Veterans Find Relief from Inner Wounds through Yoga

Yoga instructor and Vietnam veteran Tim Withee from Grand Junction, CO, is living proof that downward dog can bring something beyond physical healing to those who wore dog tags.

Withee, now 60, struggled with the aftershocks of being in active combat in Vietnam for years. Initially, he tried to numb himself with drugs and alcohol. Later, once he got clean, he went through life attempting to block out the lingering internal pain. It wasn’t until 2005, decades after the Vietnam war had ended, that Withee finally found relief, when he began practicing Kundalini Yoga.

Now, inspired by his own experience, Withee teaches yoga courses, hoping to help other, including veterans like himself recover from the stress and trauma of war and find peace and healing within. “A lot of men and women coming back from the war zone have a lot of injuries that you can’t see,” Withee says in an article in the GJSentinel. “When you get home and take that uniform off, everybody expects you to be the same person you were when you went off, but you’re never going to be that way.” Through Kundalini yoga, however, Withee feels that those who have served can find a true means for recovery.

Withee isn’t the first to discover the benefits of yoga therapy for healing trauma and the wounds of war. For the past three years, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center has used yoga as therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.

One of Withee’s new students, John Armendarez, served in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Having seen his share of action, the 47-year-old vet decided to try yoga for its professed ability to bring peace and calm to the mind. He was not disappointed.

From what he has seen in his students and in his own life, Withee feels that yoga offers uniquely effective therapy for trauma and stress in general and even for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). An emotional “illness” that can result from enduring life-threatening experiences, PTSD plagues numerous veterans who return from active combat. Those who suffer from the condition often experience surges of intense fear or anxiety and may shun situations that could trigger flashbacks.

Withee suggests that veterans aren’t the only ones who can benefit from the practice of yoga: individuals who have fought with or are currently battling substance abuse could find a new level of peace and stability through the practice, as could those who have served time in prison or jail.

Withee emphasizes that yoga is acessible to everyone, no matter the age, no matter the flexibility level or degree of physical fitness. Even Withee's own mother, aged 83, has taken up yoga after seeing the results in her son.

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