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Being a military veteran himself, Marty Yura has a special affinity to the military members he teaches through the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program. Creating a safe, welcoming, and interesting environment in the studio, Mr. Yura brings all of his life experiences to how he teaches yoga and how he creates an important connection with his students.
There may not be definitive quantitative data to support the efficacy of yoga for military members, especially those with PTSD, but there is a lot of research and experiential evidence that shows that yoga can make a significant difference in the healing process. Yoga helps to calm the central nervous system, so after even practicing a short time, people with PTSD may start to sleep better, feel less trauma-related physical pain, and experience a greater sense of quietude.
Though everybody is dealing with their own mind and body during a yoga class, there is something powerful about practicing in a group. When teaching veterans with PTSD in the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program, Mr. Yura brings a holistic approach to his teaching. Focusing less on traditional poses and more on somatics—a way of re-educating the way our brain senses and moves the muscles—he helps the group develop a series of movements from which they can readily feel the benefits and use post-program to contribute to their own well-being.
For veterans in the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program, Marty Yura teaches yoga with a focus on heightening the awareness of what a person is feeling in their body. With a focus on somatics—a way of re-educating the way our brain senses and moves the muscles—instead of traditional poses, he helps his students loosen their connective tissue, open neural pathways for greater energy flow to the body, and enhance their awareness of what they are feeling inside their bodies. "In some ways, this is a process of unlearning habituated movements that don't contribute to their health," he says.
Since it's inception, yoga has been an integral part of the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program. During the intensive two-week program, veterans take one hour of yoga three times a week where they learn to release physical and emotional pain. Mr. Yura says that although some students are more engaged than others, it is rewarding for him to see the extent of people's responses to the practice, including embracing what they have learned to use post-program like specific movements for lower back release, breathing techniques, and strategies for calming the nervous system during a reactive situation.
The son of Holocaust survivors, Marty Yura believes deeply that trauma lingers, that it resides in the body ... in our cells, and that though it diminishes with time, the impact of that trauma is transferred generationally. His experience in the military as well as the fact of being the son of Holocaust survivors informs the way he teaches yoga to veterans.
Somatics is a movement therapy that refers to the internal sensations of the body, how you're moving your body, what you feel inside your body. When teaching yoga to veterans through the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program, Marty Yura focuses on interoceptive awareness—the ability to identify, access, understand, and respond appropriately to the patterns of internal signals, which can provide a distinct advantage to engage in life challenges and on-going adjustments. He explains: "When you are focusing on somatics, you are not working against gravity which offers you more space, more room, and more awareness to home in on what you are feeling."
Yoga is a physical practice, but equally a mental practice. The possibilities that can arise from any yoga practice are infinite. Yoga can help you learn ways to calm yourself down. It can release discomforts that you may have been resigned yourself to always having to endure. It can instigate a willingness and openness to try new things, or to access parts of yourself you thought were forever locked.