Veterans Yoga Project – Veterans Gratitude Week Nov. 3-12, 2017

Veterans Yoga Project (VYP), a non-profit organization that supports recovery and resilience among veterans, their families and communities, is hosting its fourth annual Veterans Gratitude Week on Nov. 3-12. This special week encourages communities to show their gratitude to our veteran families by attending or signing up to teach a donation-based yoga class that supports VYP programs. There will be more than 500 classes happening across all 50 states in support of this cause.

“Yoga instructors are invited to teach one donation-based community class, allowing their community to practice yoga while holding a space of gratitude in their hearts for the families that have served in the Armed Forces,” said Dan Libby, founder and Executive Director of VYP, which was founded in 2010. “Anyone and everyone is invited to attend one of these classes to support, in a tangible way, the men and women who support us.”

Funds raised from Veterans Gratitude Week will be used to bolster all the amazing Veterans Yoga Project programs, which include: Mindful Resilience for Trauma Recovery teacher training,  yoga classes offered to veterans taught by VYP teachers and healing retreats. These programs account for 79 percent of VYP’s expenses, which are free, or offered at nominal cost, to veterans.

“In addition to training yoga instructors in Mindful Resilience, we provide healing retreats for veterans and families, and fund ongoing yoga programs at veterans treatment programs, student veteran organizations and other community-based veterans service organizations,” Dan said. “We now have a large village of veterans and civilians sharing tools for resilience and recovery.”


How to Participate in Veterans Gratitude Week

  • Teach a class: Are you a yoga teacher? Sign up to teach a donation-based yoga class, with all profits going to Veterans Yoga Project. Sign up here>>>
  • Take a yoga or meditation class: Find and sign up to attend a Veterans Gratitude Week-sponsored yoga class. Click here to find a class.
  • Donate: Make a donation to the project or share the special banner on your social media to raise awareness about Veterans Gratitude Week.
  • Raise your awareness: Raise your awareness about what our veterans do for us. No Greater Love, an amazing documentary depicting the tragic struggles that veterans face, is worth checking out. The film, which was released last year and given many awards at multiple film festivals, shows the experience of war, and more importantly, helps viewers understand the depth of agony from the perspective of our soldiers. I watched the documentary during last year’s Napa Film Festival on Veterans Day and cried throughout the entire film. I was so incredibly moved and my heart broke after watching the effects that war can have on our veterans. It is time to take care of the veterans who work so hard to take care of us. To watch the trailer, click here.

Why it’s Important to Support Our Veterans

According to Veterans Yoga Project’s Theory of Change, “overwhelming traumatic experiences lead to semi-permanent changes in nervous system functioning. After a traumatic experience, the nervous system often gets stuck in emergency response mode, responding to current circumstances in the context of the traumatic circumstances. These changes in nervous system functioning cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress, which include changes in physiological arousal levels, persistent sleep difficulties, intrusive thoughts and memories about the trauma, concentration difficulties, severe emotional pain, and avoidance and isolation. The symptoms of post-traumatic stress lead to problems navigating everyday situations. People with PTSD often feel like their bodies, minds, and entire lives are out of control.” Twenty percent of veterans suffer from PTSD and tragically, an average of 22 veterans commit suicide each day.

How Mindfulness Benefits Our Veterans

Practices that include taking time to turn our attention inward and practice developing strength, stability and flexibility in mind, body, and spirit can help to undo the nervous system dysfunction that underlie symptoms. This is why Veterans Yoga Project teaches self-regulation skills, including breath work, meditation, mindful movement, guided rest and gratitude. Everyone in the program is encouraged to find out which of these tools best supports them.

“Learning to develop control over the breath leads directly to a better ability to develop control over your thoughts and behaviors,” Dan said. “More accurately, developing balance in the autonomic nervous system allows for an expansion of thought-behavior repertoires which allows us to more easily live in line with our values and goals. Sleep difficulties are one of the most common symptoms of post-traumatic stress and chronic stress. I get a lot of feedback from the vets we work with about how these practices help them get to sleep and stay asleep.”

More recently, Veterans Yoga Project has been conducting studies to measure the impact of yoga on veterans in recovery from post-traumatic stress and other trauma-related challenges. Clinical care data shows that a yoga practice leads to a decrease in pain nearly 80 percent of the time and a decrease in stress 75 percent of the time. “Sometimes these decreases are as much as 3, 4 or even 5 points on a 10-point scale,” Dan said.

VYP’s Mindful Resilience for Trauma Recovery Training for Yoga Teachers

Mindful Resilience for Recovery and Resilience training, offered by VYP, is an evidence-informed, clinically-tested yoga program that was developed specifically for veterans recovering from post traumatic stress and other psychological difficulties.  

“Many veterans are dealing with very serious and severe symptoms, and yoga instructors need to know the best practices for safely and effectively teaching these tools,” Dan said. “Our Mindful Resilience training guides instructors in creating the conditions for healing from trauma to occur.”

Close to 700 yoga teachers have gone through VYP’s Mindful Resilience Program and multiple trainings are offered each year across the country. Partial scholarships are available for veterans who are interested in attending these yoga teacher trainings.

About Veterans Gratitude Week

Veterans Gratitude Week is one of two yearly fundraisers for VYP that is supported by donations from yoga classes, meditation classes and individuals and organizations. The fundraiser was born in August 2014 when 14 yoga teachers were sitting around a bonfire brainstorming ways to raise money for Veterans Yoga Project. “They decided they would each teach one donation-based class in their community and send the donations to Veterans Yoga Project,” said Dan. “By the time November (2014) rolled around, 98 classes were conducted in 25 states, providing much needed funding for our programs. In 2015, there were 401 events across 39 states (plus Canada and Japan), and this year we expect more than 500 classes and events across all 50 states.”

About Veterans Yoga Project

Over the past few years, Veterans Yoga Project has grown into village of veterans and civilians who do incredible work, supporting our veterans, families and communities. What was once a small intention to make yoga available as an important complementary part of trauma treatment has matured into an organization that is poised to be a sustainable force for good in the world that supports veterans through all stages of recovery and resilience. The Veterans Yoga Project village now includes eight Board Members, 13 Regional Directors, 35 veteran ambassadors, five Executive Staff, numerous other volunteers and thousands of individual donors sharing the tools of breathing, meditation, movement, rest and gratitude with veterans and their families around the country (and in Canada, too).

Updated article 2017 originally by Rachel Nichols SF YogaMag – about Rachel Nichols

Rachel Nichols has been practicing yoga since 2011 and is continuously inspired by the transformation that the practice has brought to her life, both on and off the mat. This led her to enroll in the 200-hour Advanced Studies and Teacher Training Program through Yoga Community in Sonoma in 2014. During her nine months of training, Rachel deepened her understanding of yoga while delving into the study of the Eight-Fold Path of Yoga, and also developed a love for meditation. A native of Sonoma County, she has worked professionally as an editor since 2006. In her free time, you will find Rachel practicing yoga, hiking, reading, and chasing the sunset and full moon. She also loves to travel and check out the local yoga studios, coffee shops and wine bars while away. Follow her on Instagram: @rnichols.Website