YogaFit for Warriors Testimonial

YogaFit for Warriors Testimonial

9/12/2014

It has been one month since I began my trauma sensitive yoga classes called "Tactical Healing and Movement." My very first class was on my birthday, not to mention I completed my 100-hour Warrior training on the 11-year anniversary of the burial of my first husband, who was murdered in 2003. I am absolutely certain that this is my calling in life. 

 Looking back on how my yoga journey began, it is one filled with ups and downs but I don't believe any of it was by accident or mistake. Coming from a woman with a deep faith in God, I am fully convinced that I am on the path that He laid out for me. My first yoga class was around 2000 with a teacher named Paula Stanton. I loved her teaching style right away and fell in love with yoga. I attended her classes until my family moved an hour and a half away. Three months later, my husband was killed and I became a 22 year old single mother with PTSD. I spent years in therapy and on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds. I suffered horrible nightmares, depression and anxiety for years, even with therapy and meds. I daydreamed about suicide on a daily basis. Over time, I began to heal (although I give no credit to time for such healing). I still had all of the aforementioned symptoms but not to the degree that I did the first year or so and honestly, I had accepted that that's just how my life would be from there on out. I weaned myself off all of the medication and just dealt with the remaining symptoms on my own. Fast forward to 2009, I found love again and remarried. Life was pretty good until the death of my grandfather in 2012. It wasn't a traumatic loss like my first husband but my PTSD symptoms returned with full force. It was almost as if I was back in 2003. I began experiencing nightmares of my first husband's death again as well as depression and daily anxiety. I looked into therapists online and began doing research on PTSD relapse. I kept finding articles on yoga for PTSD so I decided to get a gym membership and get back into yoga. Much to my surprise, Paula Stanton was now teaching at the new gym in town. I spoke to her after class one day and she asked me if I had ever considered teaching yoga before. She wrote "yogafit.com" on a piece of paper and told me to look into it. I decided to check it out so I signed up for a mind-body conference in Austin, TX. The first morning I was there, I sat next to Paula and attended Shaye Molendyke's master class. I had no idea Paula would be there and vice versa and it was comforting to have someone there that I knew. I went to my level 1 training next where Shaye was my teacher. The whole day, I remember thinking, "there's NO WAY I can be a yoga instructor!" Who was I kidding? I had been a hermit for the past decade and now I am crazy enough to think I can stand up in front of a group of people and lead a CLASS!? As the first day went on, Shaye began talking about the Warrior's Program. I stayed after class and told her my story and she told me more about the program. Now I was really in an awkward position...Never in my life have I ever felt such a strong need to do something with an even more overwhelming feeling of not wanting to! My husband encouraged me that night on the phone and the next day, I ran into Paula again and told her my "predicament." The last thing she said to me that night was that she was proud of me and "you never know when I might need to hire a new yoga instructor." 

 Here I am, today writing this after teaching yoga for over a year now with 100+ hours of training under my belt. Paula hired me as soon as I completed my community service hours. 

 As I prepared for that very first trauma class, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I envisioned my students and the bravery it would take just to walk into a "trauma sensitive" yoga class. I knew from experience that some, if not all, would be anxious and hurting as they walked through those doors. I knew that they would all have hurts that I couldn't see and wounds that I cannot heal. I could only hope that they would accept the tools that I have learned and use them to find healing within themselves and keep coming back for more. I remembered my own avoidance behavior and wondered if I would've attended a class like this. My mind kept shifting from my lesson plan for the evening to all of my trainings over the past year and all the moments that lead up to this day. Yoga has been such a tremendous source of healing and I want nothing more than to share that with as many people as I possibly can. All of the trainings in the Yogafit Warriors Program had prepared me for this day and I knew that I was ready. I did have to send an email to Shaye Molendyke and Kristy Manuel that day to reach out for support. I would not be where I am today without those two ladies. They have taught me, inspired me, and encouraged me for the past year and that is what makes Yogafit stand out from the rest. You forever have a connection with teachers who genuinely care about you and that in itself is astounding. 

 Eleven students showed up that evening. Ten women and one gentleman. The man was there with his wife. They called me prior to class with a few questions regarding his physical abilities. They informed me that he had had both legs amputated below the knees and is completely blind. I told them if he could breathe, he could do yoga. They arrived early and I set him up in a chair next to his wife who was on her mat. I told him that the first class would involve little movement so he would be fine to sit and breathe and listen until I could get more one on one time with him. He was happy to do so. I was very pleased with how class went overall. The majority of the class time consisted of me explaining PTSD and trauma and how they are stored within the body and how yoga helps to reset the nervous system and release stored trauma from the body. I took them through a modified sun salutation and then finished class with a breathing technique and yoga nidra. The icing on the cake, though, happened at the end of class when I asked the couple if they minded staying for a few minutes to talk. I assured him that he was fully capable of participating in class, even if he couldn't perform all of the asanas and he could certainly breathe which is the most important part. I showed him postures in the chair with the intention of releasing his psoas. He asked me if I would teach him "the stuff on the floor." I unrolled my mat and he made his way onto it. I talked him through the same series I lead the rest of the class through and he was able to do it ALL! We were all so excited that we had tears in our eyes. It was such an inspiration to me that this man has endured all that he has and came into a class knowing it would be a huge challenge but did it anyway. He welcomed not only the newness of the breath and being present in his body but he is the prime example of what yoga is all about. His lack of eyesight prevents him from comparing himself to others and what they "look like" in their postures. He uses all of his other senses to feel his own sensations, to test his own boundaries, accept his limitations, and celebrate the joy of discovering his capabilities. I am not ashamed to admit that he is one of my favorite students! :) He and his wife have returned to class with enthusiasm and he continues to inspire all of us.

His story is not the only one that brings smiles to my face and swells my heart with gratitude. I had a few ladies tell me that it felt "foreign" just to breathe again but they were excited to see improvements. One lady brought her reluctant husband to class and he has since returned even when she couldn't make it. The biggest surprise has been the positive feedback early on. I honestly expected to get very little feedback until at least a few months into it but many of the students are already seeing positive changes. They all responded really well to EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or "Tapping" and several of them said that they would like to tap every time we have class. Two students raved about relief of physical and emotional pain after the tapping and several others told me that they felt positive mental and emotional changes. 

 This has truly been one of my life's greatest blessings and I cannot wait to see what else is in store on this mission. I do hope to see more military servicemen and women in class. We have to find a way to bring more awareness to the military community and break the yoga stereotypes that prevent some from trying yoga in the first place. I am confident that yogafit and all of us who are passionate about this program will succeed in that task. Thank you for allowing me to share my story. I hope that this will inspire others in some way whether it be through learning or teaching. 

Namaste,

Toni Dussex