Benefsheh Verell (Benef) is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel with 20 years of active duty service. She graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point in 1997 and was commissioned in May of that year as a Military Police (MP) Officer. Benef’s first assignment in the Army was as a Military Police platoon leader with the 545th MP Company, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood. She deployed to Bosnia and upon her return tried yoga for the first time at the local YMCA in Killeen, Texas in 1999. She then went on to command the U.S. Security Forces company at Fort Detrick, MD. Her final job as a Military Police officer was as the deputy provost marshal for Fort Myer, Virginia. Benef then attended graduate school at the University of Maryland, College Park, receiving a Masters of Science in Physical Geography in 2006. She went on to teach Physical Geography and Land Use Planning at West Point and also at this time career field designated into Information Operations (IO). It was after the birth of her second child, that Benef began to take her yoga practice more seriously after a workshop she attended with Seane Corne at the Omega Institute in 2008.
Upon moving to Virginia, she worked as an IO officer with 1st Information Operations Command (Land) at Fort Belvoir. She was the Red Team Chief for the Vulnerability Assessment Detachment and also a Field Support Team Chief deploying to Iraq with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force. When she returned from Iraq, Benef went to the Kripalu Institute for the 200-hour yoga teacher training program, and received her certification in June of 2012. After a brief time in Korea as the operations officer for the G7 Information Operations, Eighth Army, Benef served as an Information Operations planner for US Army Central, Shaw Air Force Base (AFB), South Carolina.
It was at Shaw AFB that Benef first began teaching yoga. She taught on base at the gym as a volunteer and in the community of Sumter at Southern Bliss Yoga. She was able to teach for about six months before her job as an IO planner made teaching yoga regularly too difficult. She deployed to Kuwait as an IO planner for the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. While deployed, she taught several group and private classes to her coworkers and other service members.
Her last assignment was as the Chief of Bilateral Operations in the Operations Directorate while at United States Forces Japan, Yokota Air Base. She worked directly with the Government of Japan, Ministry of Defense negotiating agreements for U.S. unilateral and U.S.-Japan bilateral training on Japanese military bases. She taught yoga regularly for six months at the base gym and led yoga for a U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force unit Physical Training session.
As a retiree, Benef remains passionate about yoga and service members. She has a level 2 Warriors At Ease yoga certification. Benef’s long term goal is to see yoga and meditation as part of a regular resiliency program that starts in basic training and continues throughout a service member’s career. Benef serves the military community as a spouse and retiree through teaching and advocating for meditation and yoga, educating senior leaders about the benefits of mindfulness, meditation, and yoga, and mentoring service members and spouses. She owns a travel consultant business, Beneficial Vacations, which focuses on planning travel for groups. The business generates revenue that Benef then donates to research and programs that bring yoga and meditation to active duty service members.