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The State of Yoga Service: Looking Forward Through 2015

Author Rob Schware is the Executive Director of the Give Back Yoga Foundation and President of the Yoga Service Council. Each year, he issues a report on the state of yoga service — the work of bringing yoga to those who might otherwise never experience its transformational benefits. Read on for a look at what’s in store for 2015 and beyond, and a download link for this annual report.

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A Vision for the Future: Voices From Our Yoga Service Community

In my Huffington Post blog series “Yoga: How We Serve,” a number of yoga teachers on the front lines of outreach to underserved and unserved populations have offered valuable answers to the question, “What are some of your ideas about, or hopes for, the future of ”service yoga“ in America?”

Here are some of the insights that are helping to shape the ongoing growth of yoga service:

“My hope is that yoga will be more readily received by unique communities such as Native Americans, and more recognized by health care organizations as a complementary healing modality to modern medicine.” — Christy Burnette, founder and Executive Director of Conscious Community Yoga Association, Inc.

“I would like to see more science, more data, and more randomized controlled studies. In my opinion we owe it to our clients/students and to our future funders (taxpayers and private citizens) to prove what works, and to recognize what doesn’t. We need to enter into the empirical domain, as difficult and as challenging as that is for yoga teachers like me!” — David Emerson, co-author of Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body

“The wounds of our veterans permeate all realms: physical, psychological, and spiritual…their needs are immediate. Our imperative is to assist these brave men and women with re-integration into the very culture they have fought hard to protect.  Training for war is intensive.  Training to return to their home lives is crucial.” — Ena Burrud, certified yoga therapist working with veterans in Colorado and Wyoming

“It is my hope that we will see a far greater awareness and participation by the yoga community in service programs. This might include a required ‘trauma and service’ module in the 200-hour training requirements and a consciousness of a service obligation by every studio and teacher.  The establishment of the Yoga Service Council and the yearly Yoga Service Conference is a great way to expand yoga service nationally and spread the word on opportunities and systems for yoga service.” — Bob Altman, Co-Founder of Centering Youth in Atlanta

“I see yoga being a staple in police and fire academies. I then see recruits expecting to see it on the schedule. Once they are on the job, it would be wonderful to continue to have classes offered to them on a weekly basis, or as seminars and continuing education opportunities. This could also happen at local gyms or studios. I’d like to see yoga as an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to training and caring for our ‘domestic soldiers.'” —  Olivia Kvitne, program director of Yoga for First Responders and Assistant Editor of LA Yoga Magazine

Others expressed hope that yogis will share this gift with special populations all around the world, and provide specialized yoga classes for people who find themselves at a homeless shelter, for people recovering from addiction, and for autistic children.

How Yoga Service Organizations Are Turning Vision Into Reality

How are we doing as a community to respond to these hopes? What new partnerships and entities, profit and non-profit, are stepping up to respond to the challenges?

In research:

The Prison Yoga Project, which started at San Quentin State Prison through the work of James Fox, is a shining example of a well-studied program by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD), which showed this is a cost-effective means to help with addiction recovery and impulse control. The NCCD study found that a little mindfulness training through yoga can redirect attention, increase emotional self-control and anger management. Over 800 yoga teachers are now teaching yoga and meditation in over 75 prisons around the world.

In February, the Yoga Service Council and the Omega Institute will issue the first in a series of research reports on “Transforming Education Through Yoga.” This series was produced with research, input, and onsite collaboration from 23 leaders in the field of yoga and education.

In October, the Yoga Service Council and the Omega Institute will also host leaders in trauma-sensitive yoga for veterans to produce a second report in the series, “Yoga for Veterans.” Key researchers, including Sat Bhir Khalsa and Bessel van Der Kolk, have committed to participating. The objective of this Service Week for Veterans is to co-create common goals for our community, share insight, and produce resources that will serve veterans, VA hospital facilities, and yoga service providers, producing a peer- reviewed report of best practices.

In introducing yoga to first responders: 

In February, the first-ever Trauma-Sensitive Yoga and Resiliency Training to Benefit First Responders and Emergency Personnel will occur at the Sedona Yoga Festival – the first offering of a new Give Back Yoga program called Yoga for First Responders. Our police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, and their families face behavioral health issues similar to those of combat soldiers, such as depression, PTS, anxiety, addictions, and suicides. The Sedona Yoga Festival/Give Back Yoga training aims to share skills and tools to help bring therapeutic yoga to at least 4,000 first responders nationwide.

In reaching diverse populations:

In May, social workers and yoga teachers will come together for a weekend at Omega Institute for the 4th Annual Yoga Service Conference to discuss how the yoga service movement can expand its work to support broader commitments to social justice. This includes addressing the “school-to-prison pipeline,” which channels thousands of low-income youth (particularly men of color) directly from failing schools into the criminal justice system. We will have compelling and direct conversations between social justice and contemplative practice in organizations — join me there!

In bringing yoga to Native Americans:

This year, Give Back Yoga is partnering with Conscious Community Yoga and the Sedona Yoga Festival to provide a DVD yoga resource for Native Americans, led by a Native American yoga teacher. The class will be structured for those new to yoga, and with potential health challenges kept in mind. Of primary concern are complications from diabetes, obesity, detox for drug and alcohol addictions.

In partnership with the corporate sector: 

 To reach our veterans with mindfulness practices, Gaiam and Give Back Yoga will commit to serve 100,000 veterans through mobile meditation apps.

Yoga Journal Live, Give Back Yoga and Warriors For Healing will host a special event on Sunday June 28, 2015 on the Windsor Lawn of the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, CA. This distinctive and compelling event, called Warriors For Healing, is designed to bring greater awareness of the therapeutic benefits of yoga for veterans facing PTS, and will offer veterans who are seeking healing a pathway toward new meaning and empowerment in life.

YogaGlo will support the Eat Breathe Thrive™ Facilitator Training course, providing facilitators with the knowledge, skills, and mentorship necessary to lead a yoga-based program for people struggling with disordered eating and negative body image. Nearly 80% of adult women feel dissatisfied with their bodies, and three out of four report struggling with disordered eating. The rates of body dissatisfaction among men have increased from 15% to 43% over the past three decades, and eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

New Growth for Yoga Service in 2015

As we partner with our program directors, our Advisory Board Members and influential yoga teachers to bring this powerful practice to the world, one person at a time, we are fostering new growth in several areas.

Bringing yoga to the West Bank: 

This year, Give Back Yoga is partnering with the Farashe Yoga Center in Ramallah, 7 Centers Yoga Arts and American yoga pioneer Rama Vernon on a new global initiative to expand and harness the power of yoga in the West Bank and Gaza, supporting Palestinians’ exploration and use of yoga in everyday life.

In May, lead teachers from these organizations will travel with Rama Vernon to the West Bank and work in partnership with Farashe Yoga Center to train up to twenty teachers. Following the training, these new teachers will introduce yoga to area residents through work in urban refugee camps, schools, hospitals, and other venues.

 Yoga is largely unknown among Palestinians. But over the past two years, more Palestinians — women in particular — have embraced the discipline as a way of coping with their daily stresses of the prolonged conflict, including commuting through military checkpoints, unstable employment, restrictions on movement and access, and political unrest.

This initiative to foster yoga as a practice of peace in the West Bank will continue to grow in 2016, as Give Back Yoga and our partners host the first international yoga conference in the West Bank. Led by world-renowned yoga teachers, Palestine-based yoga teachers and practitioners will have access to hands-on workshops that will enable them to develop effective yoga programming for their students. Following the conference, there will be a one-week service opportunity for newly trained teachers to apply these principles in their lives and in the community.

Bringing yoga into more prisons:

Based on continuing growth trends, we anticipate a growing demand from prison wardens who want more trained yoga teachers working in more prisons; and want specific programs for incarcerated veterans, for the staff and officers, and increased support for restorative justice programs.

Influencing climate change:

This year, leading yoga teachers, environmental and sustainable development experts, and atmospheric scientists will be discussing “Yoga, Personal Transformation and Global Sustainability.” What does yoga have to do with global sustainability? What are we all doing to reduce your individual carbon footprint? We need to raise our consciousness of how the yoga movement can meet the climate crisis, and work to help solve what is far and away the greatest challenge of our time. There’s more and more interest in this educational process, beginning with the recent article, “Yoga, Personal Transformation, and Global Sustainability.”

Join the Yoga Service Movement

There’s a lot of work ahead of us. But eventually, we’re confident that we’ll see tens of thousands of yoga teachers and yoga therapists leaving their studios and sharing down-to-earth yoga tools with un-served and underserved communities.

As an organization, one of Give Back Yoga’s key purposes is to serve as a gateway for yoga service. If you’d like to be a part of this movement for grassroots social change and healing, we invite you to visit us on the web, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to our monthly newsletters.

Here’s to a bold, transformative, and prosperous New Year to you all!

Images courtesy of Robert Sturman, Prison Yoga Project, Yoga For First Responders, Farashe Yoga Center and Niroga Institute.

 

Download the annual report The State of Yoga Service: Looking Forward Through 2015.

 

Groundbreaking Trauma-Sensitive Yoga and Resiliency Training to Benefit First Responders

The Sedona Yoga Festival and the Give Back Yoga Foundation (GBYF) are proud to present “SYF Gives Back: Trauma-Sensitive Yoga and Resiliency Training to Benefit First Responders and Emergency Personnel” on February 4 – 6, 2015 in Sedona, AZ. 

 

Sedona, CO (PRWEB) December 04, 2014

The Sedona Yoga Festival and the Give Back Yoga Foundation (GBYF) are proud to present “SYF Gives Back: Trauma-Sensitive Yoga and Resiliency Training to Benefit First Responders and Emergency Personnel” on February 4 – 6, 2015 in Sedona, AZ.

This intensive training is useful for yoga teachers, psychologists, first responders or anyone wanting to or working with first responders and law enforcement personnel who may be dealing with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS), aka “compassion fatigue.”

Scientific studies now show that yoga and other mindfulness practices have a significant positive contribution on alleviating PTS and STS symptoms, and on strengthening body and mind resiliency. Students will leave this trauma-sensitive yoga training with the necessary tools to benefit this population. Certified yoga teachers are eligible to receive 14 CEUs through Yoga Alliance through the training, while nurses and counselors can receive 22 CEUs.

Last year, the Sedona Yoga Festival helped the Give Back Yoga Foundation to reach their goal of getting therapeutic yoga toolkits into the hands of 10,000 Veterans. Through the 2015 SYF Gives Back training, the organizations collaboratively aim to share skills and tools to help bring therapeutic yoga to at least 4,000 first responders nationwide.

“In the lives of first responders in service to our country, traumatic events are experienced, sometimes on a daily basis,” says SYF founder and former wildland firefighter Marc Titus. “This cumulative stress has profound effects on the human body, mind and spirit — to which the efficacy of Yoga, meditation and other mindfulness practices as treatment and prevention has been beyond proven in our scientific community, as well as described in the ancient texts of this thousands of years old science.”

The Trauma-Sensitive Yoga and Resiliency Training to Benefit First Responders is the first offering of a new program called Yoga for First Responders, sponsored through the Give Back Yoga Foundation. The Yoga for First Responders program and upcoming training are led by Olivia Kvitne, ERYT-500, who is also an Assistant Editor of LA Yoga Magazine. Olivia has taught regular yoga classes and continuing education for the Los Angeles Fire Department, as well as specialty workshops on trauma-sensitive yoga for high-ranking command staff of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Download the training flyer to print and share.

“This training bridges the gap between the yoga community and a population that may not have considered yoga as an effective and accessible tool to address their needs,” says Kvitne. “I am proud to bring together top authorities in psychology, neuroscience and trauma-sensitive yoga to create a down-to-earth and science-based yoga system that can benefit our nation’s everyday heroes.”

Another fellow faculty member, Bhava Ram, ERYT-500 — aka Brad Willis — is a former award-winning network news war correspondent whose career was ended by a broken back. After a subsequent diagnosis of terminal cancer, he embraced mind/body/spirit medicine and the deeper sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda, through which he ultimately healed against all odds. As a yoga teacher, he now shares the message that we all have the inner power to heal.

“As one who was on the front lines of conflicts and crises in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and Central America, I can attest to the fact that yoga gave me the strength to lift myself out of an abyss of profound physical and mental anguish, and ultimately find new meaning and purpose in life,” says Ram.

“No one should feel weird about doing yoga, especially first responders who experience injury, trauma, and death,” adds Give Back Yoga’s Executive Director, Rob Schware. “This is the first intensive training to mobilize hundreds of yoga teachers and yoga therapists to come out of their studios and offices and bring their knowledge and skills into police and fire departments. We extend an open invitation to all to join us in this work.”

Learn more about the Trauma-Sensitive Yoga and Resiliency Training to Benefit First Responders and Emergency Personnel.

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Visit PRWeb to view the original version of this press release, supported through the web marketing team at Ramblin Jackson. We extend our thanks to Ramblin Jackson for supporting Give Back Yoga as a nonprofit organization.

 

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.

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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.

Debby Kaminsky: Empowering First Responders and Children Through Yoga

In his latest interview for The Huffington Post Blog, Executive Director Rob Schware talks with Newark Yoga Movement founder Debby Kaminsky to learn how yoga outreach is benefitting New Jersey’s largest fire department.

“The fire department is the most polite group of public safety figures I’ve ever met; still the mindset of many firefighters is “why change?” and introducing yoga wasn’t 100% embraced. After one session, though, most were converted. In an informal survey this September, 84% said they enjoyed yoga and 74% felt the fire department would benefit from a continued program. A standout moment for me, I think, is watching the Fire Director practice yoga with his recruits, and then lead yoga in front of 750 people at Global Mala NJ 2013.”

– Debby Kaminsky, founder of Newark Yoga Movement, a non-profit that’s shared yoga with over 14,000 students and the Newark Fire Department

Learn how Debby tailors her teaching style to children and first responders, and her vision for the future of yoga service in America, by reading her full interview.

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Do you want to bring the transformational power of yoga and meditation to underserved populations? Join Give Back Yoga at the Sedona Yoga Festival in February for a two-day Mindful Therapeutic Yoga Practices for Veterans pre-conference training that offers yoga teachers clinically-proven techniques to help students recover from trauma and emotional stress.

 

Helen Lynch: MediYoga As A Viable Alternative To Existing Medical Treatments & Programs

This is an interview with Helen Miller Lynch, a certified X-ray Technician/Nurse Practitioner specializing in cardiovascular intervention. She has broad experience in cardiovascular disease from the University Hospital in Örebro, Sweden, and the heart clinic Feiringklinikken, Norway. She became curious about MediYoga after some colleagues attended sessions during stress-related sick leave, and returned to work with a whole new vitality. She is now a certified MediYoga Therapist and MediYoga International teacher.

Rob Schware, GBYF Executive Director: I’m interested in the origin and growth of MediYoga in Scandinavia. What is it?

Helen Lynch: MediYoga was established and developed by Göran Boll at the Institute for Medical Yoga in Stockholm, Sweden. MediYoga has its origin in classic Kundalini yoga and started to take shape as early as 1998, when an initial partnership project was launched with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. This consisted of a study of what yoga could offer patients with chronic back pain. Many different studies have been undertaken since then involving MediYoga and its effects on various patient groups, and on medical disorders in general. These include studies performed at large companies, such as the Post Giro Stress project in 1999, and the Swedish Enforcement Authority Stress project in 2009.

Read more: MediYoga can save society millions of dollars each year.

Since 2004, MediYoga has been one of the most popular rehabilitation options for employees on long-term sick leave at AstraZeneca Corp. MediYoga is now recommended by healthcare professionals throughout Sweden and Norway as a simple and therapeutic form of yoga that anyone can do, whatever their physical or psychological limitations.

What originally motivated you to do this work, and what continues to motivate you? How, if at all, has that motivation changed over time?

Scientific research shows that stress in various forms is the underlying cause of most of what we call illness, and that powerful tools are needed to re-establish and maintain balance in our lives. MediYoga is a practical tool that has shown measurable effects on back and sleeping problems, high blood pressure, ventricular fibrillation, various emotional problems, and other medical disorders.

There’s nothing better to hear after a class than, for instance, that someone with high blood pressure who’s been on medication for years is able to cut down on their prescription medication intake, or to eventually completely stop. That’s motivation for me. Just to see their faces after a yoga class, quiet and peaceful with eyes that radiate, it goes straight to my heart.

Is there a standout moment from your work with MediYoga, or with heart patients?

A personal memorable moment was when I received my Gold MediYoga teacher/therapist pin, and realized all the hard work and hours and hours of time had elevated me into a dedicated group of individuals striving to help others.

What advice would you give to anyone who is going to teach in hospitals, and with patients?

Invite the Board of Directors at the hospital for an experience in MediYoga. They have to experience the effects of yoga themselves to be able to better understand them.

Be humble: you are meeting people with various medical conditions who mostly have never tried yoga before. Demystify the experience, and make the participants feel safe and relaxed. Build up a trust between you and your clients–let them know you are there for them.You also always have a solid foundation to build on with all the scientific research that is done on MediYoga.

What has been the greatest challenge in your teaching experience, and what tools have you developed for addressing that challenge?

A great challenge has been introducing yoga into the medical community that is so accustomed to scientific means and results. When I started to implement my ideas here at the Feiringklinikken heart clinic for open heart surgery, cardiovascular intervention, and heart rehabilitation, there were many questions: what is MediYoga, how does it work?

I developed a research presentation on specific heart patients and heart diseases that involved MediYoga and presented it to the Board of Directors of Feiringklinniken. The President of the clinic is a very open-minded leader; he saw and believed in my passion for MediYoga and the way it works. We developed a six-month trial project for MediYoga in the Rehabilitation Department.

Patient and staff feedback and reviews indicated the trial was a great success. Now for the second year, Feiringklinikken includes MediYoga as a rehabilitation option twice a week for heart patients. Feiringklinikken was the first hospital in Norway to offer MediYoga to its patients; many other major medical institutions have begun to offer programs similar to our clinic’s.

We talked about your plans to introduce MediYoga to the US. What are some of your ideas about, or hopes for, the future of “service yoga” in America in the next decade?

My hope is that MediYoga will become a standard part of medical treatment offered throughout society.  I hope educating MediYoga instructors in California in February 2014 will be the start to integrating MediYoga in the U.S., as it was in Sweden and Norway.  MediYoga is now a treatment and rehabilitation option offered in over 120 hospitals and primary care units in Scandinavia.

What are two distinct ways that your teaching style differs from the way you might teach in a studio, and what are the reasons for these differences?

What makes us unique and differentiates us from all other forms of yoga is that everyone who works with MediYoga–instructors and yoga therapists–has health profession qualifications and understands the effects of yoga from a medical perspective. From our health education we are able to understand possible side effects, the emotional impact of a diagnosis, and how to offer safe yoga practices. Most patients have never participated in a yoga class before, so this is something completely new to them.

For example, here at the heart clinic I have 20 participants in each class between the ages of 20 and 80. They all have some kind of cardiovascular disease, so my approach is to use MediYoga programs with breathing exercises, postures, and meditation that targets heart diseases. No matter what group you are targeting, you have to approach them with the right set of tools that you know works on just that specific disorder.

How has this work changed your definition of service? Your definition of yoga? Your practice?

Instead of it being an individual practice on the yoga mat at home, I now have the possibility to share with others. When applying my service in the MediYoga programs I am not affecting only a single person, but everyone around them and connected to them when they leave the room.

What other organizations do you admire?

There are too many to list! Nothing but good comes from supporting them. I’m particularly impressed with the vision of the following organizations:

~Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus’s inspiration for the Grameen Foundation, which helps the world’s poorest people reach their full potential, connecting their determination and skills with the resources they need.

~The Give Back Yoga Foundation, for its commitment to helping to bring yoga to diverse segments of society that have limited or no access to yoga in their communities.

~The Inner City Garden projects, bringing a healthy alternative of self-sustaining local neighborhood/community garden areas.

Editor: Alice Trembour

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Dharma. Service in Action. SYF Gives Back: Mindful Therapeutic Yoga Practices for Veterans. Join us at this two-day pre-conference teacher training hosted by the Sedona Yoga Festival in partnership with the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, and learn techniques and practices that are clinically proven to offer relief to veterans affected by PTSD, TBI, and other trauma and emotional stress. February 6-10, 2014 in beautiful Sedona, Arizona.

 

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

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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.

 

Trista Gipple: Yoga Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

This is an interview with one of my yoga teachers, Trista Sukhraj Kaur Gipple, who lives in Boulder, CO, with her husband and two teenage daughters.  Trista is a successful psychotherapist specializing in addictive behavior and teaches both Hatha and Kundalini yoga. Recently I joined Jack Taylor, a local school administrator and athletic director, in a 40-day meditation pilot program led by Trista called “Journey To A Better Night’s Sleep,” which started this conversation.

– Rob Schware, Executive DirectorGive Back Yoga Foundation

Rob: What originally motivated you to start this program, “Journey To A Better Night’s Sleep?”

Trista: For three years I’ve taught a similar 40-day meditation program for addictions (Journey To The Self). In addition to struggling with addictions, students attending this program often reported sleeping poorly, or not at all, thus it was clear that addictions and lack of sleep went hand in hand.  People consistently reported poor coping skills like use of stimulants (coffee, energy drinks) and/or depressants (alcohol, drugs, and sleeping pills) in order to get a good night’s sleep. Through these self-reports, it became clear that the “presenting problem” was not poor sleep, but was really a lifestyle issue.

Over the years I’ve had candid conversations with many desperate students wanting help with their sleeping problems.  Using the same basic format as my Journey To The Self program I started working with my co-facilitator Robert Thompson on a 40-day meditation program that would help us focus on sleep hygiene and support a better night’s sleep for these students.

Rob: What are some of the benefits you have seen?

Trista: Without a doubt, the benefits reported were in direct relationship to the level of compliance of the 40-day meditation program. Students that more rigorously followed the suggested format, like Jack Taylor, had the most positive results. Some of the most important factors contributing to improving sleep included a 15-minute meditation before bed, turning off all electronics 30 minutes before bed, elimination of drugs/alcohol/stimulants, eating a healthy diet, and practicing Kundalini Yoga kriyas (actions) specific to improving sleep.

Here are some of the benefits reported by students of the pilot program:
• complete elimination and reduction of prescription and natural sleep aids
• waking up less often and falling asleep more quickly
• having more energy during the day — “feeling like myself again”
• feeling healthy by eating a diet that focuses on whole foods
• finding pleasure in life that is not related to drugs/alcohol
• having a sense of rhythm back in life
• more relaxed

Rob: What are some of the obstacles to improving sleep? 

Trista: One of the fundamental principles of yoga is self-responsibility — no one can change us but us, and we change for two reasons.  The first is that we learn something, which motivates us to change.  The second is that we have suffered enough and we’re ready to change — we cry “uncle.”  In my experience, the second reason is the way most of us change.  This is a sensitive place, so supporting my students is done through a combination of education, support, love, and humor.  Students begin to understand that they are not sleeping through the night because of unhealthy lifestyle habits that interrupt their sleep patterns. They realize that their dependence on old coping methods is what must change.   Developing good sleep hygiene is not done overnight, and often involves many “relapses” along the way, which is all part of the process.   These “relapses” are all the more reason why teachers need to support, love and provide a sense of humor about how challenging it is for us to change old patterns.  People who are still not willing to change at least begin to accept some self-responsibility for the problems in their lives, such as poor sleep, and even this small step is very empowering for them.

Rob: What are three distinct things those struggling with sleeplessness can do right away to improve sleep hygiene? 

Trista: 1.) Ask yourself this before you do anything: “Will this negatively or positively affect my sleep?” Start connecting the dots between what you are doing during the day and how it affects your sleep at night. This is a huge first step.

2.) Create a nighttime routine. Turn off all computers, TV, phones etc. at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Take a bath, do some yin yoga, meditate/pray, listen to relaxing music or mantras that will help you relax. Make sure your bed is absolutely comfortable for you. A good night’s sleep is the best medicine!

3.) Start to reduce/avoid stimulates and depressants.

Rob: Jack, I’m interested to know what responsibility you took for your poor sleep patterns.

Jack: For many years I struggled with a getting a good night’s sleep. I tried drinking alcohol to go to sleep, with little success. Six years ago I began taking Ambien. It worked wonderfully. I was able to get a good night’s sleep every night by taking a 10 mg pill.

A year ago, I began practicing yoga to add some variety to my regular routine and got hooked. This past year I’ve completed a 200-hour Hatha Yoga teacher training, a 100-hour extension, 100-hour Yoga Sculpt teacher training, and most recently a 40-day program, Journey To A Better Night’s Sleep.

I chose to give up alcohol, caffeine, Ambien, and made a concerted effort to eliminate gluten from my diet. The teacher taught us a kriya, or meditation, to perform every day for at least 15 minutes. I decided to make this work period — no morning coffee for me, no after-work beers or cocktails, and no Ambien before bedtime. To my surprise, I immediately began sleeping well, and had vivid dreams, which I had not had since taking Ambien.

At first my wife was a little skeptical of the whole program. As she saw my excitement grow about sleeping without any aids she began to support me in what I was doing, and encouraged me to continue the program.

To me, the most significant realization was that a good night’s sleep begins when I wake up in the morning. Now, before I get out of bed I do a couple supine twists taking one leg across my body and then the other. I massage my body, I rub my eyes in a circular motion and put my palms in front of my eyes as if I was reading my palms to increase the blood flow to my optic nerve. I don’t drink my morning cup of coffee, or any other caffeine throughout the day. I practice yoga 3-4 days a week, have an occasional drink, and have totally eliminated Ambien from my daily routine. I sleep great!

For more information about “Journey To A Better Night’s Sleep,” visit www.peace-flow-yoga.com.

Editor: Alice Trembour

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Do you want to bring the transformational power of yoga and meditation to underserved populations? Join Give Back Yoga at a Mindful Yoga Therapy Training for Yoga Teachers near you, or at the Sedona Yoga Festival in February for a two-day Mindful Therapeutic Yoga Practices for Veterans pre-conference training that teaches clinically-proven techniques to help students recover from trauma and emotional stress.

 

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

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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.

 

Rob Schware for Yoga Teacher Magazine: From Inspiration to Effectiveness

In a special interview for Yoga Teacher Magazine, Executive Director Rob Schware talks with YTM editor Ivan Nahem about the roots of the Give Back Yoga Foundation, where the organization is headed, and how yoga service is transcending stereotypes and transforming lives.

“We already have a growing number of yoga outreach programs throughout this country. Why? Because in my experience at some point in a yoga teacher’s career, they want to give back the gift of yoga they have received. It can be within six weeks, six months or six years. Invariably they want to bring this type of program to settings outside a studio, to schools, homeless shelters, residential treatment programs for veterans, prisons, and refugee camps. That’s one of the reasons why Give Back Yoga got started, to help teachers develop projects that were sustainable and that could really effect change in their communities.”

– Executive Director Rob Schware, on the work of the Give Back Yoga Foundation

Click here to read more of Rob’s thoughts on the need for yoga service, and how GBYF and the Yoga Service Council are helping yoga teachers to make a difference in their communities.

Give Back With Sedona Yoga Festival & Denver Chant Fest

Coming together for yoga, music and love…while helping to change the world. What could be better?

Community seva projects sponsored through yoga festivals are becoming a key way to fuel our work. Yogis who support these initiatives are bringing the healing power of yoga to those in need – like prisoners, at-risk teens, veterans and those with eating disorders.

Help us to Give Back Yoga at two vibrant festivals this winter, and enjoy a special discount for being a member of our service community. Here’s how:

 

Sedona Yoga Festival: February 6-10, 2014

Sedona Yoga FestivalHeld in a town renowned for its healing energy, this “consciousness evolution conference”both educates and inspires. Featuring over 250 workshops, 108 presenters and 16 musical artists, you’ll hear from authors, speakers and energy healers from around the world; experience meditation, dance and kirtan; and learn from master teachers who will help you bring your practice and service to a new level.

Community Seva: Help Sedona Yoga Festival raise $50,000 to fund Yoga for Veterans Toolkits by making a donation to SYF Gives Back, or by signing up to host a team or individual fundraiser on Crowdrise.

FESTIVAL TICKET OFFER: Save 20% on a SYF2014 All-Access Pass by entering code “GBYF20” at checkout.

Pre-Conference Teacher Training: Join GBYF at the Mindful Therapeutic Yoga Practices for Veterans two-day intensive training to learn clinically proven techniques for working with students who have experienced trauma. You’ll hear from expert teachers like Give Back Yoga co-founder Beryl Bender Birch, Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans founder Suzanne Manafort, Prison Yoga Project founder James Fox, Give Back Yoga board member Ann Richardson Stevens and more.

TEACHER TRAINING TICKET OFFER: Through December 31st, your service can go twice as far. Donate $500 to our crowd fund campaign to bring yoga toolkits to veterans, and we’ll say “thank you” with a SYF Gives Back 2014 Access Pass that includes complimentary access to the Sedona Yoga Festival. (Offer limited to five donors. Miss the deal? Click here to purchase a SYF Gives Back 2014 Access Pass.)

 

Denver Chant Fest: February 14-16, 2014

Denver Chant Fest 2014The second annual Denver Chant Fest gathers the nation’s top Bhakti (spiritual song) musicians and beloved yoga instructors for a weekend of soul-stirring music, top-notch yoga instruction and offerings from wellness vendors from across the country. The 2014 line-up includes Give Back Yoga’s own Shanti Medina, performing Universal Kirtan with Scott Medina; Jai Uttal; Donna Delory; Rusty Wells; Jason Crandell; Dave Stringer; MC Yogi; C.C. White; Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band; Govindas and Radha; Pete Guinosso; Deepak and the Breath of Life Tribe; Tricia Heimbach; Tina Porter; Patrick Harrington; Dawnelle Arthur; Mike and Robin Konard; Arjun Verma; and many more.

Community Seva: Denver Chant Fest is collecting donations for Give Back Yoga, the festival’s designated non-profit partner. To make a donation, visit Denver Chant Fest.

FESTIVAL TICKET OFFER: Save 10% on a three-day weekend pass by entering code “GBYF” at checkout. Offer available for the first 100 GBYF community members. Stay tuned for a special ticket giveaway for GBYF supporters by joining our mailing list.