I Wish You Could Have Seen Their Faces!

by Marcia Miller

Their faces were shining like angels though this is not the way they looked when they arrived at class—these veterans who had been homeless and substance-addicted and were now in a program to help them stay clean and get jobs. This program includes weekly yoga classes thanks to donors to the Yoga on High Foundation.  They arrived for a variety of reasons with a variety of stances—a couple of the men were happy to be learning yoga but most were dull and listless and one man was actively negative. When I introduced myself to him in the lobby he told me he did not want to be there, he had multiple injuries and pain all over his body and that he would NOT be participating. I said he was welcome to be in the room in any way that worked for him and that I hoped he would find something that offered some relief. He was doubtful to say the least.

Also in the room that day were three staff members from the veterans support program, a veteran who is a regular student at Yoga on High, and a teacher-in-training who assists me in this class. One of the staff members had just lost her partner of many years to cancer. The veteran who regularly practices yoga was so excited about this program that he just wanted to be in the room as support for the men.

We started with a practice called Inner Resource that is part of the iRest (Yoga Nidra) protocol developed by Richard Miller, Ph.D.  During this practice each person remembers a time when they felt a sense of security, well-being or being at ease. Once they have that memory or image well in mind, I invite them to invoke all their senses to fill in the texture of the memory. What sounds are present?  Smells? Touch of a person or fabric or air on the skin? What do they see—colors, images?  Then comes the real magic of this practice—I invite them to feel the sensations that are in their bodies in present time as they hold the memory. This sense of well being in present time creates a delicious flow of tactile sensations that helps to rewire the brain, integrating their sense of well being. This is so needed in these vets who have had many challenging experiences in their lives and are desperate for ways to support a more effective way of being in the world. After a few minutes of feeling these sensations I asked them each, if they were willing, to talk about their inner resource. Each one in turn shared something precious in his or her life. Many recalled a time in their childhood when all was right with the world and they felt happy and accepted.  Each in turn offered a sentence or two about their experience and their faces took on an inner light as they sat in the experience of rightness, of ease and, for several of them, love.  The man who had come in with so much pain found an inner resource of complete connectedness of everything with everything else. When he asked if that was what I had meant I smiled and assured him it was.

We did this before we started any movement because I want the men, the staff, and my helpers to know that if something comes up that is difficult or extra challenging for them they already have a pathway to something positive in their lives. They can return to their inner resource at any time. After the gentle yogic movements and luscious relaxation they sat up and returned to their chairs. They were still glowing because the yoga practices, like the inner resource, helps us touch into physical parts of ourselves that can feel good and into our own inner beauty. The yogis of yore claim that feeling of safety and contentment is our true nature.

After the vets had left the classroom, my assistants and I looked at each other and grinned. This class had been so powerful on so many levels for all of us—the vets, the staff who have such a hard job in helping these men, and for us, the teachers. We were giddy with delight and with the joy of contributing to the well being of men who have served our country, suffered so much and still have such a hard road ahead of them.

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One Response to I Wish You Could Have Seen Their Faces!
  1. Jenn

    Sooo inspirational!!