Download Our New White Paper: Mindful Yoga Therapy for Post Traumatic Stress

MYT for Post Traumatic Stress

Post-Traumatic Stress: How Can We Respond?

Give Back Yoga is honored to introduce a new white paper illustrating how our Mindful Yoga Therapy program works as a comprehensive system to help participants navigate life with strength and resilience after trauma occurs.

The Mindful Yoga Therapy program is clinically tested. It evolved through working with veterans with post-traumatic stress in residential treatment programs and in outpatient programs over seven years. But the protocol is not just for veterans. The teachings and tools can help people living with or managing eating disorders, stress and anxiety disorders, drug and alcohol addiction, and domestic violence.​

Solutions proving to be successful

GBY-MYT White Paper Front Page

Download “Mindful Yoga Therapy for Post Traumatic Stress”

The new white paper, Mindful Yoga Therapy for Post Traumatic Stress, offers an introduction to this program as an effective solution for those dealing with symptoms of trauma. Featured content includes:

A brief review of Post Traumatic Stress symptoms and stats.

The challenge of treating a disorder that is both physical and emotional.

An overview of Mindful Yoga Therapy’s history.

Three guiding principles of the program: Support, Safety and Mindfulness.

Expanding cost-effective programming to populations that can benefit from Mindful Yoga Therapy.

We offer this white paper as a tool to help teachers, clinicians and supporters raise awareness of this program as a complementary alternative therapy to help those who are recovering from trauma. For more information, please contact

Download the white paper: Mindful Yoga Therapy for Post Traumatic Stress.


Even the best yoga teachers need to acquire specific skills and considerations to work in trauma recovery programs. Our goal is to help create the most qualified, supportive teachers possible to work with victims of trauma. Visit our Trainings page to explore trainings for teachers, and to experience Mindful Yoga Therapy practices in the new Yoga for Stress online course..

Looking Back on 9/11: Beryl Bender Birch & Yoga for Post-Traumatic Stress

Beryl Bender BirchOn September 11, 2001, Give Back Yoga co-founder Beryl Bender Birch was living in New York City, where she taught yoga to athletes. Two days after terrorists attacked the Twin Towers, her friend JoAnn Difede — director of a program that studied anxiety and stress — asked Beryl to come to her offices to help the families of burn victims who had escaped from the towers. That moment would shape the course of her career, as Beryl began using yoga practices to help first responders and those with post-traumatic stress.

Later, the medical community would realize just how helpful the broad spectrum of mindful yoga therapies could be when used as a complementary treatment for anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress. Thanks to JoAnn’s urgent call for help after 9/11, Beryl was able to help lead the way, becoming one of the first yoga professionals to apply yoga methodology to the integral treatment of post-traumatic stress. 

On this 14th anniversary of 9/11, we honor the memory of this tragedy and our hope for the future with an excerpt from the preface to “Yoga For Warriors: a System For Veterans & Military Service Men And Women,” written by Beryl and published by Sounds True.

“When I walked into a small room in the hospital burn center, I was nervous. It was filled with comfortable couches and chairs, a plain wooden table, and just a few men and women — relatives of the people who were wrapped in bandages from head to toe and heavily medicated for relief from unbelievable pain. Many were dying, others struggling for life. Their family members sat in stunned silence.

They all looked up as I came into the room, hoping for news of someone, somewhere. They looked exhausted. No one had slept since the towers collapsed. I didn’t assume anything. I didn’t assume I could help. I didn’t assume I knew anything that could be of use. Faced with such incredible suffering, how could anyone go on with the mundane activities of life? There was such a sense of despair in the room. I just sat down quietly at the table and put my head in my hands.

Dear Lord, I thought, give me strength and the right words to say. A man came over and put his hand on my shoulder. We both started to cry. That was it — the icebreaker.

I introduced myself and suggested that we, all together, see if there was something we could discover, something we could do, that would help us all to sleep, to deal with the tragedy, to grieve while avoiding despair and depression. I remembered what I had done in yoga classes the night before: sitting with everyone and breathing. It was the breathing that seemed to offer the most relief and the most comfort.

‘Let’s just sit together,’ I suggested. Everyone moved into a circle around the table, and I invited them to close their eyes. What happened after that, I don’t remember very well, except that I slowly came around to teaching them a closed-mouth yoga breathing technique called ujjayi. Breathe in, breathe out — with sound. That’s all. You just pay attention to the sound and see if you can make the inhalation and the exhalation the same length and make them sound as much alike as possible.

Within minutes, everyone at the table was making the slow, controlled, aspirant sound of the inhalation and the deep, sibilant sound of the exhalation. They just got it. They hung on it as a lifeline. Time became timeless. We sat like that for nearly thirty or forty minutes, although none of us had a clue how long we had been there. I kept an eye on them. Each of them just climbed into the breath and went to a place that was quiet and peaceful — for a moment. One man fell asleep during the session; God bless him. It was joyful to see him sleeping. Another woman actually smiled and came and hugged me. I can’t say it was some miraculous cure for suffering, but it did help.

I said to the group, ‘I hope you will remember that well enough to use in your most difficult moments; it will help you to sleep and to find strength.’

The man who had been sleeping looked up and asked, ‘Can you come back tomorrow?’ So I did.”

Beryl Bender Birch
Yoga for Warriors
Published in 2014 by Sounds True

Learn how you can share “Yoga For Warriors” with those who have served.


Give Back Yoga Friends - Yoga for Warriors

GBYF To Support Non-Profit Operation of Mindful Yoga Therapy For Veterans

The Give Back Yoga Foundation announced this week that it will assume the non-profit operation of Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans, a merger that will allow service leaders to more effectively reach tens of thousands of veterans with a complementary therapy that can offer relief from symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

“Give Back Yoga Foundation already has a non-profit infrastructure that’s both effective and efficient,” said GBYF Executive Director Rob Schware. “By freeing up key Mindful Yoga Therapy staff members, we can allow them to focus on what they do best — teaching and helping veterans.”

An estimated 1 in 5 veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan are now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. And the number of active-duty military and veteran suicides is on the rise, prompting the Huffington Post to caution that “the warning signs of an approaching wave of suicide are unmistakable.”

Clinical studies and firsthand feedback from veterans show that yoga and mindfulness practices can be an effective adjunct therapy to help vets recover from symptoms of post-traumatic stress, such as insomnia, hyperarousal and feelings of fear or guilt.

Together, Mindful Yoga Therapy and the Give Back Yoga Foundation have already brought clinically tested, empirically informed Mindful Yoga Therapy “toolkits” to 44 VA facilities and 9,000 vets, free of charge. Designed with the input of veterans, these multi-media training guides help individuals to start a personal yoga practice.

By the close of 2015, the Give Back Yoga Foundation aims to bring these free toolkits to 30,000 vets and at least half of all VA facilities nationwide. The organization also aims to train 120 yoga teachers per year, including at least 25 veterans, to share Mindful Yoga Therapy with the veteran population. These training resources will continue to be offered under the Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans brand, through the continued leadership of its experienced staff.

Download the press release: Give Back Yoga Foundation To Support Non-Profit Operation Of Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans

Olivia Kvitne: Serving Those Who Serve

Executive Director Rob Schware talks with “Yoga for Heroes” creator Olivia Kvitne for The Huffington Post Blog to learn how she’s introducing the scientifically proven benefits of yoga and meditation to veterans, active duty military and first responders.

“My assumptions when giving my first workshop for veterans was that I was going to have to do a lot of convincing for them to even close their eyes and take a mindful breath. I prepared to have some chuckles, resistance, and everyone would want to get to the planks and chaturanga push ups. Surprisingly, everyone enjoyed the guided meditation during final relaxation more than anything else. I could tell their nervous systems were craving homeostasis.”

– Olivia Kvitne, who offers free yoga workshops for vets, military and first responders through the Yoga for Heroes program

Read Olivia’s full interview on The Huffington Post Blog to learn what inspired her to share yoga with “real-life heroes,” and her advice for teachers who want to serve in a similar way.


Dharma. Service in Action. Sedona Yoga Festival Gives Back. Help us to bring the transformational power of yoga and meditation to 10,000 veterans who are recovering from post-traumatic stress by joining us at the Sedona Yoga Festival on February 6th and 7th for a two-day Mindful Therapeutic Yoga Practices for Veterans pre-conference training. Learn clinically-proven techniques to help students recover from trauma and emotional stress, so you can bring trauma-sensitive yoga back to your community.

Marc Titus: Festival Owners Making a Difference By Bringing Yoga to Veterans

This is an interview with Marc Titus, Founder & Director of the Sedona Yoga Festival in Arizona. I first met Marc when he approached the Give Back Yoga Foundation with an offer to host a training for hundreds of professional yoga teachers, to help them share yoga with our nation’s veterans. With the suicide rate among veterans at an all-time high, Marc and his wife, Festival Producer Heather Shereé Titus, believe that sharing yoga with these men and women is a gift for everyone.

– Rob Schware, Executive Director, Give Back Yoga Foundation

Rob: What originally motivated you to start a yoga festival?

Marc: I moved to Sedona in 2007 to become a yoga teacher, after 7 years of practice. Even after that, though, I had to go down a personally torturous road, involving finding a way to transcend and heal from a very materialistically-lived life; it was during this transformation that I became a certified yoga instructor. Finally, while I was living in Los Angeles in the winter of 2011/12, on an especially hard day, with literally the last dollar to my name in my pocket, the spirit of Sedona appeared to me, and said, “It’s time to return to Sedona…it’s time to bring consciousness to humanity; and thus Sedona Yoga Festival was born.” I didn’t know how I would get back, how I would pay for it, or how it would unfold, but I said YES! Within two weeks, I was sleeping in Sedona in a beautiful house under a full moon, with money in my pocket, all my ‘stuff’ with me, and a new and profound sense of purpose.

What motivated you to partner with a non-profit organization for this year’s yoga festival, and to focus on introducing therapeutic yoga for veterans?

I’d been reflecting on my relationship with my father, who was a Vietnam War veteran affected by PTSD. It was like a lightning bolt that came to me: we can use the energy of the yoga festival to bring awareness to an ever-growing problem in our country.  We can help returning veterans with mental health recovery and rehabilitation tools that are inexpensive, and can help relieve the symptoms of stress-related physical and non-physical injuries. This approach would also promote community collaboration. As you know, Rob, the situation is very real, with several thousands of veterans returning with PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc. I feel one solution our community can offer is simple: yoga, right now, brings about and supports inner peace.

I’m interested to know, what do you see as outcomes?

My friend Chris Courtney, an Iraq War combat veteran and yoga teacher, once said to me, “heal our veterans, heal our communities.” We are all affected by the return of so many veterans with trauma, and part of the solution is where and how we direct our attention. Therefore, at the 2014 Sedona Yoga Festival we envision over 200 teachers receiving the Mindful Therapeutic Yoga Practices for Veterans training. We hope to support them with Yoga For Veterans Toolkits, in collaboration with the Give Back Yoga Foundation. And we hope these teachers will return to their communities prepared to serve our veterans and their spouses. If every teacher we train aims to serve 50 veterans in his or her local community, together we would provide 10,000+ veterans with useful tools. These will help them overcome the debilitating and often severe symptoms PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and the other myriad experiences that are making life incredibly difficult for returning veterans, their families, and their communities. Those are possibly real outcomes. We simply cannot solve the problem in the same way it was created. We need to step out of the energy of old, into a model of Giving Back–Dharma, Service in Action.

How do you maintain a mindful corporation, and emphasize “compassionate action” in dealing with festival partners?

I think it’s hard to run a “conscious business” with all that is going on in the world today. The accoutrements of our modern world, while purporting to be “helpful,” have actually created a situation in which we are always doing something, always needing to do more, always striving.  There is a lot of pressure to keep moving, to grow, etc. As an antidote, I try to be present to what’s happening right now, to life itself flowing through me, to you, to all of us right now.  The more I embodied this, the easier things got, and the more mindful, awake, and aware I’ve become.  As a result of a consistent and dedicated asana practice that completely stilled my overactive “monkey mind,” I’ve come to see that it all unfolds without my effort, and that if I am “to be” compassionate in collaborations with business partners, then I must learn to be compassionate with myself first.

What advice would you give other festival owners?

Maintain your connection to, and listen only to your inner voice, to your visions and dreams. Through your practice cultivate an intimacy with yourself that allows you to trust this voice, and follow it wherever it takes you: walk your own path. Be an advocate for Dharma, Service in Action.

What are some of your ideas about, or hopes for, the future of yoga in America in the next decade?

I see yoga “doing” what it has always done, assisting humanity in letting go of all the trappings that prevent the inevitable; consciousness expanding infinitely. I believe yoga will continue to evolve, back to its own roots, right here in the west, as the masses of Western yogis realize what traditional yoga is all about. I believe we will see an expansion of “giving back” in the very near future, as we realize that we are all the same. In that individuated sameness, will come over 7 billion solutions to the one “problem” of separation. When that happens, the world will be a totally different place.

Editor: Alice Trembour


Dharma. Service in Action. SYF Gives Back: Mindful Therapeutic Yoga Practices for Veterans. This 2-day pre-conference training at the Sedona Yoga Festival provides yoga teachers with certification in techniques and practices that are clinically proven to offer relief to veterans returning home affected by post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and other trauma and emotional stress. Join us February 6-10, 2014 in beautiful Sedona, Arizona.


Rob Schware: Helping Veterans To Heal The Invisible Wounds of War Is Worth The Effort

This holiday period I am reading David Finkel’s new book, Thank You For Your Service, published by Sarah Crichton Books.  It’s a compelling read. On every page we are reminded of the reality of American wars since Vietnam, of the persistent toll that traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety have on veterans and their families. At times, the stories will break your heart, and they piss me off enough to want to channel my energy to help.

Here is a sample:

“Most of all, they (veterans in a rehabilitation program) had heard explosion after explosion and seen dozens of Humvees disappear into breathtaking clouds of fire and debris, and by the end most of them had been inside such a cloud themselves, blindingly feeling around in those initial moments to determine if they were alive, or dead, or intact, or in pieces, as their ears rang and their hearts galloped and their souls darkened and their eyes occasionally filled with tears. So they knew. They knew. And yet day after day they would go out anyway, which eventually came to be what the war was about. Not winning. Not losing. Nothing so grand. Just trying until it was time to go home and discovering that life after the war turned on trying again.”

For many veterans, as hard as they try, the wars keeps trying too, as images of heads half gone, close-ups of torsos ripped open, and blood spreading become repressed.  “So many soldiers with psychological injuries,” writes Finkel, “envy soldiers with physical injuries because those soldiers can see evidence that something is really wrong with them.”

As a growing evidence base of yoga studies demonstrates, such stress, depression, and anxiety is ultimately processed through the physical body. For those who want to try to take a break from their stress and anxiety, we at the Give Back Yoga Foundation have a toolkit that can help connect the mind and body, which has been especially designed and tested for veterans. It includes breathing practices (pranayama), meditation, physical postures and movements (asana), and a specific form of guided rest (Yoga Nidra). It’s called Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans.

We’ve received wonderful testimonials of the benefits of the toolkit from veterans. Paul, a Vietnam War Veteran who is becoming a yoga teacher, told us: “Mindful Yoga Therapy has been incredibly helpful to me in coping with my post-traumatic stress. Yoga is like a gyro that brings me back into equilibrium when dealing with the effects of my disorder. The more I practice, the more my symptoms are mitigated.”

It may not be the only thing veterans AND their spouses need in the healing processes, but with other tools, we have seen real change happening.

We are reaping the results of sending this toolkit to nearly 10,000 veterans and 43 VA hospital facilities and hearing back on the unbelieveable benefits veterans experience—freedom from traumatic stress!

If you’re a veteran or service member, I encourage you to request a free copy of this toolkit. My hope is that these resources will help you to find the same relief and peace that other vets have experienced when they discover these practices.

And if you’d like to tell a vet “thank you for your service,” please consider making a donation to our Yoga for Veterans program. A contribution of $50 will help us to bring yoga toolkits to 10 veterans. You can also make a lasting impact by joining our monthly donation program – with a contribution of just $15 to Yoga for Veterans, you’ll help us to bring healing yoga practices to three veterans every month.

It’s one the best ways I can think of to say thanks – and I’m grateful to each and every one of you who is contributing to this movement of hope and healing.

Rob Schware, PhD
Executive Director
Give Back Yoga Foundation


Do you want to bring the healing practices of yoga and meditation to veterans? Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans is an empirically informed, clinically tested program comprised of five practices – pranayama, asana, yoga nidra, meditation and gratitude – that give veterans a “toolbox” that can carry them into a life of strength and resilience. Find a Mindful Yoga Therapy training near you, or join Give Back Yoga at the Sedona Yoga Festival in February for a two-day Mindful Therapeutic Yoga Practices for Veterans pre-conference training.


Vets Endorse GBYF’s Yoga For Veterans Programs

We’re honored to have the endorsement of vets who have benefitted from the practices shared through Give Back Yoga Foundation’s programs for veterans.


Download the fact sheet: Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans – Program Overview & Testimonials


“I have used many of the yoga exercise and breathing techniques being taught by Give Back Yoga Foundation personally and with soldiers, veteran patients and civilians for over 30 years. I have found these techniques helpful for patients with substance abuse, combat stress, PTSD and other mental health problems. I heartily and enthusiastically endorse the efforts of the Give Back Yoga Foundation to assist veterans to heal from combat and stress related problems.”

Guy C. Lamunyon RN
Combat Medic – 101st Airborne Division Vietnam
ARMY Psych Mental Health Nurse.
Lieutenant Colonel, Retired.
VA Mental Health Nurse, Retired.

An Offering of Peace: Join Desiree Rumbaugh For a Yoga Workshop To Benefit Vets

Nearly one out of three soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan now suffers from post-traumatic stress, major depression or traumatic brain injury. And tragically…every 36 hours…a soldier commits suicide. Yoga and mindfulness can help veterans to find peace of mind and relief from symptoms of PTSD.

You can help Give Back Yoga Foundation to share yoga with veterans by joining Advisory Board Member Desiree Rumbaugh for An Offering of Peace: A Yoga and Music Fundraiser For Veterans on Saturday, January 18th. Led by Desiree and her friend Camilla Sinclair, this donation-based yoga workshop will feature live music by Steve Gold, with all proceeds supporting Give Back Yoga’s campaign to share free Mindful Yoga Therapy toolkits with veterans. You’ll also practice alongside some veterans who have served our country and hear personal stories of how they’re now benefitting from yoga.

Event Details

What: An Offering of Peace: A Yoga and Music Fundraiser for Veterans with Desiree Rumbaugh, Camilla Sinclair and Steve Gold
When: Saturday, January 18th from 4 pm to 5:30 pm
Where: Yoga Del Mar, 2652 Del Mar Heights Road, Del Mar CA 92014
Details: By donation (suggested minimum donation of $20). Cash and check accepted at the door; make checks payable to Give Back Yoga Foundation.

About Desiree

Desiree Rumbaugh travels the world teaching yoga workshops and trainings. She enjoys meeting people and finding out how much we all have in common. She is the creator of the DVDs Yoga to the Rescue, and is a regular presenter at Yoga Journal Conferences as well as a contributor to the magazine. Her classes can now be viewed on My Yoga Online and Yoga Glo. She serves on the Advisory Boards of The Art of Yoga Project, bringing yoga to teenage girls in the juvenile justice system, and the Give Back Yoga Foundation, providing yoga for US military war veterans. Her 20-year-old son, a former Marine Reservist, was murdered in an unrelated incident in 2003 and as a result, Desiree is fiercely dedicated to inspiring others to find emotional as well as physical healing through Yoga.

About Camilla

Camilla Sinclair has been dedicated to yoga and the healing arts for 25 years.  She teaches yoga at several studios in the San Diego area and is on the staff of the San Diego Veterans Hospital teaching yoga classes for veterans who have chronic back pain.   She is also the lead instructor for the newly implemented 4 year study: “Yoga Therapy for Veterans with Chronic Low Back Pain.” Camilla is a Holistic Health Practitioner and Certified Yoga Instructor. She offers workshops in Therapeutic and Restorative Yoga throughout the region and incorporates the beneficial practice of Yoga Nidra to deepen the healing experience.


About Steve

Steve Gold is a conduit for spontaneous transformation using singing and storytelling. He creates powerfully positive music that heals and inspires. His rendition of So Much Magnificence, the title track of his first album, can be heard in yoga studios around the world. Steve teaches “Mantras for Manifestation” and “Voice of Magnificence” workshops, showing people how to use music and intention to actualize their deepest desires. His latest album, Let Your Heart Be Known, has been called “a soulful genre-buster, destined to be a classic” by LA Yoga magazine.


Can’t make it to this event? You can still help Give Back Yoga to put free yoga toolkits in the hands of 10,000 veterans this year by making an online donation. Just choose “Yoga for Veterans”when selecting a project for funding.

New Campaign Incentive: Share the Gift of Yoga With 1,000 Veterans

We’ve added a very special incentive to our crowd funding campaign to bring yoga toolkits to 2,000 veterans – this gorgeous handcrafted lap quilt, donated by Navy employee and San Francisco Quilt Guild member Patricia McFadden.

This work of art, crafted by a quilter who Give Back Yoga co-founder Beryl Bender Birch calls “incredibly talented,” will be gifted to one donor who makes a tax-deductible campaign contribution of $7,500.

Through this generous donation, we can bring yoga books and CDs to 1,000 vets and soldiers, offering them simple practices to recover from post-traumatic stress. Learn what real vets are saying about the yoga toolkit.

To make a donation, visit our campaign page.

Sidelights Imperial Bloom Quilt:

  • Size: 65.5″ x 50.25″ – use as a lap quilt or wall hanging
  • Fabric: Robert Kaufman Fabrics Imperial Collection, high-quality 100% cotton
  • Colors: dark brown, almond, taupe, rust, sage, gold and frosted almond; flowers outlined in gold
  • Reverse: matches quilt border
  • Care: Washable; hang-dry

Suzanne Manafort: Bringing Mindful Yoga Therapy to Veterans

Executive Director Rob Schware talks with Give Back Yoga Board Member Suzanne Manafort for The Huffington Post Blog about the roots of the Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans program, and the amazing transformation that vets are experiencing through the practice of yoga and mindfulness.

“I watch the men and women as they begin in my 12-week program look as if someone has dimmed their inner light. After a few weeks, their interests in the practices begin to increase, and slowly it looks as if they brighten up. It truly is a visible change. So many men and women taking our program combined with psychotherapy are getting well and leading productive lives. It has been my honor to be a part of this.”

– Suzanne Manafort, founder of the Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans Program

Click here to read more of Suzanne’s tips for yoga teachers who want to work with veterans – and how she serves as one link in the chain of “spiritual revolutionaries” that teacher Beryl Bender Birch is sending out into the world to make a difference.

Want to learn more? Visit Give Back Yoga’s Youtube channel to hear from four veterans who are working with Suzanne to bring yoga and mindfulness to their peers, in the Veterans on Mindful Yoga Therapy Hangout. Or visit our store to check out the “new and improved” Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans practice guide, now available in an updated third printing. We aim to bring this valuable multi-media resource to 30,000 vets, service members and their families by 2015 – you can support this work with a recurring or one-time donation towards “Yoga for Veterans.”


Do you want to bring the transformational power of yoga and meditation to underserved populations? Join Suzanne Manafort, Beryl Bender Birch, James Fox and other leading experts in Sedona, AZ in February for a two-day Mindful Therapeutic Yoga Practices for Veterans teacher training. Learn clinically-proven techniques to help students recover from trauma and emotional stress at this intensive pre-conference training, hosted by the Sedona Yoga Festival in association with Southwest Institute of Healing Arts.