PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – The origins of yoga date back more than 5,000 years. Even though it has a very long history, its popularity has increased significantly in recent years throughout northeastern and central Pennsylvania.
As yoga has increased in popularity, it’s changed the stereotype of who’s participating in this activity. Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains how military veterans are among the many who are reaping benefits from yoga.
“Stretch out completely. Separate your feet slightly to open your hips.” Volunteer instructor Tom Gilmore brings his 14 years of yoga experience each week to the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center.
“Everybody exhale,” advised Mr. Gilmore whose class mostly consists of former servicemen and women who are middle-aged and older. Among them is 70-year-old Stephen Orzel of Scranton who was skeptical when the yoga course was first introduced.
“In a way because I didn’t know what to expect,” he said.
But in the nearly two years the VA has offered yoga for vets Mr. Orzel said “I never miss.” When asked why, the U.S. Marine Corps vet said, “Because of what it does.”
Mr. Orzel credits yoga with helping strengthen his bones, tone muscle and ease his sciatica. And those are just the physical benefits. Mr. Orzel added, “From the standpoint of patience, from the standpoint of relaxation, from the standpoint of focus. Focus is very important.”
“It’s just a different approach. Giving them other options,” said Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center Chief of Nutrition & Food Services and Whole Health Champion Paola Montross, MS, RD, LDN.
The VA offers yoga as part of its whole health system. The approach emphasizes non-prescription medication methods to cope in a multitude of ways. As Ms. Montross explained, “Help with their pain or helping them breathe, stretch, being a little bit more flexible, being able to take the stairs and playing with their grandchildren or gardening.”
By offering yoga, it helps vets like Mr. Orzel now and prepare for the next chapter in their lives.
“By doing yoga, I’m hoping to, if you will, be able to walk into my 80s. Be able to stretch,” said Mr. Orzel who said he takes what he’s learned from the once a week yoga class at the VA and practices at home.
The VA offers regular yoga for vets and what’s called “gentle” yoga for those with mobility issues who can participate while sitting in a chair. For more information, call the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center at 570-824-3521.