Contemplating suicide, this Marine turned to yoga to save his life

(CNN)Marine Justin Blazejewski presents his yoga mat over a dock drifting along the banks of the Potomac River. It’s a warm weekday early morning inside the DC beltway, where he works and lives as a military professional.

“I came across yoga to conserve my life, generally, and I understood that I discovered something unique,” he stated. “And it’s taking me on a completely various course than I initially prepared.”
After a fast warmup, Blazejewski folds over himself, the top of his head resting on the creaky boards underneath him. The soles of his feet increase into a brilliant blue, cloudless sky. He raises both arms, vertical versus his upper body, till he’s in a complete unsupported headstand or niralamba sirsasana, as the position is employed yoga-speak.

      Around him, birds chirp, water laps versus the rocky coast, and a raft of wild ducks drifts previous him. It’s a scene far eliminated from the harsh landscape of war that led him to this minute.
      “I served in the Marine Corps for 5 years and dealt with the president’s helicopters,” he states. “After 9/11, I signed up with as a professional with a great deal of various federal government companies. I was taking a trip thoroughly to Iraq, Afghanistan and some other nations.”

      In order to survive, Blazejewski states, he internalized a “hyperarousal, active fight-or-flight mode”– one that continuously made him feel on high alert.
      “When you’re in the middle of no place in Afghanistan, it’s the middle of the night, and mortars begin being available in and blowing up through the roofing,” he remembered. “People are contending you, assaulting you, you cannot see who’s the hero and who’s the bad man. You are trained to keep encountering risk when the bullets are flying at you.”
      For 4 years, he states, the tension kept accumulating. He would return the home of DC after months in war-torn nations, not able to turn off his fight-or-flight action.
      To cope, Blazejewski relied on his enthusiasm for long-distance running and marathons.

      “I ‘d do that alone,” he stated, wishing to spare his friends and family from the dark ideas circling his mind. “My anger problems and my reactivity and the tension from war … it was occurring a growing number of.”

      No more running

      “A mortar came through the roofing system,” Blazejewski remembered of the night he was required to stop running. He remained in Afghanistan, working as a satellite engineer.
      “We came out, and I tripped and injured my ankle,” he stated. “The next day, we had another surge. It knocked me unconscious. I awakened and had a number of injuries and pieces of shrapnel in my ankle. That’s when, as a runner, it picked up me.”
      When Blazejewski returned house, a brand-new fight waited for. The opponent: the chaos in his own mind.
      “When I could not run and could not handle my tension, it was taking me to a dark location, and self-destructive ideas were sneaking in, and I understood that wasn’t OKAY,” he stated.

      A Marine relies on yoga

      Isolated from his military neighborhood and fighting with deep bouts of anxiety, Blazejewski pondered suicide.
      “It was an actually dark time for me,” he stated. “I simply wished to stay at home.”
      His roomie provided to take him to a yoga class, however yoga was not something Marines did.
      “We consider it something just ladies did and certainly teased it,” he remembered. “My roomie practically dragged me to a yoga class. I went yelling and kicking.”
      In 2008, a two-hour Friday night yoga class altered his life.
      “I got my butt kicked, and I was being in a puddle of sweat,” he stated, smiling at the memory.
      But it was throughout shavasana– a rest position normally done at the end of practice– when Blazejewski comprehended exactly what yoga might provide for him.
      “I felt simply relaxation for the very first time in over a years,” he stated. “It actually was the point in my life where whatever began to alter and I understood there was hope out there for me.”
      Blazejewski dived into his brand-new practice with the spirit of a Marine. He went to yoga every day for 6 months and after that registered in a 200-hour instructor training program in upstate New York.
      “My instructor stated the very best thing you can do is to share the practice that you’re finding out, specifically in battle zone,” he stated. “So that’s precisely what I began doing.”

      VEToga = Veterans + yoga

      Blazejewski went back to his contracting work, living the majority of the year in forward running bases.
      “If we had firefights or anything went on that was a high-stress day, I was teaching yoga,” he states. “We remained in the dirt simply doing the practice, and the trainees were coming. Even these huge Special Forces men were coming and like, ‘Hey, exactly what are you doing over there?’ ‘I’m doing yoga and meditation.'”
      Blazejewski understood he had actually ended up being an entrance for his military associates to find the recovery impacts of yoga.
      “I wished to avoid suicide, and I understand yoga is among the coping systems that I can teach,” he stated.
      So in 2015, Blazejewski produced VEToga , a not-for-profit that works to bring meditation, recovery and yoga arts to military veterans and their households.

      A yoga program for veterans

      At the core of VEToga is its difficult 200-hour instructor training program developed for the military neighborhood.
      For 2 weeks, trainees from all over the nation assemble in the DC location for 15-hour days packed with lectures and workshops.
      During the training, they discover the best ways to teach to a population struggling with injury, anxiety and post-traumatic tension. They likewise take a look at ways to adjust positions for trainees with handicaps, prosthetics or injuries and ways to incorporate psychological assistance pet dogs into the practice.
      “The trainees themselves, they do not feel evaluated for having a prosthetic. They do not feel evaluated for not having the ability to put their foot on their head. They’re simply there with others like them, and they simply release, and they discover which’s where the genuine yoga begins,” Blazejewski stated.

      A military neighborhood

      Navy veteran Bernadette Kilcer has actually been practicing yoga given that 2000 and now participates in among Blazejewski’s classes.
      Her yoga practice, she states, has actually assisted her handle injury and resulting weight gain. When she discovered VEToga, it ended up being about being part of a neighborhood.
      “It does not matter if you left of active service the other day or 30 years earlier,” Kilcer stated. “You satisfy a fellow veteran, and you have this instant connection, which’s exactly what this makes this program so unique.”
      Blazejewski’s brand-new objective is to have VEToga programs in all 50 states within the next 5 years.

      “My life has actually altered for the much better, and the more individuals I assist, the much better I feel about myself,” he stated. “Seeing these individuals, hearing their stories of how yoga conserved their life over and over once again, it keeps my flame lit, and it keeps me doing exactly what I’m doing.”

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