by: Pamela Stokes Eggleston
At a community center in Maryland, yoga opened me up. It was 17 years ago and although I was trying it for the first time (and doing it as an activity to get to know my soon to be sister-in-law), I had no clue how profound and life changing yoga would be. I enjoyed my initial asana practice, it made me want more so I searched for local yoga studios to visit. I found one that spoke to me and stuck with it for some time, until my favorite yoga teachers moved to North Carolina which then motivated me to other styles and studios. My personal practice was sporadic but I kept at it, and as my practice became more consistent I wanted even more. It was then I applied for a 200-hour Pranakriya Yoga Teacher Training. It was official — I was hooked!
Serendipity guided me to teach yoga to veterans, I didn't plan for it at all. In fact, I didn't even know if I would teach and originally completed teacher training to enhance my personal practice. However, as the spouse and caregiver of a wounded warrior, I know what it's like to live with a veteran, particularly one who has post-traumatic stress (PTS). It was as if the Universe moved me towards this path. Even so, what I did not expect was the broad outreach from the women veterans' community as well as the entire veterans' arena to help them heal. We now know that yoga and meditation are evidenced-based healing modalities for many types of trauma. What is not being examined as much in this space, although it is improving, is cultural competency and diversity.
To be sure, we are seeing more black and brown yoga practitioners, but what about black and brown women who have served our country? Enter one distinct population into the military and veteran communities, women who have served, many of whom are people of color. Through my yoga and meditation work with veterans, service members, caregivers and families, what I know for certain is that taking care of all of our veterans is paramount. Using yoga and meditation to address a myriad of veterans' issues including combat stress, traumatic brain injury (TBI), military sexual trauma (MST) and PTS, continues to be a proven, well-researched healing modality for the population.
Through my specific work in this area, most of my clients are women. One veteran client, Mojisola Adedayo Edu, had this to say: "Yoga2Sleep has revolutionized my mindset of traditional yoga. I am a disabled veteran and I struggle with insomnia, depression, balance and anxiety. My pain does not have power over me. With meditation I have learned to deal with things more mindfully without reacting with anger. It has improved my relationship with my daughter. It has helped me practice patience. I have found personal growth through yoga."
Geraldine Lamb, Army veteran, was told by a VA doctor that she would never feel the nerves in her left leg again, but what happened after she became a client was incredible. "It was electrifying and scary when I realized that the nerve in my leg was alive, such a feeling - like 'oh my God, what's going on?' because I didn't expect to feel what I felt. But it was a good feeling and it made me want to cry." After our session, I wanted to cry too - tears of joy, tears of a knowing. Indeed, everybody bends and yoga can work wonders.
(Pamela with clients Mojisola Adedayo Edu and Geraldine Lamb).
Women veterans are civilians, but a different kind: ones that served and sacrificed. Healing for women veterans is crucial to ensure that our nation's heroes can live up to their full potential and with continued positive contribution to society. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness can, and do, help.
Pamela Stokes Eggleston, MBA, E-RYT is the Founder of Yoga2Sleep, helping people get Better Sleep for the Best Life.™ She is a 200- and 500-hour Pranakyira Yoga Instructor. She is also a cofounder of Blue Star Families, a national nonprofit for military families, and serves on the board for the Yoga Service Council. She loves yoga nidra, savasana and naps. Pamela is a Contributing Editor of Best Practice for Yoga with Veterans (YSC-Omega Publications, 2016).