The Army Base Yoga Studio That’s Healing Wounded Warriors

Originally Published on Yahoo.com on October 11, 2018 By Reader’s Digest Editors

The Army Base Yoga Studio That’s Healing Wounded Warriors_1

Editor’s Note: Life Moves Yoga in Killeen, Texas, was selected as one of Reader’s Digest’s Nicest Places in America. Meet the winner, find out how the finalists were selected, and hear from our chief judge, Robin Roberts.

Army Lieutenant General Paul E. Funk II is no stranger to stress. He’s been deployed five times, leading soldiers in combat in Operation Desert Shield and more recent efforts in Iraq and Syria.

But these days, when General Funk II needs to work out his stress, he’s more likely to stand in warrior pose than to drop and give you 20. In 2011, the U.S. Army completed the biggest update to its physical fitness program in over 30 years and, for the first time ever, yoga is now part of the routine.

Known for their toughness and macho swagger, soldiers have been slow to replace “Yes, Sir!” and “Hooah!” with “om” and “Namaste.” But a movement that aims to change that is gaining momentum in Killeen, Texas, home to Fort Hood, the largest military base in the country. Its goal is to help service-members build physical and mental strength, even when they are battling wounds, both seen and unseen. And it’s starting at the top.

After his fifth tour, Funk returned home to take the helm at Fort Hood. He was born there, when his father, Paul Funk Sr., was commander-in-chief. He met his wife, Beth, there and they got married at the chapel on base.

“I’ve found yoga to be relaxing, but it also gives me an opportunity to think and put life in a balanced perspective,” Gen. Funk II told Reader’s Digest. “It’s a good practice for soldiers and families for that reason: It gives us time to slow down and get in tune with our environments while also building strength and endurance.”

Lucky for Gen. Funk II, he doesn’t have to go far to find his center. Life Moves Yoga, a studio owned and operated by his wife Beth Funk, is right across the street from the fort. She opened the studio in 2017 with a goal of helping wounded warriors regain mobility as well as peace of mind. In addition to offering various kinds of yoga to the soldiers and general public, Life Moves also holds a free class on Wednesdays called “Warriors at Ease,” which caters to soldiers who have suffered physical and mental trauma. Until recently, the class was paid for by a grant from the Bob Woodruff Foundation; when the grant dried up, Life Moves kept the classes going for free and has since trained more teachers in this special kind of yoga who give classes on the base itself.

“We had to continue it because it’s that powerful for the community,” said Beth Funk.

Caity Underwood, 31, is a student. She served for seven years but had to leave the Army because of medical problems that severely limited her mobility.

“By the time I got out, I couldn’t do a pushup because I couldn’t put pressure on certain joints,” she told Reader’s Digest. After just a few months at Life Moves, she can do many. Underwood goes every Wednesday.

“Wednesday is my favorite day,” she said. “It puts me in a better mood just by knowing I have that outlet.”

Another student is Lieutenant General Paul Funk, Sr., 78, a Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran who, in addition to being the former commanding officer of Fort Hood, is the commanding officer of the Funk family.

“The whole notion of mind, body, spirit is something that can be valuable to anybody and in particular those who have had setbacks, like being wounded in war,” he told Reader’s Digest.

Before you assume the whole base has swapped doing 100 pushups a day for warrior poses, Gen. Funk, Sr. admits that getting soldiers excited about a slower-paced workout has been a challenge. But the Army likes challenges.

“If ordered, I can promise you that all the members will try it,” he said. “But you can’t just order this and expect it to produce results.”

One enterprising non-commissioned officer at Fort Hood, who spoke with us on the condition of anonymity, has done just that. When asked to come up with a new physical training program for her crew, she suggested a yoga day.

“When I told my crew that we’re having a private class, they said, ‘I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible,’” she said. “But they didn’t have a choice because they had to come with me.”

Given that this is no ordinary yoga class, it won’t be long until they too see what makes it so special. And once they’re ready to try it again, Life Moves Yoga will be there.

She Allegedly Retired

It’s been about 7 months since Valerie retired. And  WHOA is in her vocabulary!!!  She had no idea it was going to be the way it is.  Just to summarize that she did work in law enforcement for 26 years and  also wore many hats on top of that.  She studied singing, dance, started a blog and is also raising a responsible teen.  So needless to say prior to retirement she was on a fast paced treadmill.  And was able to run quite fast.  Did she get tired?  Hell yeah but she just kept pushing herself because after all that’s the  way she was trained.  No Pain, no gain.

Fast forward to retirement and now she finally gets a chance to rest and relax.  Umm not exactly.  She designed her retired life to keep herself on that treadmill.  How and why did she do that?  Well she got a puppy, kept up with all of my hobbies and realized that she was really exhausted.  But she kept pushing herself anyway.  Now instead of stressing about deadlines at work, she was stressing about getting the dishes done and doing laundry.  Seriously?  How the hell did that happen?

tired office worker

She realized that people get so programmed to go at such a high rate of speed that it is difficult to slow down.  Imagine when you are on a tread mill and you get off suddenly, well your heart keeps racing and it takes a little while for it to slow down.  Well that’s exactly what happens when you retire.  It takes a minute to slow down.  Except it’s a rude reality check to realize that you never got off the treadmill.  The treadmill just changed from the treadmill to “Plogging.”

The realization that one seriously just needed to rest.  Stopping all work just isn’t possible as a mom, your on call 24/7.  Especially with a puppy.  (counting respiration rates, taking temperatures of a puppy and trying to find her pulse,trips back and forth to UC Davis etc.)

How the heck do you slow down anyway?  The answer is to take time to rest.  Maybe  watching TV is not a waste of time.  I usually watch an interesting movie but you really need that downtime.

happiness

If you allow yourself to rest you will find  that one will start to feel more calm and sleep better at night.  Work still occurs but now just take more breaks and  don’t worry about anything.  Valerie is recovering from all of those years of over work.  Her favorite thing is when  plans are made and the plans fall through.  She stopped putting on make up as much.  Started doing yoga everyday.  Basically getting back to basics.  Valerie realized that “Yoga Teacher heal thyself.” has real meaning. Getting back on the yoga mat and just let go of the past and the future.  Allow yourself the time to rest and heal.

What was the result?  Well She feels way better.  She is more calm and relaxed.

Everyone is different in their experience.  And by the way what works for you might not work for everyone or maybe you want the freedom to explore your own options.  It’s called Freedom of Choice.  So please do what your heart desires.

Remember even cell phones get a chance to charge themselves.

Valerie is a Health and Wellness Coach and a Yoga Instructor/dancer and singer.  She recently retired and is redesigning her life.  Life is a journey and it has many ups and downs.  Find the pathway that serves you.  This is a belly dance inspired movement.  She also gives a talk at the end about diet.

Difficulty Slowing Down

geranium-wave-water-rings-55813.jpegAre you stressed out and need to calm down?  But then once you get yourself to that time and space that you should be able to relax, then your mind just won’t shut off.  And if it goes on, unchecked and if you have a poor diet, you will most likely experience anxiety and it could turn into a disorder.

But if you don’t have anxiety yet and want to prevent it, then relaxation can be very beneficial.  Especially if you have any kind of injury, then you need to just rest and recover.  But no we want to keep going.  We don’t want to slow down because then that will somehow mean that we gave up.  As I am writing this, I am describing how difficult it is for me to slow down.

tired office worker

You see after working 26 years in a career that was high stress, it takes a while to slow down.  And even as a trained yoga instructor, who should allegedly know better, I still have difficulty slowing down and so I can only imagine for most people it can be very difficult.  Some people are really good at relaxing.  They can fall asleep fast and sleep until they are well rested which is a gift. ( I hope you recognize that gift, if this is you.)

But our culture doesn’t really support the concept of slowing down.  I mean we have to do well in school.  This is so we can get a job to support ourselves and maybe our families assuming that men and women will still be able to produce children in the future with the current state of health in the US.

Our culture supports working and also there is just too much to be done.  Especially if you are a parent.  You must carve out some time for you.

So the concept of slowing down and just focusing on relaxing is an unusual concept which I am allowing myself this time.  I am noticing that it is super important to just stretch and relax a lot.  Also to recognize something that’s causing stress.  Maybe it’s a horrible song on the radio and it’s causing you jaw tension, change that shit with the quickness.val_edited-9208

Also there has to be the concept of good enough.  At some point, your workout has to be good enough.  Hey you hit all the major groups and stretched, you’re good.  There is no need to run 10 miles and do 100 push ups.  If you are not training for an event then allow yourself healing.  And many of us need to heal.  The body recovers when it rests.  When you sleep and eat healthy and relax.

Again meditation just has to be a part of it.  I know it’s the big M word that nobody wants to do but it works.  Or call on your higher power and ask for help.  Archangel Michael and Archangel Raphael are super powerful and they will help you but you must remember to ask.  Of course you can always call on Jesus, Buddha or whatever concept your higher power represents, just call on it.  Relax, pray or meditate.  Then after that things seem much more manageable.  Don’t forget how Jesus went to the desert for 3 days to fast and pray.  (Is that correct? My biblical stories aren’t very good. My point is that Jesus meditated and I know some Christians that have resistance to meditation.  But if Jesus did it, then what’s the problem?)val_edited-9220

You can choose to see the stress and drama but then release it as soon as possible.  You can minimize the stress by how you choose to look at it.  Again turn it around to gratitude as soon as you can.  If you are feeling weak in your legs, immediately think, “Thank you for my legs, that I can walk.”  And if you really want to be a warrior, say, “Thank you for my strong legs.”  Speak that of what you want to happen.

You are stronger than you know but you have to learn to connect to your higher power.  Otherwise it can be difficult if you try to rely on yourself and do everything.  You’re good but everyone needs help!!

Valerie is a Health and Wellness Coach.  She lives in Northern California with her daughter and puppy.  Please feel free to email her here.

Yoga

Originally published on webmd.com on December 10, 2017 By Jennifer Robinson

Yoga

How It Works

Workout fads come and go, but virtually no other exercise program is as enduring as yoga. It’s been around for more than 5,000 years.

Yoga does more than burn calories and tone muscles. It’s a total mind-body workout that combines strengthening and stretching poses with deep breathing and meditation or relaxation.

There are more than 100 different forms of yoga. Some are fast-paced and intense. Others are gentle and relaxing.

Examples of different yoga forms include:

Hatha. The form most often associated with yoga, it combines a series of basic movements with breathing.
Vinyasa. A series of poses that flow smoothly into one another.
Power. A faster, higher-intensity practice that builds muscle.
Ashtanga. A series of poses, combined with a special breathing technique.
Bikram. Also known as “hot yoga,” it’s a series of 26 challenging poses performed in a room heated to a high temperature.
Iyengar. A type of yoga that uses props like blocks, straps, and chairs to help you move your body into the proper alignment.

Intensity Level: Varies with Type

The intensity of your yoga workout depends on which form of yoga you choose. Techniques like hatha and iyengar yoga are gentle and slow. Bikram and power yoga are faster and more challenging.
Areas It Targets

Core: Yes. There are yoga poses to target just about every core muscle. Want to tighten those love handles? Then prop yourself up on one arm and do a side plank. To really burn out the middle of your abs, you can do boat pose, in which you balance on your “sit bones” (the bony prominences at the base of your pelvic bones) and hold your legs up in the air.

Arms: Yes. With yoga, you don’t build arm strength with free weights or machines, but with the weight of your own body. Some poses, like the plank, spread your weight equally between your arms and legs. Others, like the crane and crow poses, challenge your arms even more by making them support your full body weight.

Legs: Yes. Yoga poses work all sides of the legs, including your quadriceps, hips, and thighs.

Glutes: Yes. Yoga squats, bridges, and warrior poses involve deep knee bends, which give you a more sculpted rear.

Back: Yes. Moves like downward-facing dog, child’s pose, and cat/cow give your back muscles a good stretch. It’s no wonder that research finds yoga may be good for relieving a sore back.
Type

Flexibility: Yes. Yoga poses stretch your muscles and increase your range of motion. With regular practice, they’ll improve your flexibility.

Aerobic: No. Yoga isn’t considered aerobic exercise, but the more athletic varieties, like power yoga, will make you sweat. And even though yoga is not aerobic, some research finds it can be just as good as aerobic exercise for improving health.

Strength: Yes. It takes a lot of strength to hold your body in a balanced pose. Regular practice will strengthen the muscles of your arms, back, legs, and core.

Sport: No. Yoga is not competitive. Focus on your own practice and don’t compare yourself to other people in your class.

Low-Impact: Yes. Although yoga will give you a full-body workout, it won’t put any impact on your joints.

What Else Should I Know?

Cost. Varies. If you already know your way around a yoga mat, you can practice for free at home. Videos and classes will cost you various amounts of money.

Good for beginners? Yes. People of all ages and fitness levels can do the most basic yoga poses and stretches.

Outdoors. Yes. You can do yoga anywhere, indoors or out.

At home. Yes. All you need is enough space for your yoga mat.

Equipment required? No. You don’t need any equipment because you’ll rely on your own body weight for resistance. But you’ll probably want to use a yoga mat to keep you from sliding around in standing poses, and to cushion you while in seated and lying positions. Other, optional equipment includes a yoga ball for balance, a yoga block or two, and straps to help you reach for your feet or link your hands behind your back.

What Family Doctor Melinda Ratini MD Says:

There are many types of yoga, from the peaceful hatha to the high-intensity power yoga. All types take your workout to a level of mind-body connection. It can help you relax and focus while gaining flexibility and strength. Yoga can also boost your mood.

Even though there are many instructional books and DVDs on yoga, it is well worth it to invest in some classes with a good instructor who can show you how to do the postures.

Chances are, there’s a type of yoga that suits your needs and fitness level. It’s a great choice if you want a holistic approach to mind and body strength.

Yoga is not for you if you like a fast-moving, competitive workout. Be open-minded, since there are physical and mental benefits you can gain by adding some yoga into your fitness plan, even if it isn’t your main workout.

Is It Good for Me If I Have a Health Condition?

Yoga is a great activity for you if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease. It gives you strength, flexibility, and mind-body awareness. You’ll also need to do something aerobic (like walking, biking, or swimming) if you’re not doing a fast-moving type of yoga.

If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart problems, ask your doctor what you can do. You may need to avoid certain postures, like those in which you’re upside down or that demand more balance than you have right now. A very gentle program of yoga, coupled with a light aerobic activity like walking or swimming, may be the best way to start.

Do you have arthritis? Yoga can help you stay flexible and strong without putting added stress on your joints. You get the added benefit of a mind-body approach that can help you relax and energize.

If you’re pregnant, yoga can help keep you relaxed, strong, and in shape. If you’re new to yoga or have any health or pregnancy related problems, talk to your doctor before you give it a try. Look for an instructor who’s experienced in teaching prenatal yoga.

You’ll need to make some adjustments as your baby and belly grow and your center of gravity shifts. After your first trimester, don’t do any poses that have you lying on your back. And don’t try to stretch any further than you did before pregnancy. Your pregnancy hormones will loosen up your joints and make you more likely to get injured.

While you’re pregnant, avoid postures that put pressure on your belly or low back. Don’t do “hot” yoga, where the room temperature is very high.
WebMD Fitness A-Z Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on December 10, 2017

 

How to set Dreams and Goals for 2018

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Well 2017 has come and gone.  This was an amazing year.  I feel like I really lived it.  Some years let’s just be honest have been terrible.  This year for me personally was really good.  I had the following major accomplishments: RETIREMENT, AMBER DOG, Performances and I’ve been able to keep my sanity for the most part.

I looked over my goals for 2017 and I have to say that I have stuck with them.  That just means I need to continue to add to my goals.  I mean if I could nail the goals for 2017 then I can surely continue to nail the goals for 2018.

Since I’ve retired my focus has shifted.  I was super stressed when I was working and now that I’ve retired it’s time for me to get serious about relaxation and just settling into my groove.  Retirement is a Huge Adjustment and unless you’ve done it, I don’t think you quite get it.val_edited-9177

      This is me thinking about positive thoughts.  Give it a try and see what happens.

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to give me a way to focus my energy in a positive manner.

So how do you set goals anyway?

  1. Keep it simple.  Make too many goals and you end up not doing anything.
  2. It doesn’t need to have anything to do with fitness or health.  This is a popular resolution but you can set whatever goal or dream you want.  This is your chance to really get creative with your dreams and try to figure out exactly what it is that you want anyway.
  3. Write it down.  Perhaps your resolution could be to start journaling.  If you have never journaled or not for a while, this is a great time to start.
  4. Tell someone what your goal is with the hope that you can get some accountability and also once you tell someone, it reinforces your goal because you are discussing it.
  5. Day dream about your goals.  What would it look like if you had this?  How would you feel?  Imagine it’s already yours and be happy knowing that it’s coming into fruition.

Feel free to comment below with some of your dreams and goals.  Remember the more you talk about it, the more likely it will happen.  So I’ll go ahead and get this party started by sharing my dreams and goals for 2018.

  • Daily yoga (at least 10 minutes)
  • Meditation at least 3 days per week but the more the better
  • Dance daily at least 20 minutes
  • Write daily at least 20 minutes
  • Go on a plane for vacation
  • Shop local, vegan diet and breathe through all difficulties
  • Transform my guest bedroom.
  • Keep singing

VAL DANCING FOR RONI

This is me dancing at my party and having fun.  This is what dreams look like.  Just do it.

Now see that wasn’t so difficult.  Well here’s to an amazing 2018.  Don’t worry about all the drama that’s going on in the world.  You allow what comes into your reality.  Choose wisely.

Retirement Performance

VAL DANCING STAGE

Retirement Performance

When I first decided that I wanted to dance at my retirement party, my main motivation was because it was a dream of mine. I wanted to do it because I wanted to see exactly what my capabilities were at age 50. I felt that since I was a yoga instructor and a health coach that I should have the ability to perform and with the proper instruction, anything is possible.

So the dance training began and I found it to be very difficult. I had an injury at the same time I started training so I had to be very careful not to hurt myself. But I knew that I loved dancing and I just wanted to put on this epic performance at my party. I had an interest in belly dancing for years and I had done some training starting in 2008. I took a few classes with a local dance instructor and watched some videos but I hadn’t found a dance instructor in my area that I really was compatible with.
Then in 2015, I had surgery and the Dr. gave me the usual recommendation which was not to exercise for 6 weeks. I really despise that recommendation but of course I followed the Dr’s orders. They told me walking was fine.  Yoga was still not an option but the one thing I was able to do was belly dancing. And it just felt amazing on my spine, neck, shoulders and hips. Thus a belly dancer was born.
I soon realized that yoga and belly dancing were very much intertwined with one another.

VAL SPINNING
I kept up the belly dancing and I even taught a workshop at Angeline’s dance studio in 2016. I had previously been a Zumba and U-Jam Fitness Instructor and I felt comfortable dancing in front of people and I knew I wanted to perform at my retirement party in front of my loved ones, but I felt belly dancing alone would just feel completely inappropriate and I knew if I wanted it to turn out good, then I needed professional training and choreography.

I picked the song which was Transcendence by Lindsey Stirling and it had a classical feel to it. Although I used to belly dance at home to that song, I knew that ballet would go nicely with it as well.

At first I wanted to do a partner dance. But it’s difficult to find a partner and I decided to just do private instruction.
So it was going to be a belly dance/ballet fusion dance.
So ballet is very challenging. It’s pilates on steroids as I like to call it. And I was still working at the time and my work was not helping the situation at all. Because all of the sitting was counter productive. But I kept up with the training and the video is the final result.
When I watch the video, I feel happy with certain parts and other parts, I wish were better. But overall, I feel grateful that I had the ability and opportunity to dance and perform especially at the age of 50.

Sometimes when the fear strikes me when I think about releasing a video, I just think well if someone wants to criticize me that’s fine. They can go ahead and do a performance and then we can discuss my performance afterwards.

Valerie is a Health and Wellness Coach and Yoga Instructor. She recently retired from a Career in Law Enforcement after 26 years. Email her at:estrella.valerie@yahoo.com

JOURNEY FROM COP TO YOGINI

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Journey From Cop to Yoga Instructor
My journey from law enforcement officer to yoga instructor was many years in the making. It all started in 1999 when I was extremely stressed out, depressed and experiencing insomnia and back and neck pain. I had been in a car accident and was also a newlywed on the brink of divorce. At the time I was living in Bakersfield, CA and there was not any yoga classes in the area that I knew about. I knew in my heart that yoga would help me if I could only find a class.
I purchased a few yoga DVD’s and did those but it did not seem to have much effect on my stress. Fast forward to 2004, I was not as stressed out as I was before but I still did experience back and shoulder pain. Finally I found a gym that offered yoga classes. This was after I had moved to the North Bay Area. So I took my yoga classes every Saturday and realized how inflexible I really was. The poses all seemed so foreign to me. As a former dancer, I couldn’t believe how tight I was and I kept doing it and noticed how after class I started to experience post yoga bliss. I would feel really relaxed and peaceful. I noticed things were not bothering me as much and I was sleeping better.

In 2006 I heard an ad on the radio about becoming a Yoga Instructor. So I decided to inquire about the training. They had a class starting in July 2006 but there were some issues with child care and the Yoga Instructor providing the training, Michelle Paisley who is now an internationally best selling author of a few books. Michelle said she was going to do it again in November 2006 as well

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Later in July 2006, my dear brother, Christopher died. It was then that I knew I was definitely going to become a yoga instructor in honor of him as he was into the Eastern philosophy in many ways.
In November 2006, I started my Yoga Alliance Certification at Yoga Junction in Suisun City, CA. It was a year long program and it required hours of teaching and co-teaching and I learned quite a bit. I also met some really amazing people. I met Jeff Bridges daughter, Isabelle who took the training with me. She was really down to earth and sweet. It wasn’t until months into the training that I found out who her dad was. I was introduced to meditation and chanting although I didn’t really get into that at that time.
Michelle Paisley Reed was wonderful to work with as well. She was in the process of writing her first book, Yoga For a Broken Heart. It was interesting hearing about her process of writing the book. I think it was a great experience for me to be around such a strong intelligent woman. I realized that there was a possibility that if she could write a book then I guess if I wanted to, I could write one too. Although I had no idea at the time that I would ever want to write. It’s just interesting to note that by her living her dreams, she was inspiring me to live mine too.
After I received my Certification as a Yoga Alliance Yoga Teacher, I was still working full time. Now what was my thought. So I went to the gym where I originally took yoga and talked to the Group Fitness Manager. She said I needed another Certification as a Group Exercise Instructor through AFAA. So now I started my journey to get my certification in that. It was more studying anatomy with a practical exam and an all day seminar in San Diego with a test and then I had my certification as a Group Exercise Instructor.
Now I was ready to teach yoga to the masses. So I did apply for a position as a yoga instructor and soon I was teaching yoga weekly.