ARLINGTON, Va. – Soldiers assigned to the Fort Bragg Soldier Recovery Unit in North Carolina now have a new adaptive reconditioning option to choose from: a yoga class, which kicked off this past fall and offers a number of benefits.
The class is led by Cheryle Dangell, an instructor with 30 years of experience, some of which was volunteer service at Fort Bragg. Off the yoga mat, she’s familiar with military life as well because she hails from a military family.
Dangell is trained to teach yoga to service members with traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress, amputees and those who have experienced sexual trauma while serving. She completed the coursework as part of an advanced certification process.
When it comes to the SRU’s new yoga program, she enjoys the challenge of each practice and not knowing what each day will entail.
“I also love the conversations, jokes and general mischief of the students,” Dangell said.
The Fort Bragg SRU wanted to offer yoga for Soldiers who need to work on stretching and mobility, said Recreation Therapist Lee Whitford. They can rehabilitate more quickly by getting their flexibility back, he said. In addition, yoga can help Soldiers gain familiarity with staff, see the adaptive reconditioning program’s facility and enable them to expand on what they are currently doing, he said.
“I like that it’s able to reach out to a lot more of our Soldiers,” Whitford said.
Dangell will teach indoor and outdoor classes twice weekly, all of which incorporate COVID-19 precautionary measures. They hold classes in their own gym, sanitize equipment after each practice, maintain social distancing and limit practices to ten participants, Whitford said.
Classes differ, but Dangell explained that they tend to start with a warm-up that interweaves breath and movements and then transitions into a physical phase that works on stretching, endurance and strength. Yoga concludes with a meditation that pulls the entire practice together, Whitford said.
Staff Sergeant Ryan Stumpff, a Soldier assigned to the Fort Bragg SRU, said that yoga has always been an interest of his because the flexibility and strength are similar to Brazilian jiujitsu. However, it wasn’t something he actively pursued before.
Stumpff has learned that some aspects of yoga are very peaceful. He feels not only that sense of peace, but also rest and calm in class, particularly during the closing.
“There’s something unique about listening to calming sounds and calming voices and being coached through physical and mental awareness,” he said.
Dangell shared that yoga results in a stretched-out body that heals more quickly and a stretched-out mind that is more connected to the body. She said that one pertinent aspect of yoga is drawing attention to the breath while the body is in motion. She explained that this does several things, such as bringing the Soldier into the present, slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
Stumpff said that he can’t think of a single reason not to do yoga and that is partly because it can be catered to individuals, even in a class setting.
“And I strongly doubt anyone would contend that yoga at the very least offers physical strength, flexibility, and mental calm,” he said. “Things you can never have too much of.”