When I returned home from Iraq in 2005, I was a hot mess. I just wanted to ignore the last year of my life. I was in a failing relationship with a man who viewed Iraq like a speed bump—as if it were something we both just needed to get over. My ailing father was in a nursing home and I just couldn’t deal with this new reality. So I took off. I hadn’t been home a month before I bought a plane ticket for North Carolina. Then Los Angeles. Then I jumped into a car and drove down to Mexico, back to New York, and then back to LA. Nothing could make me relax—I always had to be doing something or going somewhere.
Nearly six years later, I realize how unhealthy my behavior was. I wasn’t hurting anyone, but I never truly let myself decompress. Running around the country with friends was a sedative and getting lost in Mexico in an unregistered car was a high. In retrospect, I should’ve done what I’m doing now—yoga and working out. Yoga in particular helps me relax and take control of my thoughts. It gives me the ability to reduce uncontrollable stress and improve my physical condition.
And I know I’m not alone. The video above shares the story of Veterans at the VA Medical Center in Milwaukee who use yoga as a means to help transition back into civilian life.
If you’re looking for an alternative way to relax and focus your energy, I’m all for trying a yoga class. I know some people have preconceived notions of yoga, but don’t worry; there’s no pressure to contort your body into a position that’s uncomfortable for you. You set your own pace. There are yoga studios throughout the country that offer up to four free yoga classes. For more information, visit Yoga For Vets.
I can’t say yoga has killed my desire to jump in a car and drive down to Mexico, but it has taught me how to slow down. A lot. Give it a try and let me know what you think!