NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Sometimes, military veterans struggle when they return home with post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health problem that can affect even the simplest day-to-day activities.

Thousands of veterans have found a unique way to handle life’s stressors with a 5,000-year-old practice of yoga. The Veterans Yoga Project is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 2011 with a study at the Yale University Department of Psychiatry.

The founder, Dr. Dan Libby, discovered that stress relieving activities like yoga can help with PTSD.

Sam M. Miravalle is with the Veterans Yoga Project and says the research found is paramount, saying, “80% of our encounters with veterans doing our yoga classes were associated with a reduction in distress. 64% of our encounters were associated with a reduction in pain. We have had reports of veterans sleeping better, concentrating and thinking more clearly, managing anger and aggression and finding comfort in their own skin. You have your medication, you have your medical team, you have your therapy, and you have yoga.”

Some veterans in New Orleans have been practicing yoga for quite a few years and encourage their fellow veterans and civilians alike to roll out a mat and give yoga a try.

Dominique Mcclellan is an army veteran and says, “I’m an army veteran. I was in the military for 10 years. The way we are in society, there is so much pressure that is placed upon us. We are trying to navigate through that. Then you add on top of that the other layers of being Black, a man and a veteran; life is stressful.”

Vernon Thomas is an army veteran and says, “I joined the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps in 2012. I’ve had multiple experiences with active duty at Fort Campbell. I came here in 2017 after getting off of active duty at Fort Bragg. I was looking to continue my transformation into a yogi because I saw a bunch of people getting a lot of benefits in their high impact workouts because of yoga.”

Yoga doesn’t cure stress, but many believe it can help manage it. The Veterans Yoga Project has seen improvement in the thousands of veterans and their families that they serve with free online and in-person yoga practices across the country.

The Veterans Yoga Project currently doesn’t have any in-person classes in the Southern United States, but they are working on it. In addition to providing free online classes, they partner with local yoga studios.

Magnolia Yoga Studio, has already made quite a name for itself, being the first Black-owned yoga studio in the state of Louisiana. Over the years, Adrianne “Ajax” Jackson, the owner Magnolia Yoga Studio, has worked with veterans over the years, providing yoga in partnership with the New Orleans VA Medical Center. She is currently researching becoming part of the Veterans Yoga Project, which would make Magnolia Studio the first in studio associated with it in the south.

Jackson has been practicing yoga for over 20 years and says, “It’s been remarkable! I’ve taught yoga all around the world. New Orleans, by far, is the most receptive and open city to teach yoga at. People are either very devoted to veterans, or they aren’t thinking about them at all. They share trauma where maybe the source of it is different, but the symptoms and the outcomes are the same. I have found common ground with what I can do for anyone, including veterans.”

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