Finding Healing in the Warrior Pose

The United States Army is well known for its high intensity drill instructors, but for many soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan traditional drill activities have become impossible, prompting the Army to develop “enhanced” physical training for its wounded warriors.

The training is an instrumental aspect of participation in Warrior Transition Units that serve wounded soldiers. A particularly popular component of the enhanced physical training is, believe it or not, yoga. One ardent participant at the Fort Campbell (KY) Warrior Transition Unit is Spc. Michael Stefan, a combat medic who suffers from PTSD. Stefan says his PTSD is a logical outcome to “seeing soldiers get killed, and working on them and the memories and flashbacks that go along with that,” but he finds release in yoga. “At first, I was skeptical because I liked running six or ten miles a day, just doing it the 101st way. But the positive thing is for me to focus on what I can do to overcome symptoms of PTSD, rather than getting stuck in a rut…” Stefan sees his participating in yoga as part of a broader program of healing and transitioning out of the Army. He feels the need to take better care of himself mentally because he has “a wife and three kids and one on the way.”

The Pentagon has been supportive of the enhanced physical training, which can also include water aerobics, golf, bowling, and biathlons. Lt. Chris Jarvis, commander of the Fort Campbell unit, says the payoff associated with these activities is long term because it gives Veterans a physical activity they can do for the rest of their lives. The activities are also noted to reduce stress and supply a positive relaxation outlet for Veterans coping with the physical and mental after-effects of combat.

For more on enhanced physical training, see http://www.npr.org/2011/04/20/134772158/warrior-pose-part-of-rehab-for-army-veterans.

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