I did not come to yoga until I was 65 years old and starting to look at retiring (2011). I suffered a traumatic injury to my lower spine and have suffered from sciatica on my left side since my 30’s. My wife and I decided to take a Seniors Yoga Class and after a few classes, I decided I was too young for that class. So, started attending classes once a week at the YMCA. The next thing I knew I was taking 2 classes per week at the YMCA. Then, one day I stumbled into a Hot Power Yoga Class and I never went back to the YMCA.
I was totally hooked on Yoga. My youthful flexibility came back and in spite of all the aches and pains my body was experiencing, I found that when I focus on the breathing and the poses, the pain becomes secondary, tends to fall away and gives me peace.
So, while I was still thinking about retiring (2014) and still into my power yoga I got to looking around at many other veterans my age and decided they did not look very healthy. So, I got to thinking about going to Yoga Teacher Training and working with veterans.
In the latter part of 2014, I walked into my boss’s office and told him, “I do not want to be working full time when I turn 69 years old,” We were good friends and he smiled and asked “How old are you?” My response, “I am 68 and turn 69 in June of 2015.” I retired 6 months later after they found my replacement, but continued part time for another year.
I spent four weeks in Costa Rica to get my 200-hour YTT training (Feb. 2017), but before I left for the training, I was at a VA Physical Therapy Appointment in Fayetteville Arkansas. I told my therapist where I was going, Amber looked at me and said, “When you get back come and teach a half hour of yoga for my patients.” So, I did, 5 months later I was asked to teach a one-hour class once a week. Then it went to two classes per week. I currently teach two classes per week. The classes consist of chair yoga, mat work and 5 minutes of guided rest and meditation.
Then one day when I came across The Veterans Yoga Project and decided to attend Mindful Resilience Training in Colorado Springs in May 2018. The training has helped me start to work on some of my own mental health issues. I discovered why I have had anger issues for the last 50 years and why I could go from nice guy to aggressive jerk in a heartbeat. I have learned when I’m about to go off the deep end to close my eyes, breath, and let it go. I am working with VA Mental Health Staff to start a Mindful Resilience class in 2019.
Lee Williams joined the US Marines at age 17 (1964), served one tour in Viet Nam (65-66) and was discharged honorably in 1967. He spent most of his working career in field operations in the oil and gas industry. Lee spent most of his career in the states but has also worked in the Peoples Republic of China, Bolivia SA and West Africa. He has worked for multiple Energy Companies during his career. Starting as a mechanics helper and retired as VP of Operations for a small mid-stream energy company. I tell everyone that there was a time in my life when everything in did seemed to revolve around a shovel handle! Lee lives in Bella Vista Arkansas with his bride of 49 years, the lovely “Miss Marzelle.”