E: What branch of the military did you serve in and can you share your job title and where you were stationed?
J: The Army; I was an interrogator, and a Chinese linguist. I was stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC.
E: Did you actually have to interrogate anyone?
J: Just mock interrogations. We would have had to go to war with China for me to interrogate anybody.
E: When you were out of the military, how were things for you? Did you have any symptoms of trauma, or negative side effects from working in the military? Did you have any really positive ones?
J: I didn't go into combat, but I was in during the Gulf War. I certainly think that the circumstances of the Gulf War, worrying about going, and what was going to happen was stressful. As far as what was good, I made great friends; I have a lot of good times with them. I did get to do a little bit of traveling - a month in South Korea.
E: How or when did you discover yoga? Was it something that you took to right away, or was it something that had to grow on you?
J: I did take to it right away. I didn't start yoga until I was 36. That was a good 15 years after I got out of the Army. I started doing yoga because I was at a place spiritually that I needed some help, and nothing I was trying was working. It was just another attempt to find some peace of mind. It actually worked the very first time I took a class.
The thing that I remember the most is that I had a great teacher, which always helps. At the beginning, she told everybody to put aside any thoughts or problems that they've been chasing throughout the day. I had never been given permission to do that. I didn't even know that was possible, that I could stop obsessing over things, so that was really monumental, for her to give me permission to relax for an hour and a half. Within the first 6-7 months of practicing, I already had it in my mind that I wanted to teach.
E: I know that you had a really unique yoga teacher training experience from the rest of us who chose to remain Stateside. How did you find that experience?
J: I was traveling in India, and I was at a healing center. There was a girl who had traveled there from Norway. She was telling me all about the Bahamas, and the Sivananda Ashram teacher training she had just gone though. In my mind I heard two things: great yoga, and you get to camp on the beach. Those were the selling points for me. I knew nothing about who Mr. Sivananda was, I knew nothing.
As far as yoga teacher trainings go, it's about as spiritually focused as you can get, and so in retrospect, it was exactly where I needed to be. Immediately after this young woman told me about the place, it was planted. It was a done deal. I didn't know when I would make it there, but I knew in the future at some point, I was going to do my teacher training there.
E: Have you found a yoga style that works particularly well for you, individually?
J: Yes, it's named after Mr. Sivananda. I hesitate to call it a style: it's a sequence. It’s very breath and energy focused, so it's traditional Indian Hatha Yoga. The asanas mainly deal with the chakra system and the endocrine system. You start at headstand and work your way down through the chakras. I never get to teach this, but it's what I've been trained to teach. I love it, and I know I'll get a chance to teach it eventually, in the right niche.
E: Right now you're teaching classes specifically for veterans, correct?
J: They're open to everybody, but they're free for veterans. They were designed for veterans.
E: And how did you design those classes specifically for veterans? Are there things you avoid? Poses, language? Do you have a way of figuring out if people want touch or not?
J: There's no hands-on anything in my class. I teach from the mat. If I need to move off the mat, I'll let them know where I'm going. I try to keep it real simple. I remember from my level one training with Daniel that the focus is trying to reconnect people with their breath and their body. Most people seem to really enjoy it if I keep it breath and body focused.
E: What advice would you give to someone who wants to work with veterans and other populations that are known for having a high rate of PTS?
J: I would highly encourage them to become involved. We need people to teach these classes. The military community here [Colorado Springs] is huge, and as far as I know, in this city of half a million people, it's me, and two other people that teach these classes. That's three people when you have thousands of thousands of veterans, and thousands of active duty service.
Get involved and keep after it. It's a slow process. It's hard to crack into the VA and treatment facility. In my experience, the veterans that have attended these classes have found them to be very beneficial. I totally believe in the class, so if someone was interested in becoming a trauma recovery yoga teacher, I highly encourage them to do it because we need them.
E: “Get involved” is a very broad statement that I think a lot of people are going to read and say, "But how?" So can you recommend ways for people to get involved and become part of the community?
J: First I would encourage them to go through the proper training, such as the Mindful Resilience Training [through VYP]; I think if you’re savvy at using social media, that can be quite helpful; if you can connect with different veteran groups...you have to be persistent in going out and finding these classes. Familiarize yourself with what kind of military groups exist in your community, such as the VFW, the American Legion, Vet centers. Be aware of what's there and connect with them. Let them know what you're doing.
E: When you think of a highlight in your teaching, what moment comes to mind?
J: I'm kind of a shy person, and sometimes I'll show up, and as a yoga teacher, you have no idea who's going to be in class, or how many people you'll have. I was invited to teach at Peterson Air force base. I was thinking It's probably 12-20 people that are going to come. There were like, 65 people in the class. Nobody had mats, and it was in a noisy gymnasium. All the breath work and meditation of a mindful resilience class went right out the window at that point. I'm really happy that when faced with circumstances that in the past would have caused me a lot of anxiety, I can just power through them at this point. Whatever is presented to me, I'm much better at adapting to it, and not being flustered or emotionally set back by it. With 60-80 students, in the nosiest environment possible, I'll still be okay. It's good to know that.
E: What has been one of your largest obstacles in helping veterans in developing mindfulness?
J: I think the biggest obstacle with veterans and the military is just the word 'Yoga.' They have preconceptions about it. The conception is that historically it's not something tough people do. The biggest obstacle is getting them to class. Once they get to class, the majority of them enjoy it, and find it relaxing and helpful.
Jason’s teaching schedule is:
Monday Mindful Resilience 12-1 pm at Cambio Yoga (http://www.cambioyoga.com/)
Tuesday Mindful Resilience 7-8pm at Studio Satya (yogastudiosatya.com)
Thursday Adaptive Yoga 12-1pm at Cambio Yoga (www.cambioyoga.com)
Saturday Mindful Resilience 12:30-1:30pm at Hot on Yoga (hotonyoga.com)
For more information on upcoming Mindful Resilience Trainings and how you can get involved, please visit our Teacher Training Page.