Teaching Yoga

Yoga Practices for Veterans: Mindful Breathing

Those facing major life trauma often feel disconnected from their physical bodies. Bhava Ram guides them back with the breath.

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In this five-part series, author Bhava Ram explores the insight the film American Sniper offers into the yoga of war, the mind of a veteran, and the practices crucial to finding the next mission.

This yoga for veterans series began by noting the similarity between the yoga of war, as demonstrated in the movie American Sniper, and the practices at the very heart of my teaching yoga to veterans. While simple, they have transformative power and potency for all practitioners. For veterans facing PTSD, these techniques can offer a pathway toward resiliency and renewal if embraced over time with dedication. That is why this year I founded Warriors for Healing, in partnership with Yoga Journal, to embrace selfless service, help our wounded warriors, and increase awareness of the healing benefits of yoga to a broader national audience.

Mindful Breathing for Veterans

When working with veterans I always seek to facilitate the transition from the fight-or-flight reaction of the stress response to the rest-and-restore state, where true healing begins. The first cornerstone of my teaching, the Silent “I AM” Mantra, is a powerful yoga practice for the agitated mind. This practice is the second of five I use to teach yoga to veterans:

Mindful Breath

Those facing major life trauma often feel disconnected from their physical bodies. flow gently guides them into “re-embodiment.” It’s effectiveness is deepened when the silent mantra, “I AM,” is synchronized with the breath. Here’s how to link mindful breath with movement:

  1. Inhale deeply to lift the arms to the sky, as you silently chant “I.”
  2. Exhale fully as you lower the arms with the chant of “AM.”
  3. Continue connecting movement, mantra, and breath this way throughout the yoga practice. Return the focus to these three keys, whenever the mind wanders.

The mantra moves the breath and the flow of breath moves the body, creating deeper states of attention and inner awareness. Nerves settle. Hyper-vigilance subsides. Space for inner healing expands. I AM.

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Bhava Ram is founder of the Warriors for Healing Foundation, in partnership with Yoga Journal LIVE!, Give Back Yoga, and Connected Warriors. He is also author of the highly acclaimed memoir, Warrior Pose, How Yoga Literally Saved My Life, which is scheduled to be released as a feature film in 2016.