Volunteer Spotlight: Dr. Tim Avery
A regular yoga practice can benefit the mind, body, and breath in a way that can be transformational to the student. It’s something everyone affiliated with Veterans Yoga Project believes in. But it’s important not to rest on the abstract notion that yoga is “good”; it’s important to measure the impact of the yoga practice, refine the curriculum, and support the yoga practice with a scientific background. That is where volunteers like Dr. Tim Avery come into play.
Dr. Tim Avery was raised in Vestal, New York, at the northern end of Appalachia. He grew up around those who served their country – and grew up around the after-effects of war. “All my neighborhood friends growing up were raised by Vietnam Veterans who were affected in varied ways by their experiences,” says Dr. Avery.
After a year of community college, Dr. Avery enlisted in the US Navy. He was admitted to the US Naval Academy during Electronics Technician Nuclear Field “A” School. Afterward, he served in both active duty and reserves and was deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
From the Navy, Dr. Avery transitioned into a career in clinical psychology. This eventually led Dr. Avery to train the staff at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in the use of their mobile mental health apps for the care of the veterans and families, which is currently free for anyone online.
“This role is within the VA’s National Center for PTSD,” explains Dr. Avery. “As a psychotherapist, I treat PTSD and comorbid conditions, such as chronic pain and insomnia.”
“It was not my initial intention to work specifically with veterans in my psychology career,” Dr. Avery goes on to say. “However, upon my transition to this new career, it became increasingly apparent both the need and value of mental health services, as well [the] under-representation of veterans in mental health.”
In 2012, Dr. Avery would enroll in the Kripalu yoga teacher training residency in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
“[It] was my introduction to teaching yoga,” says Dr. Avery. “That training revealed the extensive similarities between yoga and the field of psychology and I have attempted to blend these skill sets ever since.” Soon after Dr. Avery moved to California for graduate school. There, he was able to teach with the VA Palo Alto Health Care System’s existing clinical yoga program, hosted by WRIISC: The War Related Illness and Injury Study Center.
It was during his teaching at WRIISC that Dr. Avery learned about Veterans Yoga Project.
“A friend asked for a worthy cause to support through her yoga fundraising event,” says Dr. Avery. “We connected with VYP at that time to donate and thereafter I gradually increased my involvement with this worthy cause.”
Dr. Avery is now the Director of Program Evaluation at Veterans Yoga Project.
“I help measure the impact of Mindful Resilience [yoga classes] offered by our teachers,” Dr. Avery explains. “These measurements help us refine what we offer, inform skeptical veterans and providers who might not otherwise try yoga, and demonstrate return on investment for donors. The Mindful Resilience for Veterans workshops give me an opportunity to work closely with Dan and Brianna (Director of Programs), blend psychology and yoga, and empower teachers, providers, and veterans through teaching the MR skills.”
In addition, Dr. Avery continues to teach the occasional series for the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.
Like many of the volunteers, Dr. Avery believes Veterans Yoga Project brings something exceptional and valuable to the table.
“VYP is unique in its theoretical foundation, rigorous yet adaptable methods, and translatability to formal care settings,” he says. “Veterans are inherently resilient and benefit from tools that empower them to customize their practice in yoga and in life.”
But, as Dr. Avery also points out, Veterans Yoga Project is just one piece of the puzzle. “There are multiple paths up each mountain,” he says. “Accordingly, there are multiple organizations that provide yoga to veterans and teach yoga teachers… It is EVERYONE’s responsibility to support our communities, including veterans. There is no single entity, such as the VA or county veterans service agencies, that can or should meet all the needs of our veterans. Our needs are best met by a combination of these organizations as well as neighbors, non-profits, schools, and some yoga practice.”