Before Joseph Dolock participated in Elizabeth Johnstone’s Yoga for Veterans at Mystic Yoga Shala he thought yoga was a group of people who sat around drinking carrot juice and contemplating life. The former combat infantry platoon leader served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. He has struggled with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder for decades, and in a quest to find new ways to be calm and relaxed he decided to give yoga a chance.
Months later yoga has become a part of Dolock’s life.
“For me yoga is another tool to help me get through life when there is no light at the end of the tunnel,” Dolock said.
Yoga for Veterans at Mystic Yoga Shala began this past summer as part of the grassroots organization Recovery Yoga. The hour-long class meets at 4 p.m. on Sundays. It’s a donation class created specifically for veterans, active duty military personnel and first responders.
The classes are for all ages and skill levels and while the first 45-minutes are spent practicing yoga the last 15-minutes are for relaxation and mediation.
“It’s just amazing to see the effect yoga has on people,” Johnstone said.
Johnstone founded Recovery Yoga, a nonprofit organization that teaches healing and personal empowerment through yoga, after she attended a personal revolution boot camp in May 2007.
“Yoga had such an effect on me that I wanted to share it with others,” Johnstone said.
Johnstone began teaching weekly mediation classes at York Correctional Institution, and since then the program has expanded to classes at Waterford Country School, the Amethyst House Treatment Center in North Haven and Safe Futures in New London. Yoga for Veterans is her newest program and the one she is the most excited about right now.
“It’s the women who bring the guys at first,” Johnstone said. “The girlfriends and the wives but then it’s the guys that come back.” Tom Brady does yoga, there are guy guys who do this,” Johnstone addeds with a laugh.
The Veterans Administration has been working with nonprofits for several years on programs that combine yoga with therapy. Recent studies have shown that yoga is effective in reducing anxiety.
“There is such a need for programs like this, and it’s proven to be helpful,” Johnstone said.
Johnstone stresses that yoga for veterans with PTSD should be done in conjunction with other types of therapy, and that the yoga is just one support mechanism. She hopes the people who attend her classes leave with something that will help them find peace in life.
Dolock is one of those people.
“I would like to continue with Yoga,” Dolock said. “I see a value and a place where I think I can trust people.”