Warriors For Healing Event Draws Yogis, Veterans

On June 28th, 2015, more than six hundred yogis from around the country joined us for the first live Warriors For Healing event at Yoga Journal LIVE! in San Diego. The inspirational 90-minute practice celebrated the service of veterans and raised awareness for the potential of helping warriors to heal from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress (PTS) through the healing science of yoga. The event was coordinated through Warriors For Healing, a foundation launched by teacher Bhava Ram that’s supported through the fiscal sponsorship of Give Back Yoga.

Welcoming dozens of veterans who came to practice alongside the yoga community, Mayor Casey Tanaka proclaimed it “Warriors for Healing Day” in the City of Coronado, where the Yoga Journal conference was held. Among those in attendance was Give Back Yoga’s Veterans’ Outreach Coordinator Anthony Scaletta, the leader of our Warriors For Healing crowdfunding campaign. With Anthony’s help, Give Back Yoga raised more than $8,250 to support our mission of yoga outreach to veterans.

We owe a debt a gratitude to each partner and community member who supported the Warrior For Healing event and crowdfunding campaign. With your help, we connected with many veterans who are benefitting from yoga, while inspiring a growing number of yogis to join us in practicing selfless service. View some of their stories on our Warriors For Healing video playlist.

Video spotlight: Warriors for Healing come together in San Diego.

Join us as a Warrior For Healing.

Meet Anthony Scaletta: Reaching Out To Veterans, With Your Help

We’re honored to introduce you to a new member of the Give Back Yoga team: Anthony Scaletta, our new Outreach Coordinator for our Yoga for Veterans programs.

From 1998-2003, Anthony served as a US Navy Special Warfare Combatant Crewman (SWCC) with Naval Special Warfare Group 1 out of San Diego, CA. An 11 Meter RHIB operator, he did two deployments to the Northern Arabian Gulf region, conducting Maritime Interdiction Operations and reconnaissance missions. As a result of his service, he was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, depression and OCD, while also suffering chronic pain and a spinal fusion surgery. It was through these “opportunities,” which he used to call obstacles, that yoga found Anthony. The practice immediately resonated with him as a way to heal and reintegrate after his military service.

Today, Anthony’s post-military mission is to be of service by bringing the transformational practice of yoga to others — especially veterans — as a way to ease their suffering and empower them toward healing. As a combat veteran and a certificated yoga teacher, Anthony is uniquely aligned to help lead the way for this current generation of veterans as a yoga teacher and advocate. In his role as Veteran Outreach Coordinator, Anthony will help Give Back Yoga to reach our goal of sharing free yoga and meditation resources with 30,000 veterans.

As lead ambassador for our Warriors For Healing crowdfunding campaign, Anthony is also raising funds and awareness for Give Back Yoga’s mission of sharing yoga with veterans — while providing leadership for other supporters who are getting started with their own crowdfunding team. Here’s two ways that you can give him a helping hand and have a direct impact on bringing yoga to more veterans:

1.) Help Anthony travel to the Warriors For Healing event hosted by Yoga Journal LIVE! in San Diego this June. This is an amazing opportunity for Anthony to work one-on-one with fellow veterans and yoga teachers who share the goal of making yoga more accessible to returning warriors. By making a donation of $10 or more to our crowdfunding page, you can help to cover the costs of his trip.

2.) Set up your own crowdfunding team. You can fundraise as a studio community, an individual, or with your friends. The Warriors For Healing foundation is offering crowdfunding incentives for each team that earns at least $250 (including valuable promotional spots that can benefit your studio or business). And all funds raised through Give Back Yoga’s unique crowdfunding page stay with our organization, supporting the growth and development of our veterans’ programs. As lead ambassador, Anthony can help you get set up as a GBYF Warriors For Healing team, and add you to a Basecamp project that will help to keep the fundraising ideas flowing.

Make an impact: donate $10 or more to help fund Anthony’s outreach trip to San Diego, or contact to learn how to get started with your own Warriors For Healing crowdfunding team.




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.


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.


Warriors for Healing: Join the Movement to Support Yoga For Veterans

Give Back Yoga is honored to announce a partnership with Warriors for Healing, a new foundation created by former NBC News war correspondent Bhava Ram to bring the healing power of yoga to veterans nationwide.

Bhava was on the front lines of conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, covered drug wars in South America, social upheaval in Central America, apartheid in Africa, and reported from several of the largest refugee crises of our times. A broken back and failed surgery ended his career. Confined to a body brace and unable to sit up to eat a meal, Bhava fell into the abyss of prescription medications, depression and PTSD. Then came stage four cancer from exposure to depleted uranium in the Gulf War and the prognosis that survival was impossible. Literally on the brink of death, Bhava embraced mind/body medicine and the deeper practices of Yoga and its sister science, Ayurveda. Through this process, slowly and often painfully, he healed himself physically and emotionally. He now devotes his life to helping others reclaim their inherent power of self-healing, find their authentic voices, and manifest their fullest potential. Watch Bhava’s story in a video from the Chopra Center’s Weekend Within.

Now, Bhava has teamed with Yoga Journal LIVE! to create a premier event at the San Diego Conference this June to honor our veterans and to raise funds for Give Back Yoga. All who support this effort are invited to join us in selfless service by creating a Warriors for Healing fundraising team on Crowdrise, reaching out to family and friends for support, and helping grow the movement.

To help us create a groundswell of support for this mission, we invite you to like the Warriors for Healing Facebook page and share your story of how yoga has helped you or benefitted a veteran that you know and love. Then, let your friends know — help us to spread the word and expand awareness of the healing powers of yoga, and the movement to give back to those who have given so much.


Become a Warrior for Healing with Give Back Yoga! Learn how you can bring yoga to veterans through our crowdfunding campaign.

All donors or teams who raise $250 or more will be reserved a mat space at the Warriors for Healing live event in San Diego in June 2015. If you can’t join us in person, you can choose to donate this space to a veterans’ scholarship fund, and share your energy by tuning in to a live stream of the event.

For help in getting started with your fundraising team, email