You want me to do what???
My name is Edgar Bush. I am almost 38 years of age, and like many of the thrill seeking, weight lifting, athletic, jock- types, yoga was a foreign concept to me. Up until a few years ago, just hearing the word yoga made my ears turn off with the efficiency of a light switch. I felt in my heart that it was in some way good for you, but never had an interest to try it. Over the course of my near 20-year military career I can’t really say that much has changed. I still work hard both physically and mentally, love to workout, and as far as sports go, I have a competitive fire that can’t be extinguished. So much even that one would say that it was one of my therapeutic stress relivers. The truth of the matter is, I’m getting older though. Along with this comes longer recovery time in the event of an injury, more prone to sore and achy muscles, and reduced mobility for no apparent reason. Recognizing this, I quickly realized that I was going to have to explore other options to preserve my youth.
Three years ago a retired Army Command Sergeant Major invited me to a Connected Warriors yoga class at Fort Campbell. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about going to an unfamiliar activity that I perceived as new age stretching for women. Walking in the room, I was surprised to find such an eclectic group of participants from all different age groups, genders, body types, and fitness levels. Many had some type of knee, shoulder, or back injury – battle wounds from a dedicated life of service. Much to my surprise, the class was an intense workout that challenged my strength, balance, and flexibility. I found myself returning each week to learn new postures and for the challenge of pushing myself to the edge. During that year, I noticed physical changes such as my knee no longer swelling after long runs and ruck marches, increased inner core strength, and an overall improvement in my level of fitness.
My name is Nikki Prodromos and I found Connected Warriors Yoga because drinking to cope with my three combat tours landed me in Veterans’ Treatment Court after having a few too many and getting behind the wheel. I have 21 enlisted years in the Army, serving active duty from ’95-’99 and joining the Reserves after September 11th. After each combat tour, I came home a little more anxious, a little more depressed, and a lot more withdrawn. At my lowest point, I couldn’t leave my apartment to check my mail and would ‘rally’ two days a month to attend battle assemblies and honor my reserve commitment but, I would pick up a 12 pack on the way home.
Veterans’ Treatment Court required me to write a five-year plan in which I included attending yoga, for several reasons. First, the plan required a physical exercise element and as a 70% disabled veteran, this was one of my few viable options. Second, I tried yoga a few years ago and loved how I felt after my practice. Third, my Veterans’ Treatment Court mentor handed me a CW yoga flier and I found out it was free…which was about all my budget could afford last year. Finally, I’m two semesters shy of my master’s degree in Performance/Sport Psychology and know that the healing power of yoga has been proven time and time again. Boy, did I need some healing!
My Yoga Journey
My Name is Michele Owen and I am a novice Yogi. I first tried yoga while on deployment after being challenged by a friend. At the time I was a young 30 years old and in prime shape. Yoga was for elderly people who couldn’t do “real” sports and lift weights.
The yoga instructor appeared to me to be 50ish and rail thin, I was not impressed. Then we began our journey. I was covered in a sweaty sheen; my muscles trembling only 15 minutes in, trying to accomplish a modified Tree Pose. No way, at that point, did I have the discipline or understanding that sheer will power was not going to accomplish these funny named positions. But, I was hooked and had a new respect for that thin, quiet yogini. I learned stillness at that time, hearing yourself and feeling “all” of your body.
My first yoga experience was as a body builder, my trainer “made me” practice poses so I would develop better balance, which would lead to better poses during competition. Already naturally thin and athletic, I really did it so my trainer would be happy and stop nagging me. I did not realize, until I was much older, that really yoga was helping to ground me, because I had to take time out of a very busy two-job schedule, plus school, training and a social life, to just stop, rest, and focus. I fell out of yoga when I fell out of competitions and training.
Ten years later, while deployed, I challenged my friend to go to yoga, to relax, and see if I could relearn some poses. I could not figure out the names of the poses, most times, but one pose always brought a great challenge to my friend and me while trying to successfully move into or out of it—pigeon pose. Because of the difficulty of getting out of it, pigeon elegantly was high and posing pigeon became a great source of laughter. We renamed the pose “screaming pigeon” because that’s what we often did while trying to perfect the pose. I learned laughing at yourself was important, because without laughter, there was no love.
I am a Connected Warrior.
I have recently retired after 36 years in the military: 10 years in the United States Marines, 26 years in the United States Army. The last 19 years have been with the Special Operations community as a helicopter pilot deploying with the most elite forces that the US military has executing missions in every environment that only the most elite can accomplish. I never titled myself as a warrior, but I was blessed to be around warriors of great bravery and commitment to defend and fight for the freedoms that we as Americans are so grateful for. The acts of heroism that I have witnessed go beyond the imagination where most people only see them on movie screens.
I am a Sergeant and have been in the US Army for 6 years. I am full Filipino, born and raised in California. I am a huge workout enthusiast (mainly weight lifting). I always thought of Yoga as more of a workout for women (I know, small minded thinking). But as I got more into the idea of functional fitness, I realized that flexibility and the lengthening of muscles played a key role in both, the sports I play and weightlifting (which takes up a bulk of my time). So I tried my first yoga class with Kathy at CW Yoga. I learned really fast that it wasn’t, a joke. It was actually way harder than I thought it would be. Since then, I’ve been practicing yoga as much as possible and the results have been amazing. A lot of the little aches and pains that I used to have in my back and shoulders have been remedied through yoga. I look back and I’m so thankful that I was able to let curiosity get the best of me and walk into that first CW Yoga session.
My name is Dwight Kohler. I have been a Yoga beginner for about 8 years now. I started doing Yoga as part of a weekly workout routine back in 2009. Prior to this routine, I had many misconceptions about Yoga. I have to say that after my first session, Yoga kicked my butt! I was working harder, sweating profusely, and I was sore in more locations than I knew existed in my body! I suddenly became aware of how much the muscle groups have to work together to keep my body working and how badly I had been neglecting them. I continued this routine for a while but like most exercise programs this one started to fall behind due to life and work. I did continue to do Yoga off and on for the next few years but with no real direction or focus. Connected Warriors has changed that for me.
My name is Margaret Schumacher. I am a Trauma-conscious Yoga Teacher, an Ambassador for Connected Warriors, Inc., and a United States Army Veteran (19821992). I’m also a Trauma Survivor. Compound trauma to be specific. I have been in more than one traumatic accident and I have been the victim of two violent crimes. I was raped when I was 13 years old and my home was invaded by an armed intruder when I was 22.
In 1982, when I joined, there were not a lot of women in the U.S. Army at all. The men I served with did not always make it easy on me, but they always had my back, and I had theirs. The tough climb through the ranks was not going to stop me from achieving my goals. I was focused. I was at the top of my game, until I was involved in an accident.
I am an Army veteran, military dependent and civilian working in the Special Operations arena. Connected Warriors Yoga has helped my world become more peaceful. I started with the intent of increasing my range of motion and decreasing daily pain. My active duty time did not entail a lot of this hardcore combatant time that I see in my peers at Connected Warriors. I was a veterinary technician. I didn’t see combat and some joke that I wasn’t really in the Army. I enjoy that even though my ruptured disc didn’t occur in some fantastic show of heroism; no one cares about that here. They just care about everyone’s wellbeing. We all have our story and we don’t have to compare ourselves. This was reinforced recently as we sometimes share our daily woes before class so that our instructor can focus on our needs for the day. I had shared that my back had been hurting from a 10 hour car ride and one of our retired pilots empathized; relating to his experiences spending 10 hours in the seat of the cockpit. I immediately felt bad having voiced my pain, but he quickly reminded me that we each have our struggles and none of us are more important than another. It is this type of camraderie that helps us all further ourselves. What I have experienced in Connected Warriors Yoga is not only those outcomes I first desired, but much more. I am able to focus better at work and in my personal life. It is much easier to cope with stressful situations and difficult people. While practicing yoga, I am able to drive this world’s problems from my mind and focus on my own physical and mental health.
I am a Connected Warrior.
I am Felicia Mason and I am a military spouse and mother, daughter of a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, grand daughter of a retired Air Force Veteran, great granddaughter of a WWII Veteran and great niece of a Vietnam Veteran. I am a Yoga Teacher and seasoned practitioner. I first came to yoga as a teenager, it was something fun to do that was similar to gymnastics that I did growing up on base but also knowing that there was something a little more to this yoga that I was missing from my yoga books. Fast forward to my early twenties where I found a studio practice and finally realizing what it was that was missing. It changed my outlook on life and allowed me to work through life experiences and gave me piece of mind. Now in my early thirties with two kids and an Active Duty husband who is gone at least half a year every year I don’t know what I would do without my practice.
I wanted to write something profound and real—except I can’t find the words. So far anything I put to paper has been hollow. I delete and start over. I teach Connected Warriors trauma-conscious yoga, I train the teachers; I coordinate classes in several regions and countries. I believe in yoga. But this year, in addition to those roles, I am the student—I am experiencing the effects of my own post-traumatic stress. I have had my share of struggles during life, but a year ago a major crap storm blew into my life—my world was rocked and rocked hard. Since then, I have experienced everything I teach about trauma—nightmares, flashbacks, triggers bringing up past traumas, sleeplessness, emotional detachment and more. It has affected me physically, mentally and certainly emotionally. I have little resiliency to further stress and sometimes I react poorly when I’m stressed.
Truly inspiring words from one of our Yogi-warriors.
“I was seriously injured in 2004, on my 4th deployment, when my AAV ran underneath a high voltage line outside Fallujah. The wire almost struck my face, out of reflex, I blocked my face with my hand. My hand came in contact with the high voltage line and due to the current, closed around it.
I was stuck on the wire for almost 3 minutes, my crew saved my life and I spent 15 months in Brooke Army Medical Center’s Burn Ward. The prognosis was grim, 3rd degree burns, permanent memory loss, back spasms, photophobia, and fused joints in my hand, and I was told I would be unable to walk again.
Chief Warrant Officer Frank Rodas, has been serving in the United States Navy since September 1992. Frank began practicing yoga almost 10 years ago at the invitation of his wife, Karla, who has since become a yoga and meditation teacher. Through yoga and meditation, they’ve received lifelong tools that have helped them through challenging times as a military family. Together, they strive to be ambassadors of a fully integrated yoga life, balanced and connected, on and off the mat. They fully support Connected Warrior’s mission, serving those who have served, providing free yoga and resources to the military and their families.
“I’m a damn Marine and haven’t cried in a hundred years.”
Have you ever noticed that when two people look at a piece of art that they usually focus on something different? Abstract art is a great example, you probably see a man in uniform sitting on a yoga mat in an art studio with a dusty floor. Well, I am that man. Let me tell you what I see.
I see a child that was beaten by his alcoholic father. “I probably deserved it.” [ scrape away some clay ]
He beat my mother in front of me and my brothers. “She DIDN’T deserve it.” [ scrape away ]
Finally, after all these years she is leaving him. [ more dust on the floor ]
Why am I getting tossed back and forth??? [ dust ]
My best friend killed himself. We’re just kids!
[ scrape, press, dust ]
I have to move out on my own, get a job, pay my bills and finish high school on my own. [ more dust ]
I am trying hard to make dad proud but nothing is working. I’ll try harder. [ scrape ]
I have to get away from here but how? I’ll join the military, that’ll make him proud. No. [ squeeze ]
Going to war. I want to go. I need to go. [ press ]
My best friend was burned so badly that I didn’t recognize him when he asked for help. [ take more off ]
Back from war. He’ll be proud. No. [ dust ]
He died. Damn it!! Why?? Just once!! Why didn’t you say those words??? PROUD. [ f!@k ]
Regroup. My family. My career. Focus. [ dust ]
Failed marriage. Kids won’t speak to me. I’m alone. [ mud, dust, scrape ]
Career. New love. New life. Hope. [ dust ]
Another war, deployments, will she put up with it?? Will she put up with me?? [ scrape away ]
Dave .. my friend, my mentor, my Marine brother. Why?? Why did you do it?????? [ hell, f!@k, dust ]
She did it. She stayed with me. How?? [ dust ]
She shared her breath, her life, her yoga. I can sleep!!!! I can breathe. I can rest. [ dust ]
This is what I see coming from the clay.
Through Connected Warriors, Henderson has embraced the practice of yoga to help heal from post traumatic stress after serving in the Middle East. Siena often wakes him up from nightmares by placing her head on his chest. In Henderson’s own words, “Every soldier deserves a service dog when they return.”
I am from Arkansas. I am a husband and father. I joined the Army in 1996 as a helicopter repairer. I have been on numerous combat deployments. I am a leader and I lead by example. I started Connected Warriors Yoga to enhance my fitness performance and to deal with some nagging aches and pains. Through my own practice, I recognized the value a consistent yoga program would bring to my Soldiers physical and mental well-being. I plan on incorporating Connected Warriors Yoga into my current aviation unit’s physical fitness program.