Wounded warriors embrace yoga
Warrior Transition Unit soldier Staff Sgt. Deneal Martin watches his yoga form in a mirror during a WTU yoga class at the Wiesbaden Fitness Center.

WIESBADEN, Germany - Yoga teacher Susan Barber gently reminded the students in her Warrior Transition Unit class that yoga is not about "no pain, no gain."

Her students were executing a pose that stretched out their hips and backs, and after Barber told the students they could get out of the pose if they wanted, all four were so enthusiastic they remained in the pose for about a minute longer.

"Remember, you want to find the balance between effort and ease," Barber told the students. "You should feel a nice stretch."

Stretching backs

Slowly, one by one, each of the students in the April 19 class at the Wiesbaden Fitness Center came out of the pose. Afterward, students said the pose was one of their favorites for strengthening and stretching their backs.

Barber, who teaches a variety of yoga classes at the center, said she started noticing that Soldiers in the WTU were coming to her regular class, so she decided to start a class especially for them.

The mission of WTUs is to return Soldiers back to duty with their units or to help them transition out of the Army as they prepare for civilian life.

Sgt. James McCord was one of the Soldiers who came to Barber's class before she started the WTU class. He started doing yoga in February because he thought it would help his back, and he was right. "Since I started doing it, it's really helped," he said.

The leg and hip stretches have helped the most, McCord said.

The private class for WTU Soldiers is more concentrated on the needs of the Soldiers, whereas the other class was more general, McCord said.

If and when he can get back to working out, McCord said he plans to integrate yoga into his fitness plan. For now, the yoga alone is helping immensely.

Staff Sgt. Deneal Martin said he started doing yoga three months ago. "It's making me strong and it's making me healthier, mind, body and soul," he said. "It's really rewarding."

Martin said he has tried a variety of different therapies for his back, but nothing has worked as well as yoga. "When I'm done with a session, I'm more mobile and strong. It keeps me more flexible, and I can go on with my day-to-day activities."

Barber said she has a friend who works with the Give Back Yoga Foundation, which provides yoga classes for veterans, and that was another reason that spurred her to start the class.

The Wiesbaden Community Spouses Club recently provided Barber with a grant to buy copies of the Give Back Yoga book for veterans, Barber said. Participants in the class will receive the book and other items, such as compact discs and charts.

Although there are 23 Soldiers in the WTU, between 10 and 15 usually attend the class each week, Barber said. Some Soldiers are not able to make it every week because of appointments.

The class received a special visitor in April, Barber said. Bickram yoga is a form of yoga performed in rooms at high temperatures, and Bickram Choudhury founded it. His wife, Rajashree Choudhury, visited the class and talked about yoga.

For more information about Barber, visit www.susanbarberwellness.com.

For more information about the Give Back Yoga Foundation, visit givebackyoga.org.

For more information about Warrior Transition Units, visit wtc.army.mil/about_us/wtu.html.

Page last updated Wed May 22nd, 2013 at 00:00