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Kathleen Sweeney’s voice is soothing as she begins the yoga class. This is not your typical yoga class. The mats, pillows and blankets are spread out on the hardwood floor, not just any floor; it’s the Upper Darby Marine Corp League’s meeting room. Her students are combat veterans. Some bring their wives or significant others.
Sweeney is teaching them Yoga Nidra and Mindfullness Meditation. She combines Yoga and iRest bringing the Warriors at Ease program to their door so that they can learn to handle their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) and sexual and abusive trauma.
For Iraqi veteran Brian Douglas and his wife Lauren feel the classes are helpful. Lauren admits that she meditates sporadically but feels the eight-week course has helped.
“I feel it’s beneficial. I use the meditation at work, if I feel stressed and anxious. I can remove myself and be on a level playing field. It definitely helps,” said Brian who served in the Marines.
Research has shown that Yoga Nidra and the iRest eight –week program reduces PTSD, depression anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain and chemical dependency according to Sweeney .
Sweeney is a nurse at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. She took a Meditation Mindfullness program for health care workers at the University of Pennsylvania four years ago which led her on this path of wanting to help veterans.
The 59-year-old mother of six knows the effects of PTSD. Her father, Jack served in World War II and her son, Patrick joined the Marines. He was attached to the Marine Corps Air Wing and was stationed at Kaneoh Bay, Hawaii. He toured in Iraq with the HMH 363 helicopter squadron, the Ugly Angels,
“I have a son who served in the Marines. I have witnessed firsthand the isolation that PTSD causes while working at the VA. I saw that that mediation and iRest helps with those suffering with flashbacks and young veterans struggle with anxiety,” said Sweeney.
Sweeney went on to work on levels of certification in Yoga Nidra, I Rest and Warriors at Ease. She took webinars and courses from Warriors at Ease and the Integrative Restoration Institute.
“Two dear friends at the San Diego Vet Center at Balboa, recommended Yoga Nidra, and I found i Rest. I went to the Kripalu Center in Stockbridge Mass. for a five- day workshop with Richard Miller where I received my Level I Training in March 2014,” said Sweeney.
iRest Yoga Nidra has been developed over the past twenty-six years by Richard Miller, PhD, a clinical psychologist, author, researcher and yogic scholar, and is a research-based transformative practice of deep relaxation and meditative inquiry.
“In March, 2015 I completed my Level II Training in Columbus Ohio which qualifies me to teach i Rest Yoga Nidra to large groups. In June 2015 I completed my Hatha Yoga training and am registered with the Yoga Alliance as an RYT 200, “said Sweeney.
“In the Spring and Summer of 2015, she completed the first two trainings of the Warriors at Ease Program. In September, 2015 she spent another five days at the Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts to complete her certification process for Warriors at Ease.
“This training prepares certified yoga and meditation teachers to work specifically with military and those exposed to trauma,” said Sweeney.
“For Marines, Tai Chi is a warrior practice. It helps the warrior focus, build core-strength and have a sense of determination. With Yoga Nidra and iRest you are doing moving and breathing exercises you get out of your head,” said Sweeney.
“Yoga prepares you for meditation. It’s a springboard for bringing iRest in which brings you to a safe place. It’s not all about Yoga. You don’t have to accomplish a pose. It’s about self- care, finding focus, getting centered and re-experiencing your body,” said Sweeney.
Sweeney teaches classes free and relies on donations for the yoga gear used. She wants to get the word out and help veterans in their environments. Her desire is to teach these skills to as many veterans as she can. To find out more you can contact her at Kathleen.firstname.lastname@example.org
“It’s very important to be in a military setting where the veterans are comfortable. At the Marine Corps League, there is a strong brotherhood,” said Sweeney.