THEORY OF CHANGE
Veterans Yoga Project exists to create positive change in the world by supporting our communities' most valuable assets: VETERANS.
Not all veterans are recovering from trauma. Not all people who are recovering from trauma are veterans. VYP began as an effort to specifically support veterans who were in recovery from trauma-related challenges. While that continues to be our "niche", VYP has grown into an organization that supports all of our veterans, families, and communities. We support the use of yoga to aid in recovery from, and to build resilience in preparation for, life's ordinary and extraordinary challenges.
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. This includes 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 PTS(D) often feel like their bodies, minds, and entire lives are out of control.
Difficulties in job performance, academic performance and family responsibilities lead to significant psychosocial problems. PTS(D) is associated with increased rates of divorce, unemployment, homelessness, and legal issues.
The deterioration of social supports often lead to hospitalization, incarceration, or suicide. More than 2 million American veterans are struggling with these PTS(D) symptoms (not to mention American civilians and civilian and veterans of other countries). Despite heroic efforts by many in and out of the VA system, the men and women who have served us are not getting the services they need. The downward spiral that begins with physiological dysfunction leads to overwhelming symptoms, difficulty managing everyday stressors, “burned bridges”, and significant legal, medical, and financial difficulties. An average of 20 American veterans commit suicide each day!
Veterans Yoga Project teaches self-regulation skills. Our Mindful Resilience program consists of five tools: Breath, Meditation, Mindful Movement, Guided Rest, and Gratitude. We encourage everyone we work with to find out which of these tools supports them. We all need to take time to turn our attention inward and practice developing strength, stability, and flexibility in mind, body, and spirit. For those recovering from post-traumatic stress, these practices can undo the nervous system dysfunction that underlie symptoms.
Veterans Yoga Project creates opportunities for healing through multi-day retreats. Taking extended time out of our usual environments with all of the associated responsibilities and distractions is important for healing. These retreats clear the time and space necessary to release the traumatic imprints that negatively influence our lives and create new habits that are more aligned with our values and goals. For many these retreats also create the space to heal relationships with significant others.
Veterans Yoga Project provides advanced training in Mindful Resilience for yoga teachers and healthcare professionals. Our weekend training provides yoga teachers with the skills to safely and effectively use yoga as a complementary therapy in clinical settings. Scholarships are provided to all veteran yoga teachers and to dependents as funding allows. We provide veterans with training and ongoing mentoring so that they can teach these mind/body skills to other veterans.
By providing support to all veterans, whether they are currently struggling with severe symptoms, or they are focused on increasing resilience and giving back to their brothers and sisters, Veterans Yoga Project is doing its part to bring the number of veterans who commit suicide each day from 20 to none.