“Something just seemed off. There was something off kilter. I didn’t feel like my former self and I didn’t feel like my Marine Corps self. I just felt kind of lost with my sense of self,” Yusra Kauppila admitted. Kauppila transitioned out of the Marine Corps after deploying to Iraq, where she served alongside her fellow Marines as a Corporal. Upon returning to the United States, as she said, something just felt off.
It took years for her to realize something thematically needed to change in her life…and she began practicing yoga. (see: ‘Warrior Pose: A War Correspondent’s memoir’ on Amazon.) Kauppila isn’t alone. In fact, she’s part of a group founded by former network news war correspondent Bhava Ram. Warriors for Healing is dedicated to improving the lives of our country’s service members combatting PTSD through yoga. Ram may not have served in the military, but he served right alongside troops in the Gulf War and in Vietnam, telling their stories of combat and when he returned home…he wasn’t the same either. And if you ask him, he’ll tell you yoga literally saved his life.
Retired Marine Corps Officer Paul Swanson works closely with Wounded Warriors. But he prefers to call them recovering service members and said he’s seen firsthand how yoga can help them cope with PTSD. “I’ve seen it help a great deal, once you get the Marines or Sailors in there they relax. They come into it in the beginning for the physical part; it compliments their balance and so on. And then what they do as they get farther and farther into it they see there is so much more to it and the actual physical part.” By finding that common denominator for the service members to relate to – the physical strength one builds practicing yoga, Swanson gets them hooked. It is then that the service members realize yoga isn’t really about exercise, the physical elements are just a small part of the yoga experience. It is the mental element that makes a huge difference in the lives of those living with PTSD. “That’s where the real strength and the peace and the real healing comes.”
Believe it or not, Swanson says though yogis are contorting their bodies and stretching their limbs, they’re actually getting their bodies out of their own way. What in the world does that mean? “It’s almost like it keeps the body out of the way for the mind. It gives you a comfortable seat so you can get into the mental and spiritual aspects of healing.” That idea is more than just an opinion. Ram says it’s backed up by science. Multiple studies, including one done at Ohio State University showed women who routinely practiced yoga had lower amount of cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in their blood, which is an important part of the body’s inflammatory response and has been implicated in heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, arthritis and many other debilitating disease. It is also linked to aging and in terms of PTSD, stress.
And according to Mayo Clinic, meditation can wipe away the day’s stress and bring inner peace. “Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health. And these benefits don’t end when your meditation ends. Meditation can carry you more calmly through the day and improve certain medical conditions,” the study said. Ram invites people to join his movement simply by taking a yoga class and then finding a way to sponsor a veteran to take a class. Sunday, June 28 at Hotel Del Coronado, hundreds of people rolled out their mats in an effort to raise money for Warriors for Healing. Ram, a nationally esteemed author and yoga teacher, led them all through an amazing workout while helping veterans, or should we say warriors, facing physical and emotional challenges.
Thousands more could join their yoga class as it streamed live online. And he invites others to join his yoga movement in the future by visiting onto Warriors for Healing and learning about the benefits of yoga and starting a team with other yogis to raise money so veterans in need can take their own yoga classes. In his memoir, Warrior Pose, Ram writes about the healing powers of yoga and explains why he thinks it can help our country’s heroes after trauma. “Our thoughts not only determine our actions but they also play a major role in the neurochemicals we create in our bodies as well. These chemical, in turn, impact the integrity of our systems, from organs, bones and blood to our immunological, cardiovascular and even emotional health. Beyond this is a deeper real,: that of the soul.” Ram’s book, ‘Warrior Pose: A War Correspondent’s memoir’ is available on Amazon.