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Creating Calm from Chaos

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The issue of stress is rampant in our culture. With ever-lengthening lists to get done, and increasing demands on our time and attention, stress is showing itself at every level of society. When you compound the ever-present stress with the strains of being at war, it can be hard to imagine how anyone could function. Mindful Yoga Therapy, supported by Give Back Yoga Foundation. is offering a path to healing for these individuals.

Over two million service members were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and one of every three who returned suffer from some kind of debilitating stress or brain disorder. Mindful Yoga Therapy was founded by Suzanne Manafort, a yoga teacher who spent 8 years working in a clinical setting with veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress. Through those years, she worked to create a system based on empirically tested tools to help veterans find their way back into “a life of strength and resilience.”

Today, this system is available at 47 VA facilities across the country, and has been clinically proven to be effective when used in partnership with psychotherapy. The Mindful Yoga Therapy “Toolbox” includes five main parts, each having been shown through clinical trials to be effective in helping trauma survivors return to some kind of normalcy. While this program is specially designed for veterans who suffer from PTSD, it can also support anyone who is experiencing any kind of stress in their lives that feels overwhelming.

  • Asana: The Mindful Yoga Therapy practice guide includes asanas that are relatively simple, but have been shown to be effective in dealing with stress. The accompanying posture guide gives a visual map to the asanas. They include a range of moving postures, along with standing balance work and seated poses.
  • Meditation: A simple practice of meditation is included to help bring awareness to the present moment, and to become more aware of thoughts and their nature.
  • Pranayama: Manafort produced a simple breathwork cd to guide veterans in a practice of becoming aware and attentive to the breath. She also includes a calming breath sequence as well as the invigorating Uijayi breath.
  • Yoga Nidra: This cd is titled ‘Deep Relaxation, and is meant to guide the listener to a place where body and mind can be restored. Yoga nidra is believed to be helpful in lessening symptoms of PTSD, increasing skills for coping and helping to reach deep sleep.
  • Gratitude: The practice of gratitude has been shown through the field of Positive Psychology to increase resilience. Practitioners are directed to focus on specific parts of their lives that they can appreciate, no matter how small.

By designing this system and bringing its’ wisdom to yoga teachers around the country, Manafort is helping to stabilize and calm the bodies and minds of our veterans. If are suffering from stress in your life, try the program youself, or you can support the program by going to givebackyoga.org


Kalia Kelmenson

Kalia Kelmenson is the editorial director at Spirituality & Health. She founded Maui Mind and Body to support women’s health, and is the creator of Mind Body Booty Camp. Kalia loves to explore the fascinating intersection of fitness and mind-body health, and to share inspiration for your movement practice from the research emerging from this intriguing field.



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