The day after 9/11, Beryl Bender Birch, yoga teacher and Wellness Director at the time of the New York Road Runners, was called upon to help families of victims, first responders and others suffering the brutal aftermath of the attacks on New York City. She subsequently witnessed the power of the yoga practices–breathing, movement, and meditation–to help those suffering with anxiety related disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A yoga practitioner and teacher for over 40 years, Beryl is the author of three books on yoga, including Power Yoga. Her newest book, Yoga for Warriors: Basic Training in Strength, Resilience and Peace of Mind, is a guide for stressed out veterans struggling to navigate the transition to civilian life. She elaborates here on how she came to write the book, and what is it about Yoga for Warriors that makes it a perfect fit for the military.
Rob: How do you serve veterans through yoga? Has that evolved over the years?
Since 1995, I’ve required graduates of my school for yoga teacher training, The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute, to develop a “give back” project in their various communities. As certified yoga teachers, they can choose to teach yoga and meditation to a specific underserved population or create something as diverse as planting trees in a poor neighborhood. I wanted to educate people that there are many ways to practice yoga, and that yoga isn’t just about “exercise.”
One of my students, Rob Schware, and I founded the Give Back Yoga Foundation (GBYF) in 2007. Our idea was to bring yoga to under-resourced groups such as those in lower socio-economic populations. One of the Give Back Yoga Foundation’s first grant recipients was James Fox of the Prison Yoga Project. GBYF helped to fund the publication and free distribution of his book, Yoga: A Path for Healing and Recovery, written for his longtime students at San Quentin State prison. We thought what a great idea it would be to do a similar book especially for veterans — and now, three years and a lot of hard work later, here it is. In the spirit of giving back, the Give Back Yoga Foundation will be donating a copy of Yoga for Warriors to any veterans who wish to receive it. Additionally, we are working with the publisher, Sounds True, to offer a “Buy one, donate one to a Veteran” campaign. Continue reading >>