As a nonprofit partner, Give Back Yoga is honored to help Gaiam carry out its corporate mission of making yoga accessible to everyone. This video shows how a service-driven partnership is helping tens of thousands of people get on the mat for the first time – from veterans and service members, to first responders and elementary students.
Ready to be a change maker? Talk with us about becoming a corporate sponsor of Give Back Yoga.
By Pamela Stokes Eggleston, Meditation Teacher
for the Veterans Collection on Meditationstudioapp.com
Meditation has significant, transformative healing benefits. The practice can help the practitioner fully connect to body, mind and spirit. But how is meditation accepted within the military and veteran communities? Studies show that meditation helps veterans find peace through decreasing sympathetic activity (fight-flight-freeze) reactions and increasing parasympathetic activity (rest and digest). Veterans are empowered to find a safe space and peace within. Those dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can especially benefit from the profound practices of mindfulness and meditation.
However, not all veterans suffer from PTSD. The belief that all veterans return home ready to snap at any given moment is completely false. In fact, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, between 11 and 20 percent of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) veterans suffer from PTSD, many dealing with chronic pain, nightmares, hyper vigilance and insomnia. The VA is slow to fully accept the advantages of meditation and mindfulness, but it’s coming as the scientific studies are steadily demonstrating undeniable benefits.
Indeed, meditation is a therapeutic modality. While not a cure, it can certainly help mitigate the symptoms of PTSD with regular practice. It helps to rewire the brain and recover from combat stress. It creates neuroplasticity – the ability to change neural pathways in the brain. And it quiets the mind and calms the spirit. Accordingly, it’s considered a viable complementary and alternative practice to other forms of therapy and prescription drugs.
Using the principles of mindfulness, we can practice loving-kindness, open our hearts to true understanding and individual needs, and look at meditation in its myriad forms to guide the work that so desperately needs to be done within the veteran and military communities. The more meditation and mindfulness instructors can offer this from a place of authenticity, the more widespread meditation will become.
We offer up these complimentary meditations for Veterans, Families of Veterans and to those continuing to serve in the Military.
Compassion meditation for veterans and their families from Pamela Stokes Eggleston:
Mindfulness for Trauma meditation, from Suzanne Manafort:
Access more resources : listen to guided meditations for military families and caregivers.
MILITARY FAMILIES: A POPULATION OFTEN OVERLOOKED
It’s well-known that the trauma of war has a strong impact on our service members. But we often forget that the reality and aftermath of combat and deployment impact military families as a whole – and that yoga and meditation can serve as valuable tools as support.
It’s impossible to completely prepare for the realities of war, or for what occurs at home. After combat, a new set of challenges arrive for veterans and their families. Lives rearrange in order to support those returning from service. The focus of family undergoes a necessary shift to tend to the physical injuries and disabilities, psychological and emotional scars.
We are dedicated to serving both veterans and service members, and their caregivers and family members, with tools for finding strength, resilience and a calm body and mind.
Developed for Military Families
These guided meditations led by Mindful Yoga Therapy ambassador Pamela Stokes Eggleston were designed for military spouses, military and veteran caregivers, and military children. Originally recorded and available on Meditation Studio App (App Store or Google Play). There are over 20 different meditations available in the Meditation Studio Veterans Collection. Download the app.
Pamela Stokes Eggleston has practiced yoga for 15 years and completed specialized training to include certifications in plant-based nutrition, stress management, prenatal yoga and MYT training to work with service members and veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and combat stress.
Through Yoga2Sleep partnerships and strategic alliances, she works with the VA and Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans.
A 9-minute meditation for military children:
A 14-minute meditation for military and veteran caregivers:
A 10-minute compassion meditation for military spouses:
More from Pamela Eggleston Stokes: listen to guided meditations for veterans and military personnel.
Gaiam’s Untangle meditation podcast features real people with extraordinary stories, and experts who have devoted their lives to teaching and helping others through meditation. In this episode, host Patricia Karpas sat down to talk with the Yoga of 12-Step Recovery program (Y12SR) founder and director Nikki Myers.
Y12SR was founded in the belief that yoga and the 12-step program share many points of intersection, and together, can support recovery in people who have been impacted by addiction and chronic trauma. Nikki’s journey has driven her to discover the significance of mind, body and community in overcoming addiction.
Here’s her story.
“Using alcohol and drugs works for a minute… it works. It’s simply not sustainable over time.”
“The 12 step program says that “Stinkin Thinkin” is the root of our problems. The yogis are saying the same thing, that there’s this basis to the root of suffering. The idea that I’m addicted to the way I process my reality.”
“At some point you will not regret your past. Nor will you want to shut the door on it. We teach the journey of reintegration. There is no part of myself that is bad, awful or wrong.”
Share the powerful framework of Y12SR with communities in need. Donate to help bring Y12SR meetings to urban treatment centers, or find a Y12SR training near you and get involved in sharing the transformational tools of yoga and mindfulness for addiction recovery and relapse prevention.
Gaiam’s Untangle meditation podcast features real people with extraordinary stories, and experts who have devoted their lives to teaching and helping others through meditation. In this episode, host Patricia Karpas sat down to talk with Prison Yoga Project founder and director James Fox.
Prison Yoga Project was founded in the belief that yoga and mindfulness can bring about change in prisoners who have been impacted by chronic trauma for most of their lives. James’s work has taken him inside San Quentin State Prison, where he’s taught some of their most violent offenders. Here’s his story.
“They buzzed me right out onto the yard. I had another 25 feet to go until I went to the classroom. The gate clicks, the buzzer buzzes, the gate clicks open, I walk out into the yard. I’ve got my yoga mat under my arm…”
“I said, this is your opportunity to leave prison for the next hour and a half that we’re together. This is out of bounds from the rest of the prison. You don’t have to deal with prison politics. We’re here to practice together.
Donate to Prison Yoga Project to help fund free practice guides for prisoners. Or find a Prison Yoga Project training near you, and get involved in sharing the transformational tools of yoga and mindfulness with men and women behind bars.
Join us in bringing Yoga Readiness Kits to 10,000 service members
This Memorial Day, Give Back Yoga is deeply honored to introduce a new campaign that aims to bring Yoga Readiness Kits to 10,000 active duty service members. Today, we invite you to honor the memory of a loved one who served by making a donation to help bring a free yoga kit to an active duty service member. Through this gift, you can help others in the military community to access a tool for healing from the traumas of deployment.
A gift of inner peace and resilience, when they need it most.
From our inception, one of Give Back Yoga’s primary focuses has been sharing yoga with veterans. The Yoga Readiness Initiative builds upon this work, broadening our focus to reach active duty military personnel and their families. This gift is extended in a spirit of gratitude for those who serve – offering tools that can help service men and women connect with strength, calm and inner peace when it’s time to be “at ease.”
Each Yoga Readiness Kit contains:
- Mat & Props: For a yogi, the mat is home base – a place to return to for grounding, clarity and peace. Through the support of corporate sponsor Gaiam, each Yoga Readiness Kit contains a mat, block and strap to support a service member in exploring a personal practice.
- Practice Guides: Practice guides offer valuable step-by-step instruction for asana and meditation, as well as the context of each practice and why it works. Yoga Readiness Kits include a Mindful Yoga Therapy practice guide and Yoga for Warriors book, along with a Connected Warriors resource guide.
- Digital Resources: Digital resources can be used at nearly any time, in any place. As part of each Yoga Readiness Kit, service members can access free downloads of breath work practices and guided meditations, while connecting with other service members who are exploring the gifts of yoga.
With your help, we want to reach 100,000 service members with these Yoga Readiness Kits. For every $75 donation, we can send a kit to a man or woman who is actively serving. Will you sponsor a service member today?
Image courtesy of: Robert Sturman
The Yoga Readiness Initiative is made possible through the generous and loving support of corporate partners, service organizations and volunteers; including Gaiam, the Give Back Yoga Foundation, Connected Warriors, Mindful Yoga Therapy and Sounds True.
by Christine Moore
Mat Grant Coordinator
Give Back Yoga Foundation
For the past six years I have been volunteering time teaching yoga in underserved communities. This journey began in a class with veterans at the Denver VA hospital, while my son was serving on a tour in Afghanistan. I never could have guessed how these hours would become transformative to my own yoga practice. They have filled me with appreciation for all aspects of my own life, my son’s life, and the lives of the people I have met on the mat.
I currently teach yoga at the Boulder County jail and adaptive yoga in an Imagine group home and at a Boulder retirement home. This work is so rewarding; I am constantly surprised and delighted by all of my students. To see each individual’s willingness to try, with obstacles I cannot begin to understand, makes me feel fearless and inspired. It can be tiring and difficult and sometimes feel thankless, but the personal rewards are great and many.
I find that this work returns to me gifts in equal measure to what I offer each of the populations I practice with. I share the practice of yoga with people I might otherwise not have known, so we all grow in our ability to see past our differences. It’s as if I am gazing into a mirror, and able to see our shared humanity.
In March of 2015 I was asked to manage the Give Back Yoga Foundation’s Mat Program. Through the generosity of Gaiam, this program has provided yoga mats for underserved populations in many parts of the world. The stories and submissions for all of these mat requests reflect the compassion people have for one another, and the ability yoga has to heal and connect people locally and globally.
The yoga mat grant program started with a request for mats for several Boulder County high schools, a request from a veterans’ yoga program, and a handful of other people in need of mats. Gaiam willingly and generously offered to contribute 2,500 mats for the year to this program. Halfway through 2015, we’ve distributed over 1,900 of these mats to populations ranging from refugees to homeless people, from Native Americans to veterans serving overseas.
Other populations to whom we have sent Gaiam mats include caregivers, survivors, first responders, people with eating disorders, and people in recovery from addiction. We have even sent mats out to “Cowboy Up,” an equestrian program for veterans which now incorporates yoga classes.
While some of the programs require confidentiality and are not able to share photos with us, many have submitted photos of participants practicing on their new mats. Photos and thank you messages are shared each Monday on Give Back Yoga Foundation’s Facebook page, and the images tell stories beyond words.
I’m also blessed to read extraordinary submissions like the ones below, which enrich my days working as the program coordinator. I am deeply moved by the generosity and strength of the human spirit of all of these yogis who come out and practice yoga no matter the difficulties they face. I am just as moved by the the people who have put all these programs in motion. Most of them offer their commitment to these programs as volunteers, so hats off to them! And hats off to Gaiam, too, for helping to make this program possible.
It is my belief that giving is one of the most gratifying aspects of the human experience.
Messages From the Mat: Five Yoga Mat Grant Recipients Share Their Mission
“I am an ambassador for Give Back Yoga, a Navy pilot, and now teach yoga full time. I still work with the Navy at a wonderful place called Warrior Transition Program located in Sembach, Germany, where sailors stop for five days to decompress and relax after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading home. Many of these sailors have been away from home for nine months to a year in very austere or combat environments. I am so impressed that the Navy has created a Mindfulness/Yoga room in Sembach for these sailors, and I am honored to be teaching in these spaces.” — Elizabeth Corwin, active duty military
“I believe it is my duty in life to reach out to the (sometimes resistant) teens in our community who may have never learned techniques of self-love and care. These kids have been taught neither coping strategies for our chaotic world, nor a sense of community and friendship because they have been forced to live in a grown-up world right away. By having mats, they can start to experience routine in a safe place (laying out your mat and practicing there always feels good). They begin to adapt to a sense of belonging in a space, and this gives them a platform for beginning anew. How many of us remember our first mat and the sentiments that came with practicing there? It was before we knew how to take our practice into the rest of our lives (off the mat). It was the starting point.” — Hannah Bias, Urban Lotus Project
“We are a non-profit ethnic-based community organization that has a mission to assist all resettled Bhutanese refugees in Onondaga County of New York to integrate into mainstream American life, and become self-sufficient and self-reliant with good health and wellbeing.” — Ajaya Sapkota, Bhutanese Community in Syracuse, Inc.
“We hope that, through gentle poses and guided mindfulness and meditation, our members will learn a new coping skill for when mental health symptoms arise. We hope to offer a new tool for quieting the mind and reducing anxiety.” — Angela Farmquist, Thrive, Hendersonville, NC
“Weekly, I work with wounded ill and injured US Marines from the East Coast Wounded Warrior Battalion to share Mindful Yoga Therapy and Adaptive yoga.” — Ann Richardson, founder of Studio Bamboo Institute of Yoga
Join in community with Give Back Yoga Foundation and One Million Faces at Yoga Journal LIVE! in Estes Park.
Join us on October 1st through 4th at Yoga Journal LIVE! in Colorado to deepen your practice and help us to give back yoga. Share in a free community Yoga for First Responders class, and join us for a Give Back Yoga presentation to find out how you can give back from the mat to those who are most vulnerable. Get your photo taken in support of the programs of Give Back Yoga, and be a part of the live Remixing Resiliency prayer flag installation at the Sangha Space inside the Yoga Marketplace. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of this revolution!
Learn How We Can Help You Give Back
Join us for a brief overview of how the Give Back Yoga Foundation can support you in giving back from the mat to those who are most vulnerable. To find out more about the populations we serve, stop by our Programs and Projects pages.
Friday, October 2nd
Saturday, October 3rd
10:05 to 10:20 am
Free to all
Free Community Class: Explore the Yoga for First Responders Approach
When we step on our yoga mats, are we setting intentions that cover the full spectrum of what yoga has to offer? Or are we habitually concerning ourselves with only the physical benefits of our practice?
Join us in the Yoga Journal LIVE! Sangha Space for a free community class that explores the potential of change that yoga can provide on a neurological level — including putting an end to the adverse effects of stress, and building mental and physical resiliency.
This approach serves as the basis for Yoga for First Responders, a program that helps emergency personnel to cope with stress and trauma, find resilience, and support peak performance. The techniques and practices offered through YFFR can help every human being to find resilience and inner strength for facing life’s challenges.
This free community class is open to all, and first responders who attend the event will take home a free gift of a high-quality athletic size yoga mat donated by Gaiam to support your personal practice.
Friday, October 2nd
Saturday, October 3rd
2:30 to 3:20 pm
Free to all
One Million Faces: Remixing Resiliency
The One Million Faces project is the brainchild of artist and photographer Peggy Dyer. Through this project, Peggy has worked with families, veterans, yogis, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders and everyone in between — capturing the power of their story through portraits with whiteboard messages. In the six years since it was founded, the OMF Project has blossomed into community art events all over the world that blend art with heart, inspiring connection and conversation.
The YJ Live One Million Faces: Remixing Resiliency prayer flag installation weaves threads of connection that invite people to engage in the story and mission of Give Back Yoga through images of first responders, national guardsman and fireman, and other inspired faces from the One Million Faces archive. The result is a compelling tapestry of portraits that allow the beauty of each person to light up the sky — portraits that are at once playful, emotive, expressive, honest and compelling.
As an photographer, Peggy is deeply committed to the importance of community connection and healing through art, working intimately with local communities that were severely impacted by the flooding Colorado experienced in September 2013. Learn more in the video below. Through the Remixing Resiliency project, Peggy hopes to spread awareness of the hope and lasting tools for inner peace that programs that like Yoga for First Responders can offer.
We invite you to add your face and voice to this evolving art installation, raising funds and awareness for this mission. The One Million Faces project is a conversation of community, a call for change, an invitation to express and have your voice be heard and seen. What’s your message? What’s your story? Join the conversation and the evolution today!
Thursday, October 1st through Sunday, October 4th
During Sangha Space hours
Photo + Flag: $35
Additional Flags: $10 each
Proceeds to benefit Give Back Yoga
Your yoga mat is a safe place. A place to learn how to let go of tension and trauma, and connect with resilience, strength and inner peace. Now, thanks to our corporate sponsor Gaiam, the 11 yoga supply grant recipients pictured here can experience that for themselves.
In partnering with Give Back Yoga to underwrite our supply grant program, Gaiam has donated more than 1500 mats this year to help certified teachers across the country launch new classes for underserved populations — from veterans and first responders, to at-risk youth and those in recovery from addiction or eating disorders. This supply grant program serves as a kickstarter for yoga service projects of all kinds, making a big impact to our mission of sharing the therapeutic benefits of yoga with those who are most vulnerable.
Through this partnership, we’re also able to supply mats and props to students who graduate from one of our teacher trainings, helping them to establish Give Back Yoga programs like Eat Breathe Thrive, Mindful Yoga Therapy, Yoga for 12-Step Recovery and more in their own communities.
We’re honored to help Gaiam stand behind their philosophy of “Yoga for everyone,” by working together to share the gift of yoga with the world. It all begins on the mat…won’t you join us?