of 2019.

Please visit our website for details.

All photos courtesy of Veteran’s Yoga Project.
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