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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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