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A Yoga Therapist Working to Heal Veterans

Wed, 11/08/2023 - 17:59
“Yoga saves lives, there’s no question in my mind,” Judy Weaver says.
Jack Graves

Judy Weaver, a yoga therapist and teacher of yoga teachers who often has visited here in the summer, said at The Star not long ago that “your DNA from your mom and dad from the moment of conception determine your state of being. It’s called epigenetics, it’s a buzzword now. Your DNA is the architect of who you are; your life in the environment is the general contractor.”

Weaver, who lives in South Florida, where she frequently works with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, would like to do similar work here next summer, under the aegis of the Connected Warriors and Bodymind Recalibration programs that she founded.

A South Korean orphan who was adopted in 1961 by an American theatrical couple based in Los Angeles, she said she “always had the sense that I was a crybaby. I was afraid of loud noises, afraid of the dark, all of that. . . . I was born with P.T.S.D.”

A severe parasitic intestinal illness that kept her in bed for 18 months in the mid-1980s prompted her, “when I finally started to feel better, to ask a girlfriend of mine to drive me to a yoga class. I was as weak as could be, but yoga healed me. I immediately became addicted to it, I kept needing it. Eventually, I became a yoga teacher, in the late ‘90s, and when my husband and I moved back to Florida from California, to Boca Raton, where I am now, I began to teach.”

A 34-year-old former Army Ranger, Beau McVane, who walked into her studio one day “changed my life. He’d done five tours in the Middle East, and he tells me he’d just been diagnosed at the Miami V.A. hospital with A.L.S.”

“It was 100-percent related to his service — it’s the chemicals they use. His doctor was forward-thinking — he suggested that he do yoga. I worked with him for two and a half years, two times a week, and the work we did together ameliorated the disease. I could get him to move his fingers on demand. I truly believe this practice kept him and his family — you always get the families involved too — out of depression.”

Her work with McVane convinced her that she could use yoga’s power to master the active mind to help heal people, especially first responders and veterans, who “have been more present in chaos than they have been in peace. I can fix that. Our soldiers are killing themselves in the trauma of coming home — they can’t down-regulate. Either you increase your resiliency or you decrease it. It’s the body that rules, not the brain. In yoga, mind and body are one and the same, literally one thing, bodymind. I tell my clients, ‘Your body knew the answer, you just didn’t know how to hear it.’ “

Weaver taught her first yoga class for vets in Boca Raton 13 years ago, and soon she and the instructors she taught were helping veterans far and wide, under her Connected Warriors and Y.O.G.A. (Your Own Growth and Awareness) banners.

“Learn tools to manage stress, anxiety, depression, and the side effects of T.B.I. [traumatic brain injury], P.T.S.D., and insomnia,” says a flier put out by Connected Warriors, “the largest volunteer organization in the United States offering evidence-based Trauma Conscious yoga therapy to service members, veterans, and their families at no cost.”

“Pre-pandemic,” she said, “we were in 16 active duty military installations all over the world whose classes were taught by active duty service members whom we trained . . . in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar. . . . We would go into places and say, ‘You guys need us.’ Since 2010, we’ve made over 180,000 visits with zero reported suicides. We’ve got classes going in the Manhattan area, but Suffolk County has zero V.A. services. You have to go to Connecticut or up to Nassau. We need to get more known in this area — we are going to work here.”

“Multigenerational trauma descends down the line. . . . It’s been found that mindfulness practice is equivalent to Lexapro for anxiety and depression. Yoga changes your chemistry, it takes down stress. Conscious breathing, inhaling, exhaling, opens the door to the nervous system. You can down-regulate the nervous system, you can control it, and maintain that level.”

“If I could get this into every country, there would be peace on earth! In the end, it’s really about communication, isn’t it? How you communicate with yourself, with your family, with your community . . . how communities communicate with one another.  Starting from a place of nonviolence is a good starting point. It would be great to diminish our propensity to want to go out and hit somebody. Yoga saves lives, there’s no question in my mind.”


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