U.S. Navy Veteran Uses Yoga to Help Other Veterans Heal

Veteran & Yoga Instructor

Anthony Scaletta joined the U.S. Navy as part of the Special Forces as a Special Warfare Combatant Crewman between 1998-2003. Deployed two times, he spent much of his time doing missions on fast attack boats. Boats known for going fast, the repeated jarring on the waves took tole on Anthony’s body, causing him severe back pain. Still in his 20s, he didn’t start feeling the effects until a few years later. Always an athlete, “I just knew that stretching, and trying to get back into my body madeAnthony Navy me feel a little better.” And so yoga became a part of his routine to get healthy, and now he is using yoga to help other veterans.

Practicing yoga for 10 years now, it has been “ever-evolving and slowly growing.” After having a spinal fusion surgery in January 2007, he found that the metal piece in his body was hard to live with in the cold climate of his home in the Northeastern U.S. “So a year or so after the surgery, I think my yoga practice began to pick up. It became apparent it was more than just a physical aspect for me.” His favorite yoga pose, Final Resting Posture, or Savasana, usually is at the end of a yoga session, and according to Anthony, “it’s where the healing happens.”

Using Yoga to Help Other Veterans

Anthony YogaFour years or so later, Anthony became aware that he could help other veterans through the practice of yoga. Working with the Wounded Warrior Project, There And Back Again, a non-profit out of Boston, and the school he attended, Asheville Yoga Center in North Carolina, he was able to complete his yoga teacher training.

Completing his yoga teacher training at the end of October 2014, he is now a yoga teacher as of November 2014. “It’s an honor and a privilege to teach yoga to anyone…I have had the privilege to work with a few veterans that are regulars in my group classes…who had never practiced yoga before.” Now, Anthony is focusing on veteran outreach and fundraising, as the new Outreach Coordinator for the Give Back Yoga Foundation.

He is currently getting ready for an event coming up in June, with the Give Back Yoga Foundation working together with Warriors for Healing, a non-profit based in San Diego, CA. As Anthony says, “(Warriors for Healing) are bringing yoga to the military community, especially veterans with PTSD, TBI, and chronic pain.” Warriors for Healing put together a great video about Anthony here.

Yoga Journal Live! Event JUNE 25-29, 2015 in San Diego, CA

The Yoga Journal along with Warriors for Healing and Give Back Yoga Foundation are putting on a benefit event to support the recovery of 200,000 American veterans with PTSD. Funds raised will provide free trauma therapy for veterans in VA hospitals, yoga studios, and community centers nationwide. Interested in being a part of this great event? Anthony is fundraising for this event with his own team here and is also asking individuals to start up their own teams to help spread the. Join him to support this wonderful cause.

Bridging the Gap Between Veterans and Yoga

Anthony Yoga Poses

What is next for Anthony? In May, he is moving to Virginia Beach, VA, to begin a Mission Continues Fellowship serving as the Outreach Coordinator for Veterans Programs with the Give Back Yoga Foundation.  He will also be undertaking advanced studies in the Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans certification during this time.

Build a Positive Relationship With Cooking

Have you ever felt so completely into a meal that you wanted to savor each indulgent bite for ages? A meal so enriching and delectable that it it delights not only your taste buds, but your soul as well. This is the kind of experience that calls for eyes half-closed in a dreamy state and a sweet smile on your lips as you slowly taste, smell, chew and enjoy your food.

Think about what it would feel like to eat this way. How would the food taste as it reaches your tongue? How enticing would the aroma be as it wafts through the house? Would you eat this meal quickly, scarfing it down without so much as tasting it, or would you take your time and finish it when you’re truly satisfied?

With all of the convenient options and boxed meals available nowadays, so many of us have lost the sacred art of preparing meals by hand and enjoying them mindfully while seated at the table. When you cook meals yourself, you are taking the time to connect with your food on a deeper level. You have the ability to taste it as you go, smell the delicious spices you’ve used, and have complete control over the quality of ingredients. Chopping vegetables and mincing herbs can be a meditation in itself.

Body + Mind + Soul + Spirit = You card isolated

When you have a positive relationship with cooking, and make meal preparation a mindful activity, you make it feel more special–more sacred. You can infuse your food with love and healing thoughts of nourishment while it simmers on the stovetop, for example. Creating a positive environment around your food, especially when it comes to eating, makes it a safe and enjoyable space. Unfortunately a lot of people are more concerned with counting calories or staying away from carbs, which causes us to fall out of touch with listening to our body and nourishing it on all levels.

That’s where the power of mind-body affirmations and mindful eating comes in to the equation. Imagine that you are about to eat your favorite not-so-healthy dessert. What do you tell yourself before you take the first bite? Many of us would have already begun to berate or punish ourselves for eating something that we know isn’t good for us, even before we take that first bite. This constant negativity and stress around food and punishing ourselves for indulging is what causes us to have an imbalanced relationship with food, which can lead to weight gain, emotional stress, eating disorders, and even worse conditions (Have an issue with one of these disorders? Our art therapist can help).

While you shouldn’t indulge in unhealthy foods too often, tearing yourself apart and causing your body even more stress isn’t going to make that food any better for you. Indulging occasionally is soothing for the soul, but the best way to heal yourself in the food realm is to utilize positive mind-body affirmations before eating your food. You can make meal preparation sacred, positive and fun by playing music, simply thinking positive thoughts as you cook, or other creative therapies.

Another great way to make your dining experience uplifting is to eat at the table. Sit with your feet firmly planted on the ground so that you have good posture. You can light candles or decorate your table with fresh, local wildflowers for a visually appealing meal if you wish. Before you begin to eat, use your senses to engage all that is in front of you, ready to nourish your body, mind and soul. Smell the food and try to notice each scent from the spices or herbs you used. Plate your meal beautifully and use a variety of whole foods for an array of vitamins and minerals that also look nice when displayed. Maybe even taste a small sample from your fingertip. Take these moments to be mindful and associate positivity with your meal.

I encourage you to always practice gratitude at mealtime. Think of the farmer who grew such juicy produce or the earth and appreciate this bounty of whole foods. Now take a quiet moment to breathe deeply and become one with this experience. There are many different affirmations you can recite, whether in your head or aloud, but choose one that fits for you at that particular moment. You can find some examples to help build a positive relationship with cooking listed below:

  • This meal is going to nourish my body and supply nutrients, vitamins and minerals so that my skin glows
  • I am thankful for this spread of food that will heal my digestion, uplift my spirit and satisfy me on all levels
  • I infuse this meal with abundant and healing love so that I may feel energized and recharged
  • I know that my body will assimilate and utilize these nutrients as I need them
  • I indulge in this food, but I know that on occasion that is perfectly okay
  • I choose to consume this meal in a mindful and peaceful manner for optimal healing

If you are going to consume something that is considered more of an indulgence, like the dessert mentioned above, don’t beat yourself up over it. Simply accept that you are choosing this food and say an affirmation such as “I allow my body to have delicious treats on occasion and in moderation because I nourish myself on all levels.” This doesn’t mean that you can make poor eating choices and simply say an affirmation beforehand to excuse it, but every now and then, we all deserve a treat. If you make healthy choices most of the time, you are doing your body wonders.

Having a positive relationship with cooking and a mindfulness around food are incredibly beneficial and will allow you to become more in tune with yourself. When this happens, you will rely more on nature to heal you in the form of fresh, tasty whole foods. The next time you sit down to a meal, close your eyes and just be in that moment. Taste your food, chew it extremely well and breathe deeply in between each bite to prevent overeating. Mindfulness will connect you to your spirit and improve your digestion and ability to detect when you are actually full.

So take this time to play with your food, infuse it with love, and create a positive relationship with cooking. Enjoy!