May is National Military Appreciation Month and we wanted to highlight another one of our teachers who came to yoga and experienced its profound, healing powers. Laura Edger is an Air Force veteran who served as a Security Forces officer. She became a yogi during her time in the military and when she left active duty, stuck with the practice and became a yoga teacher. Below she shares her story. Enjoy!
I was introduced to yoga by my college roommate; we practiced on and off but I never truly understood the benefits outside of it offering a good stretch after a difficult workout.
After college, I joined the Air Force as an Air Force Security Forces Officer. It was during training in San Antonio, Texas that I was truly challenged for the first time to push the boundaries of my physical body. When you’re going through a difficult training, a common mantra is to “embrace the suck” or “push through the pain.” I loved the training environment and loved working as a team to get through difficult situations. While those mantras got me through those difficult trainings, there came a time when they were no longer serving me.
Five years later I was burned out and on the verge of a nervous breakdown due to life circumstances. I self-medicated with caffeine and carbs to get myself through the day and to calm my jittery nerves. As you can imagine this was unsustainable. Thankfully, my self-medication began at a time when I also began a dedicated yoga practice. Not only did yoga offer my body relief but it had a major impact on me mentally.
I remember one incident in particular; after a day of feeling completely defeated and exhausted at work, I stepped on my mat. Another student came into the class late and took a spot in front of me blocking my view of the mirror. The teacher stopped instructing and directed everyone around me to shift so that everyone could see themselves in the mirror. We often can’t predict the occurrence of profound moments on our mat. For me, that was the most profound moment I experienced in years. One of the most eternally gratifying aspects of being in a leadership position is to be of service to others and constantly be on call for the team. But after five years of constantly “being ready,” to have that 90 minutes where I was not allowed to bring my phone into the room, where I was required to see myself, and where I was encouraged to think about what was happening in my own body was the best lesson and gift that anyone could have given me on that day.
Over the years I’ve noticed that I gravitate toward a certain practice depending on what is going on in my life. When I feel work is monotonous, I practice Vinyasa to bring a sense of balance to my day. When I’m in a position that overwhelms me, I gravitate towards the consistent and predictable hot 26 sequence. Often we think about balance in the micro-sense on a day-to-day level.
But life ebbs and flows, bringing periods where a creative practice is beneficial, or a grounding practice is needed, or heart openers are helpful. This is one of my favorite parts of teaching — working with clients to discover what serves them.
When I decided to leave active duty, I was confused about what I should do next. Soon after I was inspired to seek out teacher training by one of my own teachers. I had never considered it before but knew how the practice shifted my life and gave me a real tool to cope with challenges. I knew that I needed to continue to be productive in the community by offering the practice of yoga to others.
After taking the Warriors at Ease training, I find such joy in bringing tangible and needed skills as a teacher to the military and first responder community. I’m able to teach tools that help veterans cope with the challenges of trauma. Above all, yoga can be many things, but it is a real and effective tool to enhance our lives. Although I left active duty and am now serving in the Reserves, I can appreciate how a mind-body practice can bring more awareness into our lives no matter what changes life brings.
I look back at my experience in Security Forces and realize how beneficial yoga would be for First Responders. For example, I always had great confidence during weapons qualification because I practiced breath control daily during yoga — which is one of the three major tenets of accurate firing. Trigger squeeze and follow through — the other two tenets — require a great deal of focus and mindfulness. Finding calm in the midst of chaos is another quality strengthened by practice. Even the physical postures provide relief when wearing heavy gear for 12 hours a day.
As I get older, I start thinking about healthy habits in terms of healthy lifestyles. Diets and 30-day healthy challenges are temporary; lifestyles sustain you for a long time. I would highly encourage anyone in Security Forces to find a lifestyle habit that addresses all the little stressors of your career. The heavy gear, constantly being on call, the ability to act under pressure — for me, yoga addressed all these stressors and trained me to respond to them better. I only wished I had become a yogi sooner!
As of now, I’m currently serving private clients, and will begin regularly teaching at the Honolulu VA Center in July!