Veterans Need Yoga, Too
When you think about yoga, what comes to mind? A super-fit, toned woman bent into an impossible shape? A perfectly proportioned man sitting cross-legged on top of a mountain, gazing peacefully at the setting sun?
Monica Peraza-Thorne, local yoga teacher and Regional Director of the Pacific Northwest for the Veterans Yoga Project, wishes it was a simple task to dispel the pop culture-fed myth that yoga is only for the fully realized, peace-filled pretzel.
Idealized impressions of who yoga is for and what it is all about are obstacles that Monica and the counselors at the Everett Veterans Center have to overcome when they invite local veterans to give yoga classes a try.
Monica + Yoga + Everett + Vets
Monica came to Washington 15 years ago from Costa Rica. After a brief stint in Seattle, she moved to Everett and collected yoga teaching certifications, including a 200 hour certification and a 500 hour certification.
One training session she attended was focussed on Mindful Resilience, offered by the Veterans Yoga Project. Mindful Resilience teaches skills that help individuals calm anxiety, breathe easily, move freely, and rest deeply—all skills especially useful to people recovering from PTSD, chronic pain, and other concurrent mental health conditions.
No money? No program in Washington? No problem.
Monica was sold. Veterans could benefit from access to yoga and Mindful Resilience, and she was gonna be the girl to bring yoga for veterans to Everett. And bring it she did. She taught donation-based yoga classes to fundraise for necessary materials and got the program established at the local Everett Vet Center. Over the past year the program has grown and now, as Regional Director, she oversees multiple programs in Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
Although it can be a challenge to get veterans to the yoga mat, once they do, they often come back again and again. One local yogi is Staff Sergeant Chad Glover. After serving 12 ½ years in the US Air Force, including three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and working a variety of intense jobs including serving as a pararescue, he returned to Everett injured and struggling with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
After being introduced to the idea of yoga by his counselor at the Vet Center, he gave it a go.
“Since attending ‘VYP’ I have slowly unlocked the physical, mental, even emotional damage the military has done. Learning to breathe, meditate, and push my body. To become all around better through daily practice. And letting it carry over in my life,” Seargeant Glover said.
Who can join Monica’s classes for veterans?
Monica teaches yoga at no cost to veterans at the Everett Veterans Center on Everett Mall Way. While the classes used to be reserved for combat veterans, they are now open to all veterans and their family members.
Bonus: You can even bring your service dog!
Wednesday, 12-1 p.m.: Women-only class
Wednesday, 1-2 p.m.: Co-ed class
Does Monica teach classes for civilians?
Inspired to lend a hand (or $$)?
Monica often teaches donation-based classes to raise money for Veterans Yoga Project to help supply the classes, students, and teachers with the materials they need. You can attend a class, donate via their regional fundraising link or reach out to Monica (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discover other ways you might be able to help.
VYP is a volunteer-run 501(c)(3) organization, it take a village to make free yoga for veterans happen.
To attend a no-cost class for veterans, reach out to Beth M. Napolitano, a counselor at the Everett Veterans Center and she’ll hook you up. Beth.Napolitano@va.gov
There’s a ton more info on Veterans Yoga Project on their web site.
Vote for your favorite yoga studio in this month’s EVVY Awards
Tammy lives and works in Everett, WA with a disgraceful pitskunk named Samhain the Druid, three professional shrew killers, two strange children, and a lawyer to keep them all out of trouble.