Join Us in Supporting Veterans Yoga Project

This entry was posted on Jan 1, 2024 by Charlotte Bell.
Veterans Yoga Project - Restorative Twist

Hugger Mugger was established in 1986 to help people in their practice of yoga. 38 years later, we still maintain the philosophy that it is important to assist the people in our community. Throughout the years, we have donated our time and products to a number of different charities. A percentage of all online sales is donated to a different organization each quarter. Thank you for the difference you will make when you choose a new Hugger Mugger product.

Q1 Donations: Veterans Yoga Project

We may not always remember this, but military personnel, first responders, and physical and mental health caregivers are essential to our collective wellbeing. These professionals protect our physical, mental and emotional health and freedom. All too often, the people who support us lack the kind of support they so readily provide. That’s where Veterans Yoga Project (VYP) comes in.

Dr. Daniel J. Libby first conceived of Veterans Yoga Project while doing post-doctoral work at Yale University Department of Psychiatry in Connecticut. According to VYP’s website, “while providing psychotherapy for veterans recovering from PTSD, he found that those who developed empowering self-regulating practices had better outcomes—they moved through post-traumatic stress to post-traumatic growth more quickly and gracefully.”

Libby writes, “A turning point in the founding of VYP occurred before the fourth ‘mindful yoga’ class I had ever taught. One of my veterans approached me and told me that he had stopped taking his sleep medications, because now he could meditate to go to sleep. That moment was profound. The pride with which he told me this was palpable. It’s as if he was no longer a broken man who couldn’t manage the simplest of human functions. Instead he was empowered to use his own mind, his own breath, his own body to live and sleep, in a way that brought him more ease and more joy. He practiced every day. Eventually, he went on to lead morning meditations in his own community at a local yoga center.”

Veterans Yoga Project Takes Off

Libby taught his first “Mindful Yoga Therapy” training in 2010. From there, the organization blossomed. In 2013, VYP hosted its first annual veterans retreat at Feathered Pipe Ranch in Montana. In 2014, the organization received 501 c 3 status. From there, the program has grown exponentially. Partnering with VA facilities and yoga studios across the U.S. and Canada, they reached 20,000 annual vet visits by the end of 2018.

When many studios closed during COVID, VYP began offering online classes. They currently offer 30 online classes per week, in addition to their on-site classes. The classes are free and open to all veterans, first responders and caregivers through an app you can download on their website.

The classes provide not only yoga and meditation instruction; they also provide community. VYP Chief Executive Officer Brianna Renner is a veteran herself. She began practicing yoga after retiring from the service. She says, ”Not only did yoga practice help me with my own anxiety and depression, I was also part of a group and felt a sense a belonging since I’d left the Marine Corps. While the yoga community has different beliefs than the vet community, the camaraderie is very much the same. The level of support that the yoga community provides mirrors the support of the military community. There’s a cohesion that happens. When I’d go to yoga, we were moving and breathing together, kind of like cadence and drill. It felt like home to me.”

Trauma Training for Vets

Veterans Yoga Project’s flagship program is its Mindful Resilience for Trauma Recovery Training (MRT). Registered with International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), the program focuses on trauma-sensitive teaching practices, delving into the science behind trauma and best practices for helping people manage post-traumatic stress disorder.

This training applies not only to military-based trauma. In 2021, VYP launched Mindful Resilience for Compassion Fatigue (MRCF) to help professional and family caregivers. “Trauma doesn’t care whether you’ve served in uniform,” says Renner. “We serve the vet community, but we understand that these tools can be applicable to any audience.”

MRT training utilizes what they call a SPACE checklist. “The acronym stands for safety, predictability, accessible, and controllable environment,” says Renner. “We remind students that this is their practice. They’re in control of their body. We offer suggestions, but their agency in the process is most important. The SPACE checklist is especially appropriate for the classes held in a facility. When I teach, I don’t do Sanskrit, I don’t play music, I’m not touching anybody.“

How Veterans Yoga Project Changes Lives

“There have been a lot of profound moments for people who go through practice and training,” says Renner. “Vets are now teaching other vets. To say it’s life changing might be a bit dramatic, but I’ve seen it.”

A recent 200-hour Mindful Resilience Yoga Teacher Training graduate writes:

“When I retired from the military, I wasn’t prepared or trained to transition from either the service or from my combat and wartime engagement/deployments. I don’t regret my service, but I felt deserted at my finish line.  I was, in a sense, blown apart as a person, and never taught how to piece myself back together to function well. Not even the VA does that with any reliability.

“What VYP has managed to do is identify, organize and deliver a program that provides recovery tools for veterans to more effectively deal with stress, TBI, PTS, and a myriad of other ailments. VYP has shown us how to gather up our blown apart selves, and carefully put our pieces back in place, and given us training to not only help  keep our pieces in place, but to teach and train other soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen how to do the same thing.  That’s something amazing. That can help heal a lot of damage.

“I found VYP as a widow and retiree who was sad, isolated, depressed, and struggling with PTSD. Yoga and meditation felt like a lifeline back to the surface. The staff of VYP has been more present and engaged than my own family, and it’s because they have walked this path themselves. Holding SPACE has created a new level of safety and trust. The sincerity is real. The honesty is real. The dedication to mission is real. Every single person I have encountered has been authentic, caring, incredibly knowledgeable, resourceful, creative and dedicated to helping. I am so thrilled to be a yoga teacher and to be able to give this ease to others.”

Join Us in Supporting Veterans Yoga Project

For the quarter spanning January through March 2024, a percentage of Hugger Mugger’s net sales will go to Veterans Yoga Project. Please join us in supporting this organization’s crucial and inspiring work.

About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.

4 responses to “Join Us in Supporting Veterans Yoga Project”

  1. Avatar Jenny Power says:

    Thank you so much, Charlotte! I’ve been volunteering with VYP for about eight years now. I started out because my daughter, Brianna Renner, needed help in her various roles in VYP. It’s been quite a ride and a wonderful experience. You won’t find a more worthy organization for your generosity. They do wonderful work.

    With much appreciation, I’m off to place my order now with Hugger Mugger!

    Very sincerely,
    Jenny Power

  2. Avatar Charlotte Bell says:

    Thanks so much for what you’re doing with VYP. I was so inspired by my conversation with Brianna. What a wonderful service, and so needed. Enjoy your Hugger Mugger props!

  3. Avatar Theresa Hoisington says:

    VYP came into my life when I desperately needed grounding in my mind. I was as in Brianna’s class at the VA in Vermont. Even today her words still echo in my mind when I need them most. Thank you VYP and thank you Hugger Mugger for your donation to them.

  4. Avatar Charlotte Bell says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s an honor to contribute support to an organization that does so much good.

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