Yoga Helps Recenter Nation's Returning Vets

Many people turn to yoga for its relaxing and body-toning benefits, but it may do much more than that. Health Reporter Erin Billups takes a look at a program that uses yoga to help veterans transition back to civilian life.

Studies have shown that yoga breathing and meditation techniques can help people who have survived disasters and those who are struggling with anxiety, depression and even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"We have what we call in the field monkey mind. Our minds jump from one object to another object. And the yoga and the meditation allows you to watch it and calm it so that you're not captive of your own mind," says Manhattan College Religious Studies Professor Stephen Kaplan.

After talking with one of his students, a veteran, Kaplan connected Manhattan College's student-veterans to the program Warriors at Ease. 

Former Sailor Paul Gianatiempo says it's helped with his anxiety and ADHD.

"I've found that meditation, especially the breathing techniques that we learned have helped me a lot and I'll go from you know, having a couple hundred things in my head to maybe 20.  And I can focus a lot more," says Gianatiempo.

Former airman Jaime Ramirez is juggling the adjustment back from Afghanistan with the stress brought on by divorce. Yoga offers him much needed relaxation. 

"It was a huge transition for me and this program and the moral that we've kind of established with my fellow veterans has been real beneficial," says Ramirez.

That community aspect is a key element of their yoga sessions.

"Those are the guys who I gravitate to, the majority of my friends are the veterans... my thing is helping out my brothers who have served," says Ramirez.

"They go from a space where they have amazing community where they're sleeping together, they're eating together, they have each other's backs, and they come into, back into the United States, where we're a society where there's not that much community," says Tournesol Wellness Founder & CEO Carey Davidson.

Davidson runs Tournesol Wellness on East 36th Street in Manhattan, which has a program helping vets cope through yoga.

"It just, it re-wires our brain, it quiets us, it gets us out of the fight-or-flight, and there's tremendous benefits, both emotional and physical," she says.

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