Updated: June 11th, 2021
What happens when our preconceived notions are completely wrong?
I did yoga.
That doesn’t sound like something that would be very taxing right? Wrong.
I did YogaShield® Yoga For First Responders® and let me tell you, the six 10 hour days were some of the most mentally and physically challenging of my life. The YogaShield ® Instructor School focuses on Military and First Responders and how breathing and yoga can reduce stress, build resilience, and enhance performance.
I am now a believer.
I am self admittedly about 25% cheeky wit, 25% sarcasm, 25% coffee, and 100% stress/anxiety (probably made worse by the coffee intake). I went into this week with the expectation of laying on a mat and spacing out for a week while worrying about what I wasn’t getting done for work. In reality, I went to places emotionally that I haven’t gone in a while. I pushed myself to be better every day. I learned that everybody’s limits are different; and that if you leave your ego at the door and not compare yourself to others, the things you can accomplish are unbelievable. I also learned that I’ve breathed wrong for 34 years and had sore ribs by Tuesday.
So why am I doing a story time about my journey to self-discovery?
I went through this experience with around 30 battle buddies from the Army and Air National Guard. In the classroom and on the mat, rank didn’t matter. Physical appearance and limitations didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered for 6 days was to be all in. By being “all in”, a different kind of Family was formed. We “embraced the suck” together. We supported each other while our legs were shaking and while the feels were being felt. We encouraged each other to reach for the 4% extra in our movements and get mentally and physically better each day.
Why would this matter to the Soldiers and Families of the Army National guard?
This is a different way to offer resiliency skills to our Soldiers and their Families out of the classroom setting. One of the main themes of this training was anybody can do yoga. If you have a spine and can breathe you are able to center your mind and body. I learned in 6 days you can accomplish most anything if you can breathe through it and leave ego out of it. I also realized that yoga positions can directly correlate with tactical skills in the Military. For example, when in the prone position to shoot (laying on the ground) that is a yoga pose called cobra and that breathing skills learned can increase shot accuracy. Yoga also strengthens the ability to move with intention. This means being aware of what your body is doing at all times and ensuring that movement has a purpose.
Did you know that roughly 18 Veterans die from self-inflicted means in the United States per day?
The Military is aware that this is a problem and initiatives have been put in place to try to reduce this number. However, the stigma surrounding mental health and admitting to any issues is still very much a problem. Is there a way to be proactive in teaching skills to reduce stress and increase mental fortitude before it’s too late? If you would have asked me 2 weeks ago I would have given the standard Military answer. We have briefs on resilience and teaching resiliency skills often. Each unit has Master Resilience Trainers and the Iowa Army National Guard has two level 2 Master Resilience Trainers. We also have Soldiers and civilians that are trained in suicide prevention. But what if we added yoga breathing and skills? Utilizing the skills we already teach, with skills that can add physical resilience will take our ability to provide mental stability to a whole new level.
June is Post Traumatic Stress month. I purposefully left out disorder.
This would indicate that there is something wrong with a person affected by this condition. Soldiers and their Families are affected by this daily. Either they themselves have suffered a post traumatic event or they know someone who has. Just think what would happen if you could breathe through a panic attack or shift focus by doing some quick yoga skills. I for one benefited from my six days with YogaShield® and encourage anyone interested to reach out to the Warrior and Family Services Branch for an instructor.
Written by YogaShield® Trainee Lindsey Bockelmann, Soldier & Family Readiness Specialist
Originally Published in the Iowa National Guard Newsletter
Lindsey Bockelmann,. attended the closed Instructor School, 016, at Camp Dodge in Des Moines, Iowa for the first round of two Instructor Schools for the Iowa Army National Guard and Iowa Air National Guard. Once she completes her post-training requirements she will become a YFFR Certified Level 2 Instructor. Where she will be one of 60+ Soliders and Airmen who will be implementing the YogaShield® Protocol into their training regimen across the state of Iowa.