WBUR

Veterans Turn To Yoga To Cope With PTSD

In the dim light of the attic at the Easton YMCA, Marine Corps veteran Derek Adameic practices yoga. (Andrew Phelps/WBUR)

In the dim light of the attic at the Easton YMCA, Marine Corps veteran Derek Adameic practices yoga. (Andrew Phelps/WBUR)

EASTON, Mass. — On the attic floor of an old YMCA, Derek Adameic is sitting in the lotus position, cross-legged with his eyes closed. The lights are dim and soothing music plays. He’s practicing yoga.

He inhales deeply, then lets out a long, deep breath.

Adameic hasn’t always been able to relax like this. The 33-year-old spent 10 years in the Marine Reserves Corp. In his last tour, in 2005, he was deployed to Afghanistan.

When he came home, Adameic started to experience symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Though he hasn’t officially been diagnosed, Adameic is appealing that decision to the Department of Veterans Affairs to quality for military benefits.

He got a job in construction and tried to just get on with his life. “Some guys, myself too,” he says, “sometimes you don’t want to think about it. It’s easier just to get back going with life so you don’t have to think about it. And then it catches up with you.”

It caught up with Adameic. He remembers exactly when.

“January of 2008,” he says. “I was working on a union job and it got to be wintertime, so I got laid off for the winter. And I just remember sitting in my apartment on the couch and just thinking about myself and everything that was going on.”

Adameic says he had anger problems, was having trouble sleeping and just didn’t feel quite right. “I wasn’t talking to people, I wasn’t talking to my friends like I had before I left,” he says. “I crawled in a hole and pulled the world in after me. I was isolated, and it wasn’t me, and I decided I need to talk to somebody.”

A Vietnam veteran referred Adameic to the Brockton Veterans Center. “He said, it took me 40 years to get there and I don’t think you want to wait 40 years,” Adameic recalls. “Go and talk to somebody.”

Adameic joined a support group at the Veterans Center. And one day, a woman walked in carrying yoga mats and introduced herself as Sue Lynch. And before they knew it, this group of manly veterans was stretching and meditating.

“The Shivashna at the end, where you just lay on the mat and you put an eye pillow on — I had never seen an eye pillow before, so that was another new one,” Adameic says, smiling. “But I was all kind of keyed up and, by the end of it, when I laid down, I fell asleep. I was just that relaxed.”

Now, Adameic, and most of the same veterans he was with in the support group that first day, meet here with Lynch every week for a yoga class and for support.

Adameic says it has changed his life. He often uses the breathing exercises he learned here to control his anger. It’s something he says could help the thousands of veterans coming home with problems similar to his.

We asked if he thinks the military is doing enough to take care of its veterans.

“They’re learning, it was everybody’s learning curve,” he says. “We hadn’t fought a real war in a long time and I don’t think they realized exactly how bad it was going to be. Not necessarily the casualties, but also what they’d have to deal with when they got home. And I think the VA and the military are starting to realize that.”

For one thing, he says, Lynch and others like her now meet with service members before deployment, to let them know there will be help when they get back. Adameic says he wishes someone would have told him that.

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  • felice brenner

    I am running a program at the VA in JP for Yoga and Vets.
    It has been hugely successful and now meets twice a week.

    I have been trying to gain funding to expand this to other facilities and incorporate and work with other departments, but have not made much progress.

    I wonder if you might be interested in following up with another story here.

    Best,

    Felice Brenner
    felicebre@comcast.net

  • http://wbur.org JM

    Go vets! It works for me.

  • Dave

    This is great. And it’s great to see BUR covering these issues when so few others aren’t. Liberal media, yeah. They’re doing more for soliders in this capacity than Fox News is. Hope these programs get funding instead of all our money going to help Afghan farmers whose fields we ruin (another story on NPR).

  • http://www.thereandback-again.org Sue Lynch

    Derek and his fellow veterans have been in There & Back Again’s wellness reintegration program since October 2009. We focus on veterans teaching veterans. Many of the veterans have experienced relief from many of PTSD symptoms — especially, anger and insomnia. For more information on our services please go to http://www.thereandback-again.org.

  • http://eyeofthestormstudio.comunderconstruction Jerry Lagadec

    I’ve been practicing and teaching yoga [The Maha Yoga Center] for almost 40 years. I am currently working on developing a Project called “SHAMAN”.[see website] A friend – ED Douzanis- [we are both veterans]who is a practicing Shaman himself- and I are planning to teach a course that combines yoga, meditation Native American flute and Shamanic drumming; it’s aimed at releasing the negative tensions of PTSD. If you are interested, contact me. Money is not the object at this time.

  • http://eyeofthestormstudio.comunderconstruction Jerry Lagadec

    I’ve been practicing and teaching yoga [The Maha Yoga Center] for almost 40 years. I am currently working on developing a Project called “SHAMAN”.[see website:[eyeofthestormstudio.com]] A friend – ED Douzanis- [we are both veterans]who is a practicing Shaman himself- and I are planning to teach a course that combines yoga, meditation Native American flute and Shamanic drumming; it’s aimed at releasing the negative tensions of PTSD. If you are interested, contact me. Money is not the object at this time.For more information: glagadec@juno.com

  • http://www.beerbrew.com Bruce Lucier

    If anybody in central Massachusetts is interested in this program, an excellent one is in place in West Boylston, just north of Worcester. Lucy, the director there, is a pioneer in using yoga to counter PTSD. I believe she trained Ms. Lynch in the Yoga Warriors program.

    They cooperate with the Worcester Vet Center and have some free classes, I believe, for those who can’t afford to pay.

    Check out their website for more information: http://www.yogawarriors.com

  • Kathy M

    I am getting my yoga certification at Kripalu this fall/spring and am very interested in starting a yoga for ptsd program in the Albany NY area. Any suggestions on how to get started?

  • David Frankel

    Hi Kathy,
    My name is David Frankel. I and several other yoga teachers have started a charitable organization called Connected Warriors http://www.theconnectedwarriors.org . We can help you set up a class in the Albany area if you are still interested. We started in February with one class and now (May) have four with requests for 5 or 6 more.

  • Barry

    Kathy – connect with yogawarriors.com for specialized training for vets.   Contact American Legion, local vet centers and such to set up yoga programs.  And your efforts highly appreciated by this vet,
    Barry Schweiger  barryla.twcbc.com

  • Divineprincessoflight

    The Baba Siri Chand Yoga and Retreat Center in Millis, Ma will be offering free Yoga, Meditation, Tai Chi and Quigong for the month of January 2012 for Military Service men and woman and their families. for more info http://www.YogaAtTheAshram.org or call 508-376-4528 Blessings to all!

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