When I returned home from Iraq in 2005, I was a hot mess. I just wanted to ignore the last year of my life. I was in a failing relationship with a man who viewed Iraq like a speed bump—as if it were something we both just needed to get over. My ailing father was in a nursing home and I just couldn’t deal with this new reality. So I took off. I hadn’t been home a month before I bought a plane ticket for North Carolina. Then Los Angeles. Then I jumped into a car and drove down to Mexico, back to New York, and then back to LA. Nothing could make me relax—I always had to be doing something or going somewhere.

Nearly six years later, I realize how unhealthy my behavior was. I wasn’t hurting anyone, but I never truly let myself decompress. Running around the country with friends was a sedative and getting lost in Mexico in an unregistered car was a high. In retrospect, I should’ve done what I’m doing now—yoga and working out. Yoga in particular helps me relax and take control of my thoughts. It gives me the ability to reduce uncontrollable stress and improve my physical condition.

And I know I’m not alone. The video above shares the story of Veterans at the VA Medical Center in Milwaukee who use yoga as a means to help transition back into civilian life.

If you’re looking for an alternative way to relax and focus your energy, I’m all for trying a yoga class. I know some people have preconceived notions of yoga, but don’t worry; there’s no pressure to contort your body into a position that’s uncomfortable for you.  You set your own pace. There are yoga studios throughout the country that offer up to four free yoga classes. For more information, visit Yoga For Vets.

I can’t say yoga has killed my desire to jump in a car and drive down to Mexico, but it has taught me how to slow down. A lot. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

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Published on Aug. 19, 2011

Estimated reading time is 1.8 min.

Views to date: 120


  1. Jorge August 30, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Hello I’m from Brazil
    I liked the post.
    I practice yoga, I always help with the pain.

  2. Josh August 29, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Yoga is good.

  3. Business Blog August 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    I have done internet marketing work for two different gyms that as part of their offerings provide yoga courses. Providing yoga courses specifically for vet sounds like a very admirable offering to provide and I dare say could help build goodwill within the community. I think I will comment on their sites about this.

  4. Paul Zipes August 25, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Alex and Jim,
    I can confirm that Yoga For Vets never received government funding. In fact, we try so hard to stay detached from the government that we don’t even list VA locations who offer free yoga classes(see video above). We only list civilian yoga locations. So far, we’ve received very little funding or donations from anyone. We are an American grassroots organization who just wants to offer 4 free yoga classes as one more way to say “Welcome Home” to our combat vets. For what it is worth, although I never served in combat, I am proud to say that I served in the military for 5 years and left with an honorable discharge.
    Paul Zipes
    Founder /Director
    Yoga For Vets

  5. Jim August 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Well, at least now we know where the VA is coming from. First, the VA bans the mention of God in funerals, beginning in Houston. Of course, the VA will need to pay for “sensitivity training” for all the new gay Veterans about to enter the system. Now, its “Yoga for Vets”. Its no wonder the VA has no money for Veterans Cola anymore as the VA has invested in so many far left programs, there is simply nothing leftover to go to Veterans any more.

    • Alex Horton August 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm

      Jim, this is one person’s opinion. No one is advocating for yoga to be part of VA care, and I don’t think any government money goes to Yoga for Vets, a non-profit group. Also, Congress sets COLA, not VA.

      • Derek Davey August 26, 2011 at 9:46 am

        Alex, Some ARE advocating for yoga to be a part of VA care, and other forms of so-called “Complimentary Alternative Medicine” (CAM)–massage therapy, meditation, Tai Chi, animal-assisted therapy, among others. Unfortunately, these “theories” of disability treatment, particularly for TBI and PTSD, won’t be included in VA practice on anything close to doctrinal therapy guidance. I wonder if you might dig up a copy of the VA/DOD Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Post-Traumatic Stress (2010) document and do a blog article on alternative therapies. Alternative to nearly exclusive medicinal therapy, that is. We have veterans who are over-whelmed (and sometimes over-dosed and suicidal) with prescription drugs, many in continuation from from active duty. Thanks

    • Shannon August 29, 2011 at 4:59 pm

      I love “Veterans Cola”. It tastes so much better than regular cola. If only it came in liters then it would be the best cola in the world. Yay America!

      • Jim August 30, 2011 at 12:58 am

        The chief ingredient in “Veterans Cola” is two years of political excuses. It has no taste, no calories, no water and no “can”. It is very difficult to swallow.

  6. CB Salazar August 22, 2011 at 9:58 am

    In response to the comment from Kyle, Yoga for Vets is a very real, very helpful organization. It is a network of yoga studios around the country that offer classes for Veterans at little to no cost. The fact that they rely upon donations to function is common to most nonprofit organizations. They don’t charge for anything they do; it’s strictly donation-based. Give or don’t give, whether or not you benefit from their services. And the logo is just a logo. The organization, by the way, is run by Vets.

    I’m sure the comment was well-meaning, but I see nothing wrong with the article. There is a difference between traveling for leisure and high-risk behavior in a car. Kate, I’m glad yoga is doing for you what it has done for me. And it is no accident. The practice is over 5000 years old, and has always been an effective form of moving meditation (along with providing a good workout). While fitness and nutrition, in general, support good mental health, yoga, in particular, is a calming activity because of its roots in meditation. The practice has proven itself in studies time and again. I am glad the VA has begun to embrace yoga and various meditative forms in its recovery programs. Active duty troops are years ahead in their use of wellness-based activities, but the VA is on the path.

  7. Kyle August 21, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Wow. This might be the most ADHD article I have ever read. Thank god you guys didn’t post it on Twitter and Facebook. I am missing the connection to feeling lost when returning home and finding yoga 6 years later. Traveling does not sound like “unhealthy behavior”. Myself and a majority of my fellow veterans see traveling as a great way to decompress. If you were doing yoga 6 years ago you wouldn’t have traveled? Would it have made you adjust differently? This is just confusing. Focus on the resources and don’t stretch for the personal connections. It just gets clustered.

    While I appreciate what you are trying to do here, this writing style is very unclear.

    I would like to make another point as well. When articles like this are pushed out by the VA it gives an inherent level of endorsement to organizations mentioned. I understand that the VA cannot provide all services for our veterans and will often rely on third parties to fill those gaps. That’s reality. I hope that the VA takes great care in vetting these organizations before going public with mentions like this. “Yoga for Vets” sounds like a very cool concept but there are many groups that prey on veterans. Just searching through their website simply provides as list of names and personal email addresses of “instructors”. Are these people licensed to practice in those states? What are the liability issues here?

    The big “donate” button on the front page is rather alarming. Is the VA helping do fundraising for organizations? Also, their logo is just short of the most insulting depiction of a service member rendering a salute I have ever seen.

  8. Pattie Matheson August 19, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Good for you Kate! I haven’t faced what you have but I do know that when we stop and face our demons, that’s we finally begin to gain control. As you know, it isn’t easy and it takes practice but it’s a game changer for sure.

Comments are closed.

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