YogaFit, Los Angeles, has introduced YogaFit for Warriors, a certification program that teaches instructors how to work with soldiers and veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and traumatic injuries.
The 100-hour program includes information on how trauma affects the brain and body and the yoga postures, breathing methods and relaxation techniques that best help veterans. Shaye Molendyke, one of the program's creators and a member of the U.S. Air Force, says that yoga has proven to be beneficial to soldiers and veterans, but a program needed to be designed addressing their specific needs.
Molendyke, who often teaches yoga classes on military bases, says one of the major parts of the training is learning how to speak to veterans and people who have experienced trauma. Language also is important since many veterans with PTSD are young men who are hesitant to attend a traditional yoga class.
"We needed to bring it to the military in a format that wasn't intimidating, that wasn't off-putting because we were using language that people didn't really understand," Molendyke says. "You can't use Sanskrit. It can't be command-oriented."
Instructors are also taught how to modify their classes to provide a safe environment for veterans who might be experiencing symptoms of PTSD. Molendyke says the training provides valuable information to yoga instructors who are interested in working with veterans but have concerns.
"There's this intimidation factor, like 'What if I set off a trigger?' Because that's a real possibility when we're working with PTSD," she explains. "But we say don't be scared of it. Ninety-nine percent of the time, everything is going to be just fine, so don't be intimidated to work with this population, to hold trauma-sensitive yoga classes."
YogaFit is holding training sessions at cities and mind-body fitness conferences across the country, as well as at military bases.