Volunteer Spotlight: John Mory
It is amazing how quickly we can add something to our lives that can help others in tremendous ways. Such is the case for John Mory.
Before he became the regional manager for Virginia, John served in the Army from 1990 until 2011.
“I served as a medic, starting out in the infantry and later serving in Special Forces,” says John. “I served multiple tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines.”
After work as a contractor for the Department of Defense for a few years, John eventually became a firefighter and now works as a firefighter and paramedic.
John’s long career with the Army came at a cost, one that John had been carrying with him for a while.
“I had been holding down a lot of emotions and events for my combat experiences,” says John. “One day all of that boiled over and I finally asked for help. I was diagnosed with anxiety/hypervigilance and depression.”
It was around this time that John turned to yoga. His practice helped him tremendously, and he wanted to pass the gift along to other veterans.
“Yoga was life changing for me and I felt compelled to spread the word among my fellow veterans,” says John. “Although not a cure, I honestly believe yoga is definitely part of the solution to veteran suicide.”
One of the biggest challenges of bringing yoga to veterans has been combating the attitude that yoga is for a very specific demographic (one that veterans are not a part of). But John felt he could help combat that.
“I felt as a former Green Beret, I possessed the street cred of overcoming the stigma of yoga with fellow veterans,” says John.
John had only been practicing yoga for 18 months when he signed for up for 200-hour yoga teacher training. Four weeks later, John attended his Mindful Resilience Training through Veterans Yoga Project.
“I realize that is a short timeline,” he says, “but like I mentioned, I was a man on a mission.”
In fact, the main reason John chose the Veterans Yoga Project training was because it was the soonest one available for him. But John was on board with Veterans Yoga Project’s mission and, a few months later, volunteered to become Virginia’s regional manager.
It’s also amazing how quickly classes can grow under the right leadership. Under John’s management, Virginia has been able to flourish.
“At the time I became Virginia’s Regional Manager, Virginia didn’t have any regular VYP classes, clinical or community based,” says John. “Since then we have over 12 regular (weekly) classes at multiple locations in Richmond, Fredericksburg and Northern Virginia. Partnering with local studios for community classes, VA clinics and vet centers, VFW posts and Team RWB. We were getting ready to expand our foot print to the Hampton/Virginia Beach area and Charlottesville Va, but the virus hit and unfortunately we had to stop all in person classes.”
On top of working as a firefighter & paramedic and volunteering for Veterans Yoga Project, John is also pursuing a bachelors in psychology, with hopes to earn his masters in either social work or mental health. He is also raising a family with his wife, whom he met on a training exercise over 20 years ago.
Through determination and spirit, John quickly went from a veteran who was willing to see if yoga could help, to a veteran helping other veterans throughout Virginia. He truly believes in what Veterans Yoga Project is doing, as well as the therapeutic benefits of a yoga practice.
“I’ve seen the difference firsthand in our classes in Virginia. Veterans say they are sleeping better, less stressed and experiencing less pain,” says John. “One veteran said yoga was going to make him a better husband.”
The same way he hoped his title as a Green Beret would help fight the stigma yoga can have, John hopes that more people can recognize that yoga is a tool everyone can make use of.
“If you have connective tissue and a nervous system, yoga is for you, period,” says John. “There are a lot of stigmas about yoga that keep veterans from coming to the mat. The difficult part is getting veterans on the mat and try yoga with a non-judging open mind. Easier said than done. For me, it was the science behind yoga that sold me. Once I was sold on yoga, it became a gateway to try meditation, which has also been a huge part of my practice.”
John fully recognizes that yoga isn’t a standalone “cure”, but he knows that it is something people can utilize to help.
“Helping my fellow veterans has given me new purpose,” says John. “Knowing what I know about yoga triggers my ‘leave no man behind’ mentality. I feel I have a responsibility to spread the word about yoga with fellow veterans. Yoga may not be the end all be all for 22 suicides a day, but I am convinced it is a big part of the solution.”