For many New Yorkers, yoga is more than exercise — it's a tool to relieve stress. That's what one yoga instructor had in mind when she started a class for military veterans.
Former Marine and instructor Anu Bhagwaiti re-discovered yoga while seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and physical injuries related to her military service. She become a certified yoga teacher in 2008 and founded Yoga for Veterans soon after. She’s also the head up of a non profit called the Service Women's Action Network.
She said the program is designed specifically for vets dealing with injuries or trauma but anyone who has served is welcome, regardless of age or previous yoga experience.
Air Force veteran Garrett Philips treks down from the Bronx to attend the class in the West Village. He said he’s come to rely on it and really appreciates that it’s free.
"I'm on a kind of low budget right now so especially as a veteran it feels really good that there's something like that out there for us and particularly because we are taught by a couple of veterans."
Garrett said he also likes the feeling of camaraderie he gets beings around other vets in the class.
Another instructor, Sarah Wolf, said yoga also helps service members unlearn the "no pain no gain" mentality.
"In the military people are taught you know, you have to do what you're told to do; whereas in yoga we encourage people first of all to listen to their bodies and if we’re instructing a pose that’s uncomfortable or causing discomfort, really learning to listen to your body and say I’m going to sit this one out.”
The Wednesday and Thursday evening classes are offered at no charge to vets at the Integral Yoga Institute.