Improved access to special programs: Yoga “sleep” guided meditation class available from home - Public Health
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Improved access to special programs: Yoga “sleep” guided meditation class available from home

Gulf War Newsletter: Information for Veterans who served in operations desert shield and desert storm and their families
Two people in meditative yoga poses

The War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) in Palo Alto, California, has offered therapeutic yoga to local Veterans since 2010, to Veterans via telehealth since 2012, and by phone since 2016. These programs have been popular (25,956 individual visits between 2010 - 2018) and provide Veterans with drug-free relief from a wide variety of symptoms1. Yoga “sleep” guided mediation classes are available from the WRIISC by phone for Veterans across the country.

This phone-based program began when one of the yoga teachers became suddenly ill. Louise Mahoney, Director of Education and Risk Communication at the Palo Alto, California WRIISC, filled in with an iRest™ yoga nidra meditation class by phone so she would not disappoint the Veterans at the six CBOCs participating in yoga in-person 400 miles away. At the end of the class, she asked the Veterans for feedback and was thrilled to discover that they enjoyed the class and found it beneficial. This unfortunate illness provided the opportunity to discover that yoga meditation led by phone is a beneficial alternative to in-person yoga. From there, the WRIISC began offering iRest™ by phone and developed the IFC WRIISC Yoga Wellness referral consult so health providers could refer Veterans to the program.

iRestTM is an expanded yoga nidra (“sleep”) protocol focusing on meditation that was developed with active duty military, so it is appropriate for the military and Veteran population. The meditation follows a 10-step protocol, emphasizing a different step each week. During the meditation, Veterans start by establishing their own mission and purpose for their life and what might serve them well for the current meditation session. They also begin to develop their own internal “safe haven,” which they can use throughout the meditation when needed. The meditation then leads Veterans to explore their current experience starting with the senses, moving into a body scan and a breathing exercise.

During the meditation, the physical body may enter a sleep-like state, where the mind is still active and aware, but the body is at rest. It is in this state that most of the work takes place. The next stages of the meditation work through felt sensations in the body, that come with emotions and thoughts or beliefs. Veterans develop an awareness of how emotions and thoughts affect the body. Sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arise during the meditation are “messages” about their current state. iRest™ provides a method to process these messages while “sleeping.”

The meditation is easy – Veterans can just sit back and follow the guidance of the instructor. Many can learn to experience a sense of inner joy, and develop an awareness of and connect with an inner strength and resilience that allows them to more appropriately “respond” rather than “react” to situations in life. Veterans may also benefit from the restful sleep-like state achieved during the meditation, and many report reduced pain, improvement in sleep quantity and quality, and relief from other chronic symptoms.

Class Times (standard time)

3:00pm - Hawaii
4:00pm - Alaska
5:00pm - Pacific
6:00pm - Mountain
7:00pm - Central
8:00pm - Eastern

All Veterans are welcome to attend the class by phone. It is held on Thursdays at 5pm Pacific Time (see additional time zones). Please call 1-800-767-1750, Access code: 24953# to join. Recorded sessions are available on the WRIISC website.

1. Schultz-Heik RJ, Meyer H, Mahoney L, Stanton MV, Cho RH, Moore-Downing DP…Bayley PJ. Results from a clinical yoga program for veterans: yoga via telehealth provides comparable satisfaction and health improvements to in-person yoga. BMC Complement Altern Med 2017; 17: 198.