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!).
In addition to the growth of the organization personnel-wise, we have been working hard to institute the technology and procedures needed to measure the impact of our work. We are now able to report, for example, that in the month of July 2016, Veterans Yoga Project offered over 70 Mindful Resilience classes across 19 locations in seven different states. These facilities include VA Medical Centers, Vet Centers, yoga studios, college campuses, and YMCA. Of the over 470 class visits recorded, 408 were veteran and active-duty visits. The remaining students were composed predominantly treatment staff and/or family. Approximately 77% of all participants were male, 23% were female. (See below for graphs.)
We have also started collecting other data about the impact of yoga on veterans in recovery from post-traumatic stress and other trauma-related challenges. For instance, the charts below show self-reported results from 58 veterans attending approximately 200 yoga classes in 2015 at the Northport VA Medical Center. These data show that yoga is making a clinically significant impact in the lives of veterans.
I am very excited that we are getting better at quantifying the impact of our reach. I am also very excited about VYP’s current operations and the resources that we are now making available to our teachers and Regional Directors. However, what keeps me working hard every day for this organization, and what fuels the collective juices of all of the members of our VYP village, are the stories that we hear from the veterans we work with and testimonials we hear from the yoga teachers who are on the ground sharing their gifts with veterans.
Here is a selection of feedback from veterans attending VYP classes this month:
- “I couldn't sleep last night. I remembered my breathing practice. I fell asleep in minutes and slept all night."
- “I find the poses challenging sometimes, not able to open or relax. Then I remember to breathe, and suddenly everything lets go and I move more freely, with less tension”
- “You have given us the greatest gift. When you tell us to find that place between effort and ease... that is where we need to be. We either try too hard, or not at all so to be ok with that place in the middle is hard. So, thank you for that reminder.”
- “I never thought I’d be able to do that."
- "My painful feet always feel better after practicing yoga."
- "I am stronger now than I ever have been. I can bend down, pick up my grandkids, toss them in the air, and catch them."
- This is a major key to sanity for me!