Area veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or similar issues are invited to free trauma-sensitive yoga classes at Monona Yoga Center.

Yoga teacher Kat Casey said her business recently partnered with Connected Warriors, a Florida-based nonprofit organization that reaches into two dozen states and nine countries to offer the free classes to veterans and their family members.

“They train certified yoga teachers in the specified trauma-sensitive yoga,” Casey said. “The intention of the class is to provide yoga in the therapeutic realm, so that it is a healing, restoring, nurturing on a regular basis gift to give to them. It’s a really safe space for people.”

Monona Yoga Center offers the free class at noon every Thursday, but Casey would like to add a weekend option to better meet the needs of young veterans.

Veterans can attend as many classes as they want, and all mats, blocks and other equipment is provided. After attending three classes, the equipment is given to the veterans so they can continue the exercises at home.

Male and female veterans of all physical abilities are welcome.

They can attend any number of classes and leave during them anytime they don’t feel like continuing.

Casey and other Connected Warriors teachers had to successfully complete a special training program to offer the classes.

“A lot of time in yoga classes, teachers use Sanskrit language, but we just use English language,” she said. “We don’t want to be using any foreign language that could trigger experiences of being abroad. We do not touch the students.”

She said yoga works well for two reasons.

“You’re opening hips, shoulders, you’re getting into places that trauma is physically stored in the body, and so it helps the body physically release and work through that,” she said. “The other reason that yoga is so therapeutic is because there is breath connected to all of the movements, so a teacher will constantly cue breath. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system. It turns on the part of the brain that helps you relax and release.”

Casey’s connection with the program began with a donation to a fundraiser at VFW Post 7591 on Cottage Grove Road. Beth Kiser, another yoga teacher, saw the gift and called Casey to ask if she would like to learn about Connected Warriors.

“My husband (Todd) is a veteran, my brother (Ryan McMullin) is a veteran. Even my great-grandfather was a World War II vet,” Casey said. “When an opportunity like this comes along to give back, to offer service to people that can truly benefit from it, that’s part of yoga life, really, serving others. It’s an honor for me to offer this here.”

Kiser, the regional director for Connected Warriors, has a lengthy background in wellness and teaches yoga once a week at the VFW Post.

She said yoga provides an opportunity for addressing issues related to trauma and chronic pain in a positive proactive approach.

“The individual can take control of their treatment and engage in it and really take it as far as they want to,” she said. “It really empowers the person who’s participating.

“I think the reason I stay with it is I really see how much some of our most vulnerable young people have been traumatized by their experiences with violence in the military. When you look at 83 percent of all women in the military that have been sexually assaulted, that breaks your heart. I see that safety that people feel on the mat.”

In exchange for the free instruction in how to teach the class, Casey and others like her must commit to offering at least 20 classes. She said that part will be easy.

“I want to continue to offer it as long as we’re open,” she said. “I want this to be a staple of something that we do here.”

For more information, contact Casey at Monona Yoga Center, 320 W. Broadway, Suite C, or 572-4831, or visit https://connectedwarriors.org.

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