If you have ever taken a yoga class or added some extra stretching to your morning routine, you’ve probably experienced the positive effects those activities had on your body, and your entire day. No matter the level of experience you have, if you incorporate yoga into your daily life, you will feel the difference and your body will thank you in the end!

Yoga is a mind-body activity that involves moving through a series of body poses and breathing exercises that can improve strength, flexibility, balance, and relaxation. With ancient Hindu routes, this practice takes many forms from a more spiritual approach to flexibility-focused, and everything in between. There is not one simple definition of what yoga is but the word itself means “to unite” or “to join”, it is a practice meant to bring harmony between your body and mind.

As research expands, people are starting to look to yoga as an answer for more than just the flexibility benefits. Researchers are finding that yoga can have positive effects on the central nervous system, immune system, and even our sense of focus and awareness. Dr. B Rael Cahn, from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, worked with a team to offer a 3-month yoga and meditation retreat to study the effects yoga and meditation have on the body. Although the study acknowledged the results could come from a combination of factors, participants did see a decrease in anxiety and depression.

In addition to our mental health, yoga has shown to have anti-inflammatory effects too. So switching from a cow burger to a cow pose might be the heart-healthy option you’ve been looking for! Hugh Calkins, M.D., director of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service at Johns Hopkins, believes there has been a major shift in the past five years of doctors recognizing and recommending yoga to their patients suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease, and atrial fibrillation. Increased research studies continue to show the positive effects of yoga and meditation, and now the military is looking.

From Oorah to Om, veterans are seeking help and looking to yoga and meditation as a solution. The Department of Veterans Affairs has successfully incorporated yoga into their treatment for opioid addiction as well as for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The success rates are now encouraging veterans to become yoga instructors, increasing access in the veteran and active-duty community. Veterans often work better with other veterans because of shared experiences and mutual understanding of obstacles in the military community. The trust is a lot easier to build in a yoga class when the instructor understands firsthand what students are going through and dealing with.

Veterans leading veterans in yoga also allows for a greater understanding of how to create the perfect space to allow a veteran to move out of their trauma and just focus on the breathing and movements in front of them. For example, Michael Riley, Air Force Veteran and teacher for Mindful Yoga Therapy, uses practices like allowing his students a full view of the door during class – “By allowing veterans to see the door, it gives them a little more ease in their body.” He also avoids touch adjustments to allow veterans to decide their boundaries and avoid triggers. Mr. Riley not only instructs yoga to veterans but also military culture to civilian yoga instructors. Those outside of the military often don’t know the triggers of those who have seen combat. His instruction increases the access of yoga for veterans and gives civilian teachers the basic tools to instruct those with a different background from their own.

Here at The Baltimore Station, we are exploring the use of yoga, meditation, and light movement classes for the clients in our program. One of our residents requested yoga directly, so we are hoping to encourage this interest by increasing these types of classes as a form of therapy for the men. We have invited instructors in to teach yoga to the men as well as show them the power of meditation. In August, a community member working to become a physician assistant, volunteered his time and lead the men in a yoga/light movement class. It was a big change from our normal classes, but it offered something for everyone in the room. A couple clients took full advantage and brought out the yoga mats while some did exercises from their chairs. Everyone finished with a better ability to just step back and breathe. We hope to increase the number of yoga classes we can offer monthly as well as look into programs that focus on yoga in the veteran community.

Need of the Week

Are you looking to get rid of those old tennis rackets that have cluttered your garage for years? Consider dropping them off at The Baltimore Station. Our residents have requested a few tennis rackets and balls to work on their serves and enjoy the rest of the summer outside. If you have any tennis equipment you are looking to donate, please contact lfrazier@baltimorestation.org to schedule a drop-off time!