Veterans Spotlight: Sarah Moore

Perhaps one of the hardest patterns to break – for all of us, but especially for those who have served – is the one where we push ourselves forward and attempt to tough something out.

This is one of the reasons yoga can be so beneficial. When taught properly, it encourages its participants to rest, take care of themselves, and ease back when they are past their limits.

For Sarah Moore, attempting to tough it out felt like the correct path forward. Until it wasn’t.

Sarah grew up all over the United States. Born in Colorado, Sarah is a third generation pilot.

“My grandfather was a pilot for the Army Air Corps, and later Air Force and most notably was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross a mission he led during the Berlin Airlift,” says Sarah. “My grandfather and I were both awarded The Air Medal for combat flight (his in Germany, mine in Iraq) 60 years apart. My father was a corporate pilot, and introduced me to my love of flying. I knew from a young age I’d end up flying… I just didn’t know it would be for the Army as a helicopter pilot.”

Like many soldiers, Sarah would enlist in the military after the tragic events of 9/11. She was a freshman in college when the terrorist attack occurred.

“As soon as 9/11 happened, I knew I wanted to serve my country,” says Sarah.

Sarah enlisted in the US Army Reserve and served three years as a transportation specialist. She would eventually become the first female Air Assault Company Commander in the New Jersey National Guard.

However, with such accomplishments came a heavy price.

“My life during 2010 was the textbook picture of someone struggling with anxiety, but had no idea I was struggling,” says Sarah. “I thought though that’s the ‘way things were’ now post-deployment. I had just returned from deployment in 2009 with significant stress and back pain. The military’s ‘suck it up and drive on’ culture taught me to ignore the signs my body was telling me to slow down, and I continued to push full speed ahead without giving myself a break.”

Sarah was juggling struggles that went beyond her experiences serving in the military. She was also in an abusive relationship, but wasn’t able to identify it at the time. On top of that, she found herself overworked while continuing to serve in the military, feeling unable to say no to additional duties and assignments. All of this stress would eventually culminate in an anxiety attack that would put her in the ER.

“My anxiety attack happened during a very stressful underwater helicopter egress course, and my unresolved trauma involving water when I was a child sent my already dysregulated nervous system into a tail spin. It took a full nervous system overload to finally get me to stop and start addressing all of the stress and anxiety in my life,” says Sarah.

Eventually, Sarah would find her way to yoga. She found she was getting nowhere with mainstream doctors, who kept prescribing her prescription pain medicine, which didn’t feel right to her. On top of that, the use of painkillers kept her from being able to do what she loves: fly.

“I felt my entire career was in danger unless I found another way to address my back pain and get better,” says Sarah.

Eventually, a neurosurgeon recommended yoga alongside deep tissue massage. This recommendation would begin a decade-long journey through yoga as a healing modality.

“I’ve been practicing over 10 years now and it’s controlled my back pain and the extra bonus of helping with my anxiety,” says Sarah. “Yoga has now become a way of life for me.”

Like many of us, Sarah saw yoga as a way to get a “good stretch”, but found quickly that yoga encompasses a lot more than a stretching routine.

“[I] was so surprised when the instructor was explaining how to live in the moment,” says Sarah. “That was so profound to me because my life was filled with constantly worrying about things I couldn’t change. It was life-changing to learn how to be in the present moment.”

This yoga practice would travel with her on her deployments: first as a student, and later as a teacher.

“I started deployment by doing yoga in my room with some podcasts that I downloaded,” says Sarah. “I then though that if I’m getting so much benefit from this, why wouldn’t I share it with others?! I contacted our base gym and told them I’d like to hold yoga classes and they found me a space, which happened to be a theater stage, and started holding classes 3 times a week. By the end of deployment, I had 25-30 people showing up each class!”

Sarah got to see firsthand the benefits of yoga on her fellow service people.

“The feedback I got from my fellow service members was amazing – they said they were sleeping better, dealing with deployment in a more positive mind frame and some even said their pain decreased!” says Sarah. “I was astounded at how many people felt better after yoga. I even heard one of the soldiers went home and became a yoga teacher after deployment!”

It was her yoga teaching during deployment that helped Sarah recognize how vital such a practice is for service members. Likewise, it was her drive to continue to bring yoga to veterans that brought her to Veterans Yoga Project, and specifically to a 15-hour Mindful Resilience Training for yoga teachers.

“Taking away the ‘stigma’ of getting help and learning natural ways to address anxiety, PTSD and pain is much needed in this community,” says Sarah. “I think VYP encompasses all that.”

However, getting to attend an MRT training proved to be more difficult than initially expected. Thankfully, the online option helped her achieve what she wanted to accomplish.

“Every time I was scheduled, I had to cancel due to full-time work or military reserve requirements,” says Sarah. “I was so happy it was offered online and for a few hours a day. It made it so easy for me to get the training done. The course material was great and reinforced for me that I’m on the right path with trying to

These days, Sarah has been thriving.