The Story of Veterans Yoga Project
Veterans Yoga Project Origins
VYP began when Dr. Daniel J. Libby was working as a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Yale University Department of Psychiatry at the West Haven VA Medical Center, Connecticut.
While providing psychotherapy for veterans recovering from PTS(D), he found that those who developed empowering self-regulating practices had better outcomes — they moved through post-traumatic stress to post-traumatic growth more quickly and gracefully.
“A turning point in the founding of VYP occurred before the fourth “mindful yoga” class I had ever taught. One of my veterans approached me and told me that he had stopped taking his sleep medications, because now he could meditate to go to sleep. That moment was profound. The pride with which he told me this was palpable. It’s as if he was no longer a broken man who couldn’t manage the simplest of human functions; instead he was empowered to use his own mind, his own breath, his own body to live and sleep, in a way that brought him more ease and more joy. He practiced every day. Eventually, he went on to lead morning meditations in his own community at a local yoga center.”
Veterans Yoga Project started with a training workshop delivered by a psychologist and a yoga teacher that was intended to help other yoga teachers have the skills and knowledge to effectively use yoga as a complementary part of PTS(D) treatment. As that original training has grown and evolved, so has VYP. The VYP Teachers Alliance was created for teachers who are teaching yoga to veterans as a support community that includes monthly continuing education training opportunities from subject matter experts in the field. VYP’s services have expanded from a focus on those in recovery to include those who care for those in recovery; and to those veterans who, as part of their post-traumatic growth, have decided to dedicate their time sharing these tools with other veterans.
The Evolution of VYP
October 2010: The first “Mindful Yoga Therapy” Training.
October 11, 2011: Veterans Yoga Project Birthday – incorporated in Connecticut .
August 2013: The first VYP veterans retreat at Feathered Pipe Ranch.
July 2014: VYP goes international with our first training in Canada!
August 2014: Veterans Yoga Project becomes a 501(c)(3) (retroactive to October 2011).
November 2014: First Veterans Gratitude week raises ~$20,ooo from 96 classes across 25 states.
July 2015: First foundation grant for veterans yoga classes.
August 2016: VYP begins data collection for ongoing veterans classes.
August 2016: Study of the Mindful Resilience protocol published in the Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health.
December 2016: First VYP Subjective Pain and Distress Analysis published.
June 2017: First advanced training summit.
July 2017: VYP-trained teachers teach 100 classes a month across the USA for the first time.
December 2018: VYP reaches 20,000 veteran visits for the year.
April 2019: VYP creates a more robust standard of practice for its teachers by introducing the Veterans Yoga Project Teacher Alliance.
November 2019: Veterans Gratitude Week holds more than 600 classes across 50 states, and 3 continents (Tunisia, Costa Rica, Germany, US).
December 2019: More than 25,800 documented visits from veterans and their family members across more than 4,500 classes.
March 15, 2020: The first 200-hour Mindful Resilience Yoga Teacher Training program for veterans, by veterans, begins.
March 23, 2020: An unexpected global pandemic inspires VYP to launch our Online Streaming Classes virtual programming in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From Chair Yoga to Dynamic Flows, Breathwork to Yoga Nidra, VYP Online Streaming Classes have presented a variety of free live classes to veterans, first responders, caregivers, active duty, our families, and communities 7 days a week, every single day since. From all corners of the USA to around the globe, we will continue to serve those who have served. In 2020 we live-streamed over 1,800 classes and recorded 3,600+ active duty and veteran encounters.
June 2021: VYP launches its online Mindful Resilience for Compassion Fatigue course to battle burnout and bring compassion satisfaction to our served populations.
March 1-5, 2021: VYP holds its 100th Mindful Resilience for Trauma Recovery training.
VYP has trained 2,225+ individuals across the US and Canada, and provided 1,230+ scholarships to veterans, service members, and military families.
The organization is still led from the front by Executive Director Dr. Daniel J. Libby, an incredible and dedicated staff, and an essential team of volunteers on a national level. In addition, each region has its own Regional Director, in charge of funding and boots on the ground in their area – making sure a veritable army of volunteers, local yoga teachers, studios and local outreach programs have the support and access they need to get VYP Mindful Resilience to as many military members, veterans, first responders, caregivers, families, and communities as possible.
Our staff and volunteers are passionate and hardworking, dedicated to getting yoga and mind-body tools to the people who need it. But we need help. Funding classes and retreats, sponsoring big projects, spreading the word far and wide, hosting events, and providing scholarships for training can only be achieved with your help.2,225
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The Future According to VYP
Our veterans and military families are our communities' best assets. VYP envisions a future where all veterans, active duty, their families, and communities have access to a full range of mind-body practices that support their efforts to be leaders in their own lives, in their own families, and in their own communities. VYP will continue to support recovery and resilience via:
- Mindful Resilience for Trauma Recovery Training
- Mindful Resilience for Compassion Fatigue
- Mindful Resilience Yoga Classes
- Mindful Resilience 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training
- VYP Mindful Resilience Program Development & Consultation
- Mindful Resilience & Yoga Research Programs
VYP intends to increase our programs to reach more veterans, more diverse veterans, more veterans in rural areas, justice-involved veterans, and active duty military.
Please reach out to Executive Director, Daniel J. Libby, if there are any other ways that we can help you support recovery and resilience among our veterans, families, and communities.