By Joel McFarlandApril 6, 2017
FORT SILL, Okla. (April 6, 2017) -- By now you have heard that the number one priority in the Army is readiness, but what does that really mean? What does readiness look like to the average Soldier? Is it enough to have your periodic health assessment completed, or to make an appointment with the Health Readiness Center at Reynolds Army Health Clinic (RAHC)? What happens when the issues that affect Soldier readiness are not so visible from the outside?
In November, the RAHC Behavioral Health Department staff highlighted the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and the work done to improve the mental health and readiness of Soldiers.
Thanks to a dedicated volunteer, the IOP had the opportunity to offer a yoga program to Soldiers who are enrolled in the program. Jennifer Morrison, a Lawton native and student at Cameron University is a certified Yoga Fit instructor. Since July she has volunteered through the Red Cross to provide weekly yoga classes for those in the IOP.
"Yoga is an ancient tradition that has been practiced for thousands of years; the benefits of yoga have only been observed in the East and as Westerners, we are just now beginning to understand and experience the applications of yoga, as well as experiencing the benefits of regular practice," Morrison said.
Capt. Fe Nall, IOP officer in charge, echoed Morrison's statement.
"Yoga is an adjunctive service that is specified in the (Army Medical Command) IOP manual for us to implement in the program so I am thrilled to have Jennifer on board. The practice has been around for years, but with more research coming out on the benefits on psychiatric illness; hopefully, it becomes part of an integrative approach," Nall said.
The Soldiers in the IOP meet once a week at the Fires Fitness Center where Morrison instructs the yoga session. Eight Soldiers were present as Morrison led them through techniques they practiced in previous sessions and introduced new stretches and poses through the hour-long class.
"I have never done yoga before and didn't know what to expect," said Pfc. Ariel Chancey, one of the Soldiers in the program. "I have really learned how to relax because of the program, and the benefits have been great."
Nall spoke of yoga joining other aspects of the IOP, namely nutrition, chaplain services, and occupational therapy.
"When we teach our patients breathing exercises and slowing their mind from a psychotherapy approach, yoga reinforces that and vice-versa. What I also like about it is our patients can experience the mind-body connection in these moves, and that is powerful," she said.
Morrison said yoga offers its practitioners many possibilities to explore as they immerse themselves in the discipline.
"As they become more advanced in their practice and attuned to their bodies, my hope is that students will be able to judge, by their emotional needs, the types of postures and breath work they should practice," she said. "By giving them these tools, they will be able to create practices for themselves that they can carry with them long after they leave the program to maintain happy and healthy lives."
So what does readiness look like?
In this case it is not quite what one might expect, but no less important to the overall health and readiness of the Soldiers enrolled in the program. Readiness is not only the Army's number one priority, but it is the mission at the Reynolds clinic to provide a system for health promoting readiness for all beneficiaries.
For more information about the IOP, call the Behavioral Health Department at 580-442-3084. For any questions on readiness, call the Health Readiness Center at 580-558-8467.