- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
There is a place warriors can accept, or try to forget, concerns of combat they’ve carried for years. Memories of guilt or guns. Lifeless bodies. Even a veteran’s own sometimes indescribable pain.
Rather than dress blues or cammies, they sport sweats and tank tops. Unroll thin, spongy floor mats. Inhale purposefully, some noticing their ribcages rise and fall. Stretch. Bend. Just be still — which can be the hardest thing to do.
These sessions, offered through Patuxent River Naval Air Station and the Yoga Warriors International program, will be offered at the Energy Zone on base Tuesday evenings at 4:15 through much of this winter.
Yoga Warriors is based in Massachusetts and offered worldwide.
During the sessions, as participants continue with their warmups, instructor Susan Grier breaks the silence with poems and affirmations to help ease minds and hopefully comfort souls of participants who suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder and other strains resulting from military service.
“Do not fight the dark. Just turn on the light,” Grier said this week. “Turn on the goodness that you are.”
The participants keep their composure while music booms from an aerobics class down the hall. They continue their poses, planting their feet and standing tall and strong like mountains. Or well rooted as trees. Or poised and alert as warriors. A pose called the pigeon, Grier said, helps stretch the hips, a place where people tend to hold a lot of tension physically, and even from “old emotional baggage.”
With the poses they affirm, slowly, “I feel steady and calm.”
Or, “I grow from strong roots” ... “I accept the ups and downs of life” ... “I safely release anger to open my heart” ... “I am a warrior with inner strength.”
Katie, the only participant in this Tuesday’s class, got one-on-one attention. A gentle press on her lower back to go deeper into a stretch. Uninterrupted discussion with the instructor.
She didn’t want her last name used, she said, because of the stigma associated with people suffering from any mental health issue. “People hear that you have PTSD or that you’re seeing a therapist, and they automatically assume that you need to be on lithium and in a padded room,” she said.
She said she had been abused in a past relationship and she’s suffered injuries through her work for eight years as a medic in the Air Force, “carrying fat guys around,” she said.
With PTSD, she has to deal with the stress that comes with visiting new places, or meeting new people. Anxiety. Depression. Memory problems. Anything that makes her feel out of control of what’s happening around her. But this class has helped.
“Once you find out about it,” Katie said, “you can either do the work, or never leave the house.”
Now, she gets out of the house more often, socializes, runs errands, gets some exercise, and ultimately, feels better as time passes.
That’s what Grier was aiming for. She’s a yoga instructor in St. Mary’s County and teaches various courses, not only focusing on service members.
But she trained with all her energy to become a Yoga Warriors instructor, Grier said. “I just wanted to give back.”