WARRIOR STRONG, WARRIOR FIT
The YogaFit for Warriors team headed to Sembach, Germany in March, where they introduced yoga to Army soldiers. In the process they received as much as they gave.
In the middle of her YogaFit training, LTC Kerryn Story suddenly realized that the yoga she was learning could benefit the men and women she served with in the US Army’s 30th Medical Brigade. The 30th Medical Brigade are “victory medics,” a Combat Operational Stress Control Team (COSC), tasked with “distributing resiliency training and tools to populations in challenging environments,” which can be highly stressful. What if yoga could help them develop the resiliency tools they needed to do their jobs and to face the challenges in their own lives. After all, her training taught her that this yoga went much deeper than the physical— the bending, stretching, and strengthening people generally associated with the practice—and touched every aspect of a person’s life—physical, mental, and emotional.
So, Kerryn wrote up a proposal for a program called Warrior Strong, Warrior Fit, and YogaFit’s Warrior program won the contract to lead the yoga portion of the training. Shaye Molendyke, an army veteran herself and the director of YogaFit’s Warriors, admits that this was her most rewarding experience. “Taking our training to the military directly was a dream come true,” she says. The intent behind the program perfectly parallels the YogaFit philosophy: Receive and then give back. Two YogaFit trainers, Kelly Gardner and Kim Gray, were tasked with teaching yoga and mindfulness to the Physical Fitness Leaders in the Brigade. In return, the leaders were required to teach the soldiers in their own units—free of charge—during their three-times-a-week PT sessions. Their eight hours of “community service teaching” were part of YogaFit’s grassroots approach to integrating yoga into the military.
So far, Shaye says, “we’ve taught 100 soldiers and Kristy Manuel, director of YogaFit’s HealthCare program, will return to Germany in August to teach the last 25. Those 125 will then teach between 10 and 50 people in their own units…so you can see the ripple effects.” In addition to the fitness leaders, many mental health and medical practitioners attended the training and came away quite impressed—not just with yoga in general, Shaye told us, but with the Warriors program in particular. “And now they’re relaying their desire to integrate the Warriors Program into their own curriculum and to advocate for yoga on a wider scale across the military. The potential is exciting!”
How did the soldiers respond? Considering that most of them had never done yoga before—and certainly never taught it—the results were impressive. Shaye reports that 75 percent of the participants became “yoga converts,” and, according to the initial surveys conducted by LTC Kerryn Story, more than half felt that the five-day training was a major life-changing event for them. “Several soldiers in my training told me that it was the best course they had ever taken in their military careers.” They had a lot to learn in those five days: Level One, YogaFit for Warriors, and a full day of meditation practices. “That first day everyone was nervous, Shaye says, “but by the end of Day 3 you could see and feel an energy shift; by Day 5 everyone was motivated to teach and, more importantly, incorporate the concepts into their lives.”
But don’t take our word for it. Here are a few pretty amazing quotes that speak to the power of yoga and the strength of the Warrior Strong, Warrior Fit program.
For the first time, I was able to understand why PTSD happens, that it happens to everyone during a traumatic event, and why some people recover in days while other have not been able to for years. It's confirmation that it is not a weakness at all. Rather it is physiological and can be corrected by working with the nervous system. Whether you are are yogi or not, this course is HIGHLY effective resiliency and recovery training. If you are not a talker and are looking for a way to learn what you can do to help get your mental and physical body back in balance, this is an excellent resource!
From CPT Monica Aruwah
I went into this course with several "stereotypes" of what yoga was… What I took away from this course was far beyond a physical training outside the norms of the military fitness. I found myself discussing the impact of what I experienced with a few colleagues of mine and, although they hold the very same thoughts I did initially, I'm thankful for transformation. I look forward to teaching the classes as I am certain I will begin with my own family since they often seem to be the biggest critics.
I wanted to say I am thankful for what you do and how your program had the ability to reach different levels of the attendees as they peeled those layers back during open discussion. I think that as a whole was the most weighted part of the program for me aside from the competitive nature of my inner self. I'm still working towards the need to let go of “competition” for myself as I find some of those positions challenging.
Thank you once again....I look forward to testing the different levels of yoga and working towards improvement physically and mentally. Hope to write you one day and let you know I've reached my expectations.
We salute you YogaFit Warriors and your incredible team of trainers. To find out more about the 100- and 140-hour YogaFit for Warriors program, click here.