By Alison Chambers (@dtlvblogger)
Leland Holgate, Sr. is a U.S. Air Force veteran who has practiced yoga for over twelve years. He discovered the healing power of yoga after he was severely injured post-service. On R&R following time in combat, he was involved in a wave runner accident; he knew immediately he was badly injured when he hit the water. He was desperately depressed after discovering the accident had rendered him a quadriplegic. Two days post-accident, feeling completely hopeless, he bordered on suicidal thoughts. But something inside him said, “Wait, no! I am not going to do this!” It was shortly after this positive self-talk that he felt a tingling in the back of his neck, the brachial plexus, which affects the nerves that carry signals from the spine to the shoulder. He described the feeling as being “lit up”. Within 3 weeks, his recovery was at better than 50%, and he had regained the ability, albeit limited, to move his limbs. It was Leland’s physical therapist during rehab who introduced him to yoga in a roundabout way. The therapist was incorporating various stretches that were actually yoga poses. Leland was initially hesitant to try “yoga” because he felt it was more for females. Once he accomplished getting off pain pills and using a cane, he was convinced, and embraced yoga. 13 months after becoming a quadriplegic and wanting to end it all, Leland was completely healed.
As a passerby of the horrific 1 October event in Las Vegas two years ago, Leland found himself experiencing horrible memories of his time in combat. He was led to Trauma Recovery Yoga (TRY), and following his first class with Joyce Bosen, the co-founder of the method, he was hooked. He took the teacher training workshop in March 2019, and he now teaches TRY to veterans and active duty military members through a program at Desert Parkway Behavioral Healthcare Hospital in Las Vegas. Many of the participants are men, and many of them suffer from PTSD. He receives much positive feedback from the people who take his TRY class, from “yoga is life” to profuse thank yous. These individuals are eager to share their experiences and forward progress in the support groups they attend.
In addition to the TRY class at Desert Behavioral, he teaches a class he dubbed “Warrior Flow” at the Downtown Yoga and Wellness Co-op once a week. The class contains many elements of TRY, but with additional hip and shoulder opening poses. The class is focused on opening the areas of the body where we all hold our emotional baggage. The class is $10 drop in, but free for Warriors (military, veterans and first responders).
In 2017, Leland formed “Warriors for Life America”, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping active duty military members, veterans and first responders ~ and their families ~ with the struggle against suicide that is rampant. An average 22 “warriors” are lost to suicide every day. The organization provides yoga and meditation practices as well as additional workshops to help find balance in life. The build process for Warriors for Life America helped Leland cope with his own struggles as he pushed forward to help others. As we often say in Trauma Recovery Yoga, “we rise by lifting others”. A workshop he is currently putting together will break down the mystery of yoga and meditation, and help remove the stigma of yoga as something that is done primarily by women who are fit, “bendy”, and healthy. “Warrior Walk” is a light hike, some Trauma Recovery Yoga, and perhaps a fun bonus like a raffle at the conclusion. The first walk was held in early April at Red Rock, was well attended by veterans who, within the casual atmosphere, felt comfortable talking to each other and letting “stuff” go. All these activities only serve to move his mission of suicide prevention forward.
“We rise by lifting others.”
It is extremely important for men like Leland to learn about and realize the true benefits of Trauma Recovery Yoga, and furthermore, to share it with other men. The mindset of many, both men and women, when hearing the word yoga, is often so different than what our practice is about. A traditional yoga practice in a studio will look and feel significantly different than Trauma Recovery Yoga. The traditional instructor will likely be walking around the room, touching participants and calling them out by name in an effort to “correct” their posture; there might be music playing, and the lights might be low. These are all behaviors and activities that may be extremely triggering for a trauma survivor. A musical selection, as innocuous as it might seem, might elicit haunting memories. The Trauma Recovery Yoga method was developed specifically with these guidelines in mind, as the co-founder herself was highly disturbed by a traditional yoga practice following her own trauma.
In anticipation of writing this blog post about Leland, I participated in a Trauma Recovery Yoga class he was teaching at the Co-op. The thing about a Trauma Recovery Yoga class is the consistency of the method, no matter who teaches it or in what space. You are assured of gentle, easy poses that don’t require balance (no standing on one leg) or complicated moves (no wrapping your leg around your neck). And, the “microcueing”, the continuous talking the instructor does throughout the entire length of the class, holds the same message and purpose, to provide positive encouragement and to prevent your mind from going to the dark space during periods of silence. Consistency in the method is highly important as survivors of trauma require predictability. There are a variety of poses from which an instructor may choose to include in a TRY class; I was pleased there were poses which I had learned early in my TRY experience which my own instructor is not currently using. All TRY poses are good, assist in heating the body, releasing the negative energy and bad stories we or others tell ourselves, and conclude with “shavasna” a guided meditation in a posture of our choice, whether it is lying prone, fetal position, or sitting and breathing.
Visit http://www.traumarecoveryyoga.org for more information on Trauma Recovery Yoga.
Check out dtlvcoop.com for class and workshop schedules.
Downtown Yoga and Wellness Co-op is located at 701 East Bridger Avenue, Suite 150, Las Vegas, NV 89101 inside the Driven NeuroRecovery Center.
Free parking is available Mon.-Fri. 7am-6pm in the underground garage, enter from 8th Street. Additionally, free street parking is available Mon.-Fri. after 6pm and on weekends on Bridger Avenue and 8th Street.