Yoga and the military don't seem like an obvious pairing. But our New Yorker of the Week has experienced first-hand how the healing powers of yoga can help troubled Veterans. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.
As a former Marine, Anu Bhagwati was trained to survive. But her toughest fights weren't always physical.
She also battled the emotional and psychological challenges of being a woman in the military.
"I could have been anywhere," she said. "It didn’t matter. For many women, gender is the biggest challenge."
"That daily discrimination and harassment really eats away at you," she added. "When I left, I didn’t realize the pain that I was experiencing. It kind of unfolded on its own. I kind of felt like an alien in my own body and an alien in my community."
She found a community in the city willing to help her heal through yoga. And Bhagwati wanted to bring this healing power to other veterans suffering with physical and emotional wounds.
"I had left the Marines expecting to do something different and leave my marine career behind," she said. "I suddenly woke up one day and decided I want to teach yoga to veterans. This was actually a way that I could connect in a safe way back with the military community."
Four years ago, she founded Yoga for Vets NYC, offering free yoga classes twice a week at the Integral Yoga Institute in Manhattan. Classes are taught by veterans and for veterans
"Yoga teaches you to really witness your feelings and not constantly fight against them," she said. "We are trained to resist and reject things that will make us feel weaker, so it’s very counter-intuitive to be trained in yoga and meditation. Learning to co-exist with your own rage and learning to co-exist with post-traumatic stress and depression, these things can’t be taught. It has to be experienced."
"It's like a B-12 shot for me," said veteran Garrett Phillips. "I have all this energy. And just the physical sensation. My knee is a little bit more supple, my back is a little bit better."
And so, for helping New York’s vets heal inside and out, Anu Bhagwati is our New Yorker of the Week.