Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2019 issue.
The class is small. The yogis are a varied lot. The lighting and music are soft. The teacher speaks gently, encouraging her students to consider what might best suit their bodies today. It looks like a regular yoga class in many ways, but it’s very different.
This is a Comeback Yoga class, offered at the Veterans Administration Clinic in Golden and designed specifically for veterans. It is one of 39 free classes offered in the Denver/Boulder metro area, Eagle County and Colorado Springs each week to veterans, their friends and families and caregivers. It is tailored to the special needs of veterans. With this emphasis, the classes are different than a traditional yoga class.
“I am not sure what I would do without these classes,” said one veteran yogi after class was over. “The peace and calm I find here are a life changer.”
A Vietnam War vet, this student has dealt with injury for more than thirty years. She is now a regular Comeback Yoga class attendee, finding classes throughout the week and all over town to work into her schedule.
“I was not a yogi before, but I am a yogi now,” she said. “Comeback has made this happen for me, by having classes where I feel ok going. I depend on these classes.”
Ned and Margot Timbel founded Comeback Yoga in 2014 to help veterans return to healthy living by providing appropriately designed yoga classes. The life experience of veterans might include post-traumatic stress (PTS), a condition triggered by overwhelming stress or trauma. PTS leaves the brain and body “trapped” in a fight or flight response and makes self-regulation difficult. It may cause an individual to feel unsafe with themselves and others, impacting every area of life and relationships. PTS can be debilitating — the trauma-informed yoga taught in a Comeback Yoga class offers a way to cope with it.
Yoga is a proven stress reliever. In particular, trauma-informed yoga is particularly designed to address the symptoms and effects of PTS. By connecting the moving body and conscious breathing with intention, yoga helps to develop mindful self-awareness. As yoga improves self-regulation and the ability to stay focused on the present, it may help veteran yogis to feel more comfortable in their bodies and become more resilient in their daily lives.
Yoga is a proven stress reliever.
“Trauma-informed yoga is based on science,” said Ned Timbel, Comeback Yoga cofounder. “It’s based on brain research and the effects of PTSD on people who have experienced trauma. wWhen we teach a yoga class, we can use methods that appeal to the parts of the brain that have been damaged by trauma.”
Every veteran is different, every body is different. Comeback Yoga classes offer a wide range of difficulty, allowing the student to choose modifications and moderate intensity. Classes are tailored to those in attendance. The veteran population served includes active duty, recently deactivated, women, healthy aging, transition from homelessness, family members and supporters, and the clinicians who serve the veterans. Comeback Yoga serves about 200 students each week, all ages and all service branches. The classes are offered where there is already a large veteran community. Comeback Yoga has classes at numerous locations: the VA Hospital in Denver, VA Outpatient Clinics, VFW Post #1, Auraria Campus, Fort Carson and Buckley Air Force Base. Comeback Yoga also offers yoga through their website, for those who cannot get to class or who want to get a sense of what a class might be like.
Every veteran is different, every body is different.
Comeback Yoga works with more than 35 teachers as independent contractors. In addition to the numerous weekly classes for yogis, it provides periodic master teacher training for its teachers. These trainings enable the teachers to provide yoga classes best suited to the population that Comeback Yoga serves. All teachers who wish to teach for Comeback Yoga must have a 200 hour YTT certified and go through a screening process.
The final element of Comeback Yoga’s mission is to offer scholarships for Yoga Teacher Training to veterans who are interested in becoming yoga teachers themselves. The application can be found on the website with periodic deadlines throughout the year.
Comeback Yoga is a 501(c)(3) organization and is sustained by the support of friends and family, private donors and a few foundations and grantors. It does not receive any funding from the government or the Veterans Administration. For more information, visit the website: .
Photo courtesy of Comeback Yoga.