Yoga Practices for Veterans: Body Scan

Bhava Ram teaches teachers how to integrate the benefits of yoga at the cellular level through a gentle and simple body scan in Savasana.

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.

How many of you feel stress? Daily? Like it just seems to go with being alive? These are questions I often ask when teaching a workshop or delivering a keynote speech. All the hands in the audience usually go up.

If we liken our daily stress levels to a constant cold that sometimes spikes into the flu, then PTSD would be like the ebola virus. Often immobilizing. Sometimes deadly.

Also see Discover the Peaceful Practice of Yoga Nidra

Integrate Yoga’s Benefits in Savasana

Through the first four cornerstones of practice I use with veterans facing PTSD—Silent MantraMindful BreathingMindful Motion, and Mindful Emotions—yoga students cultivate single-pointed concentration, a stilling of the mind, breath awareness, presence, and embodiment. In Savasana, this becomes more deeply integrated at the cellular level through a gentle and simple body scan. Here is the final of the five practices:

Body Scan

  1.  Invite your students to let the air breathe them now.
  2.  Feel the support of the earth.
  3. Continue silently chanting their positive emotion mantra, “I Am Peace, Gratitude, Acceptance, Forgiveness,” etc.
  4. Gently guide them through a body scan, inviting them to place their awareness in their toes, then their ankles, calves, knees, thighs…Move through the entire body in a way that resonates with you, always ending with awareness in the heart.

If you are working with students facing major life trauma, I applaud you. The more we help others heal, the more we truly move toward being the change we seek in the world.

See also Hala Khouri’s Path to Teaching Trauma-Informed Yoga

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.