This is much more than a yoga class. This is a room full of warriors.
Itâ€™s a yoga class dedicated solely to female veterans in Central Ohio, and each one of them has a different story, very different from their male counterparts.
â€œIâ€™m the first female in my family to have joined the military,â€ said Natasha Morrison, a six-year veteran of the Air Force and a participant in this yoga series.
Her family has a history of military service, with her father retired from the Air Force, one brother in the Army, and another in the Marines. Her husband serves in the National Guard. But itâ€™s here in this yoga studio that Natasha finds common ground with a veteran population the rest of us may not see.
â€œWeâ€™re hidden there,â€ said Morrison about female veterans. â€œSome people have done 20 years. Iâ€™ve done 6 years. Some have done 10 years, but weâ€™re out there. You just donâ€™t notice us right away.â€
This 8-week restorative yoga series is meant to offer a shared connection for these veterans. Itâ€™s organized by Run Down the Demons, a nonprofit organization focusing on education, awareness, and research into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other mental health complications that veterans and their families might be facing.
â€œItâ€™s to give them some comradery among other people that have gone through the same things as them,â€ said Kim Shoemaker, a board member for Run Down the Demons. â€œThereâ€™s about 14% of the active duty population that are women. There are 18% reservists that are women. And thereâ€™s about 20% that are new recruits. So, we want to give them the same respect that we would give our male veterans as well.â€
â€œAll of us are female veterans,â€ said Morrison. â€œWe all have the same story or same kind of story, so we can connect even if weâ€™ve never met before.â€
The class also has counselors on hand for those dealing with post-traumatic stress and other challenges.
â€œTheyâ€™ve sacrificed themselves for something bigger than themselves and often times we find that when they have come back from serving, theyâ€™re looking for that place where they can belong and where they can feel of service again,â€ said Julie Wilkes, owner of 7Studios, where the series is held.
This is time just for them â€“ to find their breath, find their power and find their community.
â€œOur goal is to connect people in powerful ways â€“ and not only allow them to connect with themselves within class, but then connect with each other and create friendships and community outside of class,â€ said Wilkes.
For Natasha Morrison, itâ€™s just what she needed.
â€œItâ€™s given me kind of that peace and tranquility â€“ just to have a room full of people who know what Iâ€™ve experienced and I know what theyâ€™ve experienced,â€ said Morrison.
This is a pilot program that Run Down the Demons hopes to expand. Itâ€™s been a huge success so far. Hot Chicken Takeover partnered with the organization, contributing funds for the yoga mats and blocks through the sale of a limited-edition Army green shirt. So, the program could be offered to veterans absolutely free.
If youâ€™d like to support this effort, Run Down the Demons has a 5K obstacle race coming up on April 7th. You can find out more and register for the race from the organizationâ€™s website.