Healing our heroes: Muskegon yoga class helps those suffering from PTSD

MUSKEGON, Mich. -- A yoga instructor in Muskegon is helping local heroes deal with the effects of war.

Blue Horizons Wellness Yoga is open to anyone who has dealt with trauma.

Vicki Schneider, co-owner of Blue Horizons, started the class for veterans and first responders and their families about a year ago.

"This is the program that Walter Reed Medical Center uses with returning veterans to help them deal with PTSD and other symptoms of war,” Schneider said.

Schneider was inspired to learn about the National Warriors at Ease program because of what she experienced growing up.

“My dad’s a Korean War vet," she said. "You could tell things were kind of eating him alive and he just didn’t have a way to deal with what he went through in the war and that’s why we want to offer these classes because yoga and meditation have been shown to help with the symptoms of PTSD and trauma."

Schneider wanted to make sure no other veterans have to struggle alone like her father did. Once a week on Wednesday evenings she offers the free, donation-based class.

"Didn’t know much about it other than it looked like it was pretty simple," Army veteran Rich Predko tells FOX 17. "It looked like it. I’ve learned differently."

Predko started yoga with fellow veteran Andy Golightly last summer.

"This class has helped me learn to breathe and keep going instead of sitting around,” Predko said.

Both men say many of their friends are hesitant to try it because of the stigma surrounding yoga and meditation, or are just intimidated.

“It’s kind of like that 'Well yoga is girly.' Well no it’s not. It’s tough. And 'meditation is for sissies.' No it’s a skill," Schneider said.

Schneider says the class is designed specifically for veterans and first responders.

“We take out all the woo woo words, because most of yoga and meditation is based on science anyway, so we just don’t bother with that," she said. "If you’re going to straighten your leg, you straighten your leg."

Through breathing and stretching, meditation and relaxation, Schneider says the class can help ease some of the pain caused by PTSD.

"It calms your nervous system, it reduces anxiety, it reduces all of those things that create this problem," she said. "And so it increases the relaxation response and then it reduces anxiety, stress, improves your sleep, it gives you time to figure out a response to an issue.”

“I think it’s helped me more that I can talk more about PTSD than what I held in for 40 years and so it’s just relaxing and it just feels good," Predko says. "She works you to death, but it feels good once the meditation parts there.”

The class is held every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. You can find more information on the Blue Horizons website. 

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