By Julie Smith, Northwest GuardianNovember 2, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Promoting the healing properties of yoga and meditation to service members is Gina Garcia's job, and she takes it very seriously.
So seriously that she founded a yoga organization that recently took part in a muster at Camp Murray, which pulled together several community resources to aid wounded, ill and injured Washington State National Guard and Reservists with their transition back to civilian life.
"Our goal is to share yoga with Soldiers and connect them to their mind and their body and remind them that they're strong from the inside out," Garcia said.
Soldiers attending the muster were attached to a community-based warrior transition unit and were all taking measures to reintegrate into their communities, said Capt. Jim Moran, the CBWTU's patient administration and adaptive reconditioning representative.
"It's better for these Soldiers to heal at home in their communities, and fitness is a very important piece of (reintegration)," Moran said. "These Soldiers have different limitations now because of their injuries, whether it's an emotional injury or a physical injury. Yoga is one of the activities that will help them in their healing process and help them get stronger."
Garcia agrees with Moran, and sees yoga as a restorative tool that Soldiers can take with them to practice back in their hometowns.
"What we hear is that these Soldiers were able to let go," Garcia said. "Many of them suffer from PTSD, and it's wonderful to experience these Soldiers having breakthroughs, which means getting back to that part of them that has always been there, that peaceful part. They realize they are a lot stronger than they thought they were."
Yoga and meditation helped Staff Sgt. Michael Carlson with mobility and balance after he was wounded during his last tour in Iraq, his injury resulting in a double spine fusion and complete shoulder reconstruction.
"My mobility was minimal to none," Carlson said. "Yoga helped my balance tremendously because my equilibrium was completely shattered. I had a dynamic improvement almost immediately."
Carlson will soon be medically retired and plans to finish his bachelor's degree in nursing, but continues regularly practicing yoga in his hometown of Yakima, at a yoga studio recommended by Garcia. Her own company is called "Yoga Across America."
"(Yoga) gives you a positive outlook and is a very gentle approach," Carlson said. "Anyone can do it no matter what the limitation and everyone can get something out of it."