Veterans at SAVAHCS participating in Yoga class to improve their health and wellbeing.
Yoga is an ancient system of physical postures and movement combined with breath, intended to bring peace of mind and well-being. It is not a religion. People of all faiths and beliefs practice yoga to increase health and wellness.
Charis Domador, CYI, a Connected Warriors and Southern Arizona VA Health Care System (SAVAHCS) volunteer, travels to the Tucson campus every Tuesday to lead Veterans who have chosen to practice yoga in order to improve their health. Veterans register for this class for their own reasons; however, most registers to find ways to manage their pain, stress, or gain flexibility and strength. Veterans can come once weekly, as they choose. They register for the class through their PACT teams.
John Pashos is a Vietnam Era Veteran who attends yoga classes regularly.
“I had flirted with yoga years ago, " he said. "When the opportunity was presented here at the VA, free, and taught by a Certified Yoga Instructor, I thought, I am going to take advantage of that. It soon became apparent that it was an important step in and for healthy living, of which I am a proponent.”
Modified poses are offered to meet the need of individuals. Many Veterans, new to Yoga, will begin these classes utilizing chairs and other supports, but quickly “move to the mat”. Veterans are guided through a practice of breathing, mindfulness and poses that help them to manage stress, improve mobility, flexibility, strength and balance.
“I wanted to give Yoga a try after having back surgery in June of 2013, to regain lower abdominal and back strength, " said Dean Halverson, who has attended this Yoga class since August. This has helped considerably. I used to favor one side, and now have improved balance and centering. This also helps my breathing.”
Our participants have reported that coping skills, pain, anger, depression, sleep, flexibility, balance and strength were positively impacted by their participation in yoga. Other areas reported to be positively impacted were anxiety, relaxation, and hypervigilance.
“I came out of desperation, " said Rick Alliman, a Vietnam Era Veteran. "Physical Therapy told me they could do no more to help me. I have diabetes due to herbicidal poisoning which led to neuropathy and vertigo. This has helped."
Rick and his wife, Lea Anne, have attended Yoga since May of 2014.
Steve Louie practices yoga as part of a multi-faceted approach to regaining health and wellness and stated “For me, flexibility is as important as strength.”
There is an increasing awareness that Yoga and other complementary and alternative strategies are being utilized by Veterans, as well as others, to self-manage symptoms of chronic diseases and injuries. Many Yoga studios in communities all across the country are offering yoga free of charge to Veterans and their families. Some of the Veterans in our VA Campus class also practice in other studios in the Tucson area that offer free classes and instruction. Many of these Veterans are also developing a home practice of yoga.
At SAVAHCS, this yoga class is held as part of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention program. Yoga is also taught as part of many Mental Health and Pain Management programs across the VA. Interested Vets should ask their PACT teams or Mental Health Provider how they can get involved.