Pamela Stokes Eggleston: Giving Back To Veterans’ Spouses and Caregivers Through Yoga

Executive Director Rob Schware talks to Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans faculty member Pamela Stokes Eggleston for The Huffington Post Blog, learning how yoga providers can offer special support to the spouses and caregivers of veterans.

“As the spouse of an OIF wounded veteran dealing with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, I know what it’s like to live with these challenges, day in and day out. And as his caregiver, I know that many caregivers of veterans and military service members neglect their own care. When a military caregiver or veteran comes into one of my classes, I immediately connect with them on a deeper supportive level. I’ve been there, and I get it.”

Yoga2Sleep founder and Mindful Yoga Therapy faculty member Pamela Stokes Eggleston on her work with veterans and their families

Click here to read more about Pamela’s inspiration for working with veterans and their families, and her advice for other yoga teachers who are serving this population.


Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans Recovering from Trauma features simple but effective yoga practices that were developed to help returning soldiers cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and depression. When you purchase this multi-media guide for yourself or someone you know, you’ll gain a valuable tool for dealing with stress and support Give Back Yoga Foundation’s programs for veterans. Or purchase a copy on behalf of a veteran in need by using the “Give a Gift” feature on the right side of this page.

Give Back Yoga In Origin Magazine: Making A Difference For Veterans

Don’t miss Give Back Yoga in the latest issue of Origin: The Conscious Culture Magazine! Check out the spotlight on Page 88 entitled “Yoga For Veterans: Heroes Making a Difference,” which features Executive Director Rob Schware sharing the powerful words of one veteran who found peace and healing through our Yoga For Veterans Toolkit.

You’ll also learn what motivates Give Back Yoga board members Suzanne Manafort of Mindful Yoga For Veterans and Ann Richardson Stevens of Studio Bamboo Institute of Yoga to help returning soldiers recover from post-traumatic stress and trauma; and hear from our friends and partners, Annie Okerlin of Exalted Warrior Foundation and Gina Garcia of Yoga Across America.

Along the way, remember to pause for a moment on Page 16 to catch up with Give Back Yoga advisory board member Rod Stryker.

Not a subscriber? Visit Origin’s website to find a retailer near you, purchase a digital copy of this issue, or subscribe to this publication that celebrates yoga, art, conscious lifestyle and humanitarianism.

You can help us meet our goal of putting evidence-based Yoga For Veterans Toolkits in the hands of 10,000 returning soldiers this year by making a one-time or recurring donation in the amount of your choice. Gifts of any size are welcome – every dollar counts!

Video Spotlight By Seeds of Service Sponsor Ramblin Jackson

Our many thanks to Seeds of Service event sponsor Ramblin Jackson for featuring our Yoga For Veterans Toolkit fundraising initiative in his latest “Friday Informal Film.” Check out our spotlight, beginning at the 1:40 mark…and pass it on!

Want to help us meet our goal of putting free Toolkits in the hands of 10,000 veterans by 2013? Click here to purchase tickets to the Seeds of Service dinner on September 11th, or to make a donation in any amount towards this fundraising effort. You can also purchase purchase yoga and mindfulness materials for a veteran in need using the “Give a Gift” feature on the right side of this page. Every dollar makes a difference – please help us change a veteran’s life today.

Join Us At The First Annual Seeds of Service Dinner

We cordially invite you to join the Give Back Yoga community on Wednesday, September 11th for our first annual Seeds of Service dinner, an evening of delicious farm-to-table cuisine that supports the distribution of our free Yoga For Veterans Toolkits.

These evidence-based, highly effective practice guides give returning soldiers a valuable resource to overcome post-traumatic stress, major depression and traumatic brain injuries, helping them to make a successful transition back to civilian life. So far, we’ve put free Toolkits in the hands of over 8,000 veterans – and by joining us at this community gathering, you can help us meet our goal of reaching 10,000 returning soldiers in 2013. Read what veterans have to say about the effectiveness of these Toolkits.

We’ll kick off the Seeds of Service event with cocktails and tapas at 6 pm at the lovely Lyons Farmette in Lyons, Colorado. At 7 pm, eat Private Chef & Catering Co. will serve up a mouth-watering artisan dinner, prepared with freshly harvested ingredients from the Farmette. We’ll also enjoy the musical stylings of Denver Chant Fest musician Chuck White, and hear a very special presentation by former Marine Corps Intelligence Officer and Military Olympic Athlete Sarah Plummer, the founder of the Just Roll With It! Bootcamp for Transitioning Warriors. A spiritual warrior after our own hearts, “Semper Sarah” is on a mission to empower all those who have experienced trauma or difficult life events.

Dinner tickets are available for just $108, with 85% of the proceeds going directly to support Yoga for Veterans. Tickets can be purchased online through Eventbrite through September 11th.

Can’t join us this time? Please consider supporting us from home with a donation that directly benefits this fundraising effort. Just visit our Eventbrite page and choose the amount that you would like to contribute.

And whether you can join us or not, don’t miss a chance to enjoy 30 free days of online yoga, meditation and wellness videos from event sponsor GaiamTV. When you subscribe through our affiliate link, GaiamTV will donate $20 to our Yoga For Veterans program. Begin your free trial with a special playlist selected by veterans for Give Back Yoga.

We thank you for being part of the Give Back Yoga family, and for making it possible for us to support programs around the country that bring yoga and mindfulness to those who need it the most. We look forward to sharing this inspiring evening with you!


Thanks to these Seeds of Service Sponsors:

Samadhi Center for Yoga :: Neurosculpting® Institute :: Yoga Pod :: Hanuman Presents ::eat :: Lyons Farmette :: Sarah Plummer :: Chuck White :: Organic India :: Outlaw Yoga :: 8 Days a Week :: MantraFest :: Shine Restaurant and Gathering Place :: Denver Chant Fest ::CorePower Yoga :: Boulder Body Wear :: White Wave Foods :: Yoga Download :: GaiamTV:: OmLight Photography :: Conscious Tribe :: BVSD CHOICE Program :: Ramblin Jackson ::CO Yoga Events :: Open Sky Event Marketing

David Emerson: Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Therapy In Practice

Executive Director Rob Schware talks with Trauma Center Yoga Program co-founder David Emerson for The Huffington Post Blog about how yoga is becoming a proven, accepted method to treat post-traumatic stress; and what yoga instructors should know before they begin working with trauma survivors.

“When Senator Kennedy mentioned our yoga program during his comments for the Trauma Center’s 25th anniversary, I felt like yoga had arrived as a serious, viable treatment. One of two other incredibly meaningful moments was our team receiving the first grant ever given by the National Institutes of Health to study yoga and trauma; the other was completing the first – and to date, only – randomized controlled PTSD trial using yoga as the therapeutic intervention. Finally, any day on which someone I am working with notices a body feeling and makes a choice about what to do with it, is a standout day.”

– David Emerson, co-founder of the yoga program at Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute

Click here to read more of David’s thoughts on why the scientific process matters, and why it’s important for yoga instructors working with trauma survivors to have the support of a professional team.

Veteran Matt McDonald: Finding A “Diamond In The Rough” In Give Back Yoga

The personal stories of students who have found peace in their practice continue to provide inspiration for Give Back Yoga’s work of bringing yoga and meditation to the thousands of veterans who are battling post-traumatic stress. So we were thrilled to find this letter from veteran Matt (“Mack”) McDonald in our mailbag this week:

Although I had dabbled in “mindful practices” like yoga for several years, the first time that I became of aware of specific programs tailored to the specific needs of veterans suffering from PTSD and TBI was in October 2012. Having signed up for a three-day conference called Veterans, Trauma, and Treatment at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, I happened to find myself seated across from Give Back Yoga founder Rob Schware during breakfast on the first morning. Mind you, there were hundreds of people in the dining hall, but – as these things go – it was “meant to be.” When I asked him about his sweatshirt, which had something to do with “Yoga for Veterans,” he said, “You’ll have to talk to Suzanne.” As the story goes, I never did get to meet this amazing woman – at least not at the conference – but I certainly would have plenty of opportunity to do so in the months to come: after all, her studio (Newington Yoga Center) is but a mere 5-minute drive from my house in central Connecticut!

To be sure, it took me some time to follow through with reaching out – as they say, you have to “be ready.” When I finally did, it still didn’t lead me directly to the yoga mat, or, for that matter, the seated lotus position. Rather, it was to invite her to yet another conference, also on veterans and treatment options for those with traumatic injuries. After accepting my invite via e-mail, we met up at last, and at that point there was no way I could turn down her offer to “do some yoga.”

When I finally fulfilled my end of the bargain and showed up outside Newington Yoga on a cold, dark night in late February, I’ll be the first to admit: I was definitely…Nervous? Anxious? Apprehensive? Perhaps a little bit of all three. Am I going to be the only veteran here? (I wasn’t.) Are they going to “get it”—that I’ve got to be “facing the exit”… that I need to “see my out”… that I might end up bawling my eyes out? (They did.) Not to mention, either, that I didn’t even have a proper mat to use, nor money to buy one. As generous as she is, Suzanne not only lent me a mat, but promised me one of my own as long as I “came back.” Beyond that, she also gave me a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu text I’d read years before but had since lost track of. Interestingly enough, it is the chronicle of an “epic battle” in which Lord Krishna instructs Prince Arjuna on all things related to human nature and spiritual development.

Little did I know it that night, but that book – along with the undeniable “call” I was having to “do yoga” – would stick with me through some darker times indeed. You see, not even a week after my first session at Newington Yoga, I found myself in a month-long residential treatment program for veterans who suffer with “co-occurring disorders” (i.e. PTSD, TBI, and substance abuse.) Not only did my copy of Bhagavad Gita keep me company on the difficult journey that followed, it also reminded me to remain “mindful” of, and open to, the profound lessons that Krishna taught Arjuna. But this wasn’t all: come to find out from a clinician a few days into the program, one of our “required classes” was yoga – and who was there to teach it? The folks from “Give Back Yoga!”

So do I feel indebted to Rob, Suzanne, and all the other teachers who are “giving back” to veterans like me? Surely I do. But it is also goes well beyond being generous and opening their doors to me – although there is much to be said for all that as well. The fact remains, though, as I’ve already said… they “get it.” And as a veteran who has struggled for over eight years to not only find, but to trust, others who do, all I can say is that it’s like finding the diamond in the rough. Or, to use an analogy based on my renewed interest in the Bhagavad Gita, it’s like finding “peace” on field of Kurukshetra. And, whether the “war” we are referring to is “epic” or modern, finding peace… for a combat veteran…is worth more than diamonds. I, for one, should know.

                                                                                               –SPC (ret.) Matt McDonald (“Mack”)  OIF III/IV

Mark-Francis Mullen on Serving Homeless Veterans

Executive Director Rob Schware talks with instructor Mark-Francis Mullen for The Huffington Post Blog on how yoga helped him to survive pain and tragedy – and how he’s sharing the practice with fellow veterans who are also struggling with post-traumatic stress and homelessness.

“One Vietnam War veteran in my inpatient PTSD ward class was on oxygen. At the end of class, he told me that he had run out of oxygen halfway through the class. When he saw my eyes widen in concern, he laughed and said when it happened he just breathed like I told him and everything was all right…another guy told me he was about to “pull the plug and end the misery,” when he recalled a yoga class we’d had the week before on being in the moment and riding out particular thoughts.”

– Veteran Mark Francis-Mullen, who taught yoga at the Denver Veterans Administration Regional Medical Center while homeless

Read Mark’s full interview here.


Vietnam Vet Joseph Dolock: Using Yoga To Move Forward Through PTSD

Joseph S. Dolock, Combat Infantry Platoon Leader who Served in Vietnam ‘68-69, recently told Give Back Yoga Foundation how yoga helped him find peace with his inner and outer life:

“Recently I saw an ad about a Yoga class being given for Veterans with PTSD. I called and signed up. What do I know about Yoga? I thought that it was a group of people who sat around drinking carrot juice and contemplating God knows what. However, I was trying to find a way to be calm and relaxed, without medication. So what the heck? I called and enrolled in the class.

It was the sixth week of class, I was not in good space and did not want to go. I was having a bad day with the family and some of those ugly heads of the past were popping up in my head. After awhile, I started to think about that safe place I had learned about in yoga and started to breathe. I calmed myself down enough where I could drive to class.

As one counselor told me a long time ago, “there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Your PTSD and depression will be with you forever.”

What I have to do is never stop going forward. Some days, some months will be really good and then at other times these ugly heads of thoughts, dreams, flashback will happen and there is nothing I can do and no meds I can take to stop or avoid it from happening. But one thing I have learned is that for me, yoga is another tool that helps me get through life when there is no light at the end of the tunnel. And I don’t have to drink the juice.”

Sue Lynch on Serving Combat Veterans Coping With Trauma

Executive Director Rob Schware talks with There & Back Again founder Sue Lynch for The Huffington Post Blog on her work of helping fellow combat veterans navigate life after war.

“My intention in sharing yoga with my fellow veterans was to give them tools for immediate relief, instead of suffering for decades, as was my experience and that of many generations of veterans…yoga gives us choices, allows us not to have to try so hard, which is contrary to military training (“no pain, no gain” and “pain is weakness leaving the body”). Yoga connects us to ourselves. This connection in turn allows us to then connect to our loved ones and our communities”

– Sue Lynch, founder of There & Back Again, an organization that gives returning combat veterans free whole-body wellness services.

Read Sue’s full interview here.