Supporting Veterans Yoga Project
Hugger Mugger was established in 1986 to help people in their practice of yoga. 38 years later, we still maintain the philosophy that it is important to assist the people in our community. Throughout the years, we have donated our time and products to a number of different charities. A percentage of all online sales is donated to a different organization each quarter. Thank you for the difference you will make when you choose a new Hugger Mugger product.
Q1 Donations: Veterans Yoga Project
We may not always remember this, but military personnel, first responders, and physical and mental health caregivers are essential to our collective wellbeing. These professionals protect our physical, mental and emotional health and freedom. All too often, the people who support us lack the kind of support they so readily provide. That’s where Veterans Yoga Project (VYP) comes in.
Dr. Daniel J. Libby first conceived of Veterans Yoga Project while doing post-doctoral work at Yale University Department of Psychiatry in Connecticut. According to VYP’s website, “while providing psychotherapy for veterans recovering from PTSD, he found that those who developed empowering self-regulating practices had better outcomes—they moved through post-traumatic stress to post-traumatic growth more quickly and gracefully.”
Libby writes, “A turning point in the founding of VYP occurred before the fourth ‘mindful yoga’ class I had ever taught. One of my veterans approached me and told me that he had stopped taking his sleep medications, because now he could meditate to go to sleep. That moment was profound. The pride with which he told me this was palpable. It’s as if he was no longer a broken man who couldn’t manage the simplest of human functions. Instead he was empowered to use his own mind, his own breath, his own body to live and sleep, in a way that brought him more ease and more joy. He practiced every day. Eventually, he went on to lead morning meditations in his own community at a local yoga center.”
Veterans Yoga Project Takes Off
Libby taught his first “Mindful Yoga Therapy” training in 2010. From there, the organization blossomed. In 2013, VYP hosted its first annual veterans retreat at Feathered Pipe Ranch in Montana. In 2014, the organization received 501 c 3 status. From there, the program has grown exponentially. Partnering with VA facilities and yoga studios across the U.S. and Canada, they reached 20,000 annual vet visits by the end of 2018.
When many studios closed during COVID, VYP began offering online classes. They currently offer 30 online classes per week, in addition to their on-site classes. The classes are free and open to all veterans, first responders and caregivers through an app you can download on their website.
The classes provide not only yoga and meditation instruction; they also provide community. VYP Chief Executive Officer Brianna Renner is a veteran herself. She began practicing yoga after retiring from the service. She says, ”Not only did yoga practice help me with my own anxiety and depression, I was also part of a group and felt a sense a belonging since I’d left the Marine Corps. While the yoga community has different beliefs than the vet community, the camaraderie is very much the same. The level of support that the yoga community provides mirrors the support of the military community. There’s a cohesion that happens. When I’d go to yoga, we were moving and breathing together, kind of like cadence and drill. It felt like home to me.”
Trauma Training for Vets
Veterans Yoga Project’s flagship program is its Mindful Resilience for Trauma Recovery Training (MRT). Registered with International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), the program is taught by and for veterans. It focuses on trauma-sensitive teaching practices, delving into the science behind trauma and best practices for helping people manage post-traumatic stress disorder. In its first year, Veterans Yoga Project offered 100 MRT trainings.
This training applies not only to military-based trauma. In 2021, VYP launched its first training to help professional and family caregivers cope with compassion fatigue. “Trauma doesn’t care whether you’ve served in uniform,” says Renner. “We serve the vet community, but we understand that these tools can be applicable to any audience.”
MRT training utilizes what they call a SPACE checklist. “The acronym stands for safety, predictability, accessible, and controllable environment,” says Renner. “We remind students that this is their practice. They’re in control of their body. We offer suggestions, but their agency in the process is most important. The SPACE checklist is especially appropriate for the classes held in a facility. When I teach, I don’t do Sanskrit, I don’t play music, I’m not touching anybody.“
How Veterans Yoga Project Changes Lives
“There have been a lot of profound moments for people who go through practice and training,” says Renner. “Vets are now teaching other vets. To say it’s life changing might be a bit dramatic, but I’ve seen it.”
A recent 200-hour Mindful Resilience Yoga Teacher Training graduate writes:
“When I retired from the military, I wasn’t prepared or trained to transition from either the service or from my combat and wartime engagement/deployments. I don’t regret my service, but I felt deserted at my finish line. I was, in a sense, blown apart as a person, and never taught how to piece myself back together to function well. Not even the VA does that with any reliability.
“What VYP has managed to do is identify, organize and deliver a program that provides recovery tools for veterans to more effectively deal with stress, TBI, PTS, and a myriad of other ailments. VYP has shown us how to gather up our blown apart selves, and carefully put our pieces back in place, and given us training to not only help keep our pieces in place, but to teach and train other soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen how to do the same thing. That’s something amazing. That can help heal a lot of damage.
“I found VYP as a widow and retiree who was sad, isolated, depressed, and struggling with PTSD. Yoga and meditation felt like a lifeline back to the surface. The staff of VYP has been more present and engaged than my own family, and it’s because they have walked this path themselves. Holding SPACE has created a new level of safety and trust. The sincerity is real. The honesty is real. The dedication to mission is real. Every single person I have encountered has been authentic, caring, incredibly knowledgeable, resourceful, creative and dedicated to helping. I am so thrilled to be a yoga teacher and to be able to give this ease to others.”
Join Us in Supporting Veterans Yoga Project
For the quarter spanning January through March 2024, a percentage of Hugger Mugger’s net sales will go to Veterans Yoga Project. Please join us in supporting this organization’s crucial and inspiring work.
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