Volunteer Spotlight June, 2019

There are numerous volunteers who get the word out about Veterans Yoga Project, but only one can say that they utilize their motorcycle adventures to help spread the word.

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“We’ve been to all 50 states and all the Canadian provinces on the bike, and are slowly making our way through Europe,” says Anne, a volunteer for Veterans Yoga Project. “Every summer we go to Sturgis to the motorcycle rally and I usually take a stack of Veterans Yoga Project cards to give to anyone who is interested and wear my VYP t-shirts while I am there. I usually run out of cards in the first couple days, but I get to talk to so many people about the work VYP does.”

Anne grew up in rural southwest Iowa before moving to the Minneapolis suburbs. She was a journalist in both newspaper and television news, before changing professions to technical writing. She is currently the manager of technical publications for a large manufacturing company in the twin cities.

She took her first yoga class at the age of 14. Yoga wasn’t exactly mainstream in rural Iowa in the 1970s, but her best friend’s mom taught classes.

“We were her practice guinea pigs,” she says.

Yoga would come in and out of her life after that, until 15 years ago, when her practice became an integral part. Four years after recommitting to yoga, Anne decided to get her 200-hour training.

However, life had different plans for Anne.

“Right in the middle of [training], I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” she says. “My entire thinking about yoga and what it was and how it could help people completely changed. It was no longer just exercise; it was a way to heal my body and soul… and something I knew everyone could benefit from.”

After completing her 200-hour training, Anne knew that she didn’t want to teach the popular vinyasa style of yoga that was in so many studios and gyms. She focused on what her practice had been over the last few years: the slower, more meditative styles of yoga, styles designed for those who needed to calm their minds and bodies.

Anne’s views on what yoga could do shifted once more after tragedy struck again.

“About five years ago, I found out that a little kid I used to babysit (who became an officer in the army and had just retired) had killed himself,” says Anne. “He just couldn't adjust to life outside of the military and couldn't reconcile what he had witnessed during his service with everyday life back on the farm. It broke my heart and really, really made me mad. In that instant I knew there had to be some way to take all my gifts and hard work and turn them in to something useful for somebody besides just me.”

Anne discovered Veterans Yoga Project and, within a month of learning about the organization, flew to Chicago to attend her first Mind-Body Resiliency Training. She returned to Minneapolis determined to help foster a VYP community where she lived.

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Anne currently manages the Veterans Yoga Project website and pulls together the quarterly newsletter. On top of that, she helps out wherever is needed, including getting the word out during America’s largest motorcycle rally.

It is a source of pride for Anne to have watched Veterans Yoga Project grow over the years.

“I’m not sure people really know how much the organization has grown in the last couple of years,” she says. “It’s been amazing to see and be a small part of the growing-up process.”

Anne is also proud to be a part of the group of volunteers that helps keep Veterans Yoga Project going.

“It’s great to see such dedication and talent,” she says, “and people willing to give so much of themselves and their time to help.”