Beginning Yoga: A Warrior’s Journey

Originally published in the Yoga Tree blog.

In the February of 2016 I attended Wisdom 2.0, a conference connecting wisdom practices with modern technology in San Francisco, I heard an incredible story of a man’s journey to yoga. The story is that of Sergeant Dan Nevins.

Dan grew up in Baltimore facing adversities in his home life. He joined the Army and spent eight years in active duty during Desert Storm. Upon coming home, he excelled in business and other ventures. Then the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened and he felt called to return to military service to help prevent further attacks on the U.S.

In 2004, while on a mission in Iraq, a bomb detonated below his vehicle killing his close friend and severely injuring him. At that time, he lost one of his legs and was told there was a good chance he would lose the other. After a long road of recovery and ultimately losing his other leg, he was able to heal his body and learn to live with two prosthetic legs. He excelled in outer ways in business and life, but his internal world included suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder.

He called on a trusted friend who was a yoga teacher who suggested he try yoga. As a military man and self-labeled “dude”, yoga was not something he felt was designed for him or guys like him. His female friend then suggested meditation, which he began and saw instant results from the ability to quiet his mind. She checked back in and asked if he was interested in starting yoga with three private lessons. He committed to this, taking his commitments seriously. He said the first lesson was as miserable as he thought it would be on two prosthetic legs. He left the class angry thinking, “how could yoga be this hard?” But he stuck with it and came to the next session. It was then he realized he needed to take his legs off and had a lot of shame associated with showing another outside his family the state of his legs after losing them. He proceeded and took them off, making an effort to do the postures on his knees starting with Warrior I pose. As he put his body into the pose making contact with the mat, he felt a charge from the earth beneath that he hadn’t felt in 10 years since the accident. It was an incredibly profound experience for him to reconnect to his body and life force in this way. He left the second session feeling very differently than the first. Dan has continued with his practice and has become a certified teacher. He has learned through the power of yoga to teach others including veterans like him saying, “As a yoga teacher, this is the most important work he has done. This work saves lives.” He encourages people to be an invitation, to invite others without pushing including inviting a veteran to yoga.

As Dan teared up during multiple points of sharing his emotional story, the room filled with nearly 3,000 teared up along with him. His openness in sharing his experiences was palpable and deeply heart felt.

Remember a time when you were a beginner.

What emotions came up for you at this time? Fear, excitement, curiosity, etc?

How did you break through taking those first steps to get present and learn?

Is yoga something you are curious to learn or refine?

The first yoga class I took was with my mom in 2000 on the East Coast. As a senior in high school, I remember experiencing relationship drama and the emotional process of starting to move away from home. From that first class, I felt an ability to quiet my mind and drop into my body like I had never experienced before. By college, I became a regular practitioner trying out different styles and felt a calling to teach by my sophomore year. The path of yoga has provided me so much and I am grateful to my mom for inviting me to that first class.

If yoga is new to you or someone you know that you think could benefit, I invite you to join me.

Additional links and resources:

woundedwarriorproject.org

www.yogaforvets.org

veteransyogaproject.org

givebackyoga.org/resources-for-veterans