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Miami VA Healthcare System

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Ancient techniques provide modern healing at Miami VA

Richard Roberts during his Yoga class at the Miami VA.

Using ancient relaxation techniques such as Yoga, modern warriors are reaching into the past to find peace at the Miami VA.

By Shane Suzuki, Office of Public Affairs
Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thirty Veterans take a deep breath at once. Their arms are stretched out, yet reaching toward something deep within.
The sound of air rushing from lungs fills the room while a small bearded man standing on a table begins readying his gong.
“There is no right or wrong to this part,” says Richard Roberts, leader of this yoga class and full time nurse at the Miami VA Healthcare System. “Just close your eyes and feel the sound of the gong and relax.”
As the sound of a gong fills the room, the men and women in the class – both Veterans and staff – report feelings of energy and calmness flowing through their bodies. The gong is the final segment in what is becoming a regular part of their recovery: Yoga at the VA.
The free classes are all voluntary and led by Roberts during lunch breaks and in the mornings before clinics begin at the hospital. Veterans are given priority, but if there is room staff and volunteers are welcome to attend.
“I was already doing relaxation and meditation classes and started slipping a few yoga elements into them,” he said. “It’s just grown quickly as more people hear about it.”
Taking account the different physical abilities of his students, Roberts offers chair yoga, classes for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis and in walkers. He even teaches a  class in the Spinal Cord Injury unit for paralyzed Veterans.
“Everyone can do this,” said Roberts. “It’s so rewarding to see these people release energy and become so calm and relaxed. Right after we are done, the feedback from the class is so positive. I even get comments from staff that the people leaving the classroom are so relaxed and happy.
At first I just booked a conference room and it’s grown from there. People are telling me they can finally sleep and are better able to deal with stress. It’s very rewarding.”
Yoga can take many different forms, the most common being Hatha Yoga with it’s many poses and focus on maintaining physical and emotional balance. Roberts teaches Kundalini Yoga which focuses more on energy flow and strengthening the central nervous and glandular systems.
“I think 90% of a lot of people’s problems are from poor sleep patterns and that is something Kundalini Yoga can help with,” said Roberts. “We have a lot of people suffering from PTSD here and getting consistent sleep can be a problem for them.”
While he hopes this program will be expanded beyond Miami, for now Roberts is continuing to add classes before work and during lunch breaks, including a new class aimed at employees on Fridays.
“It’s amazing to me that people just want to be here,” he said. “The full gamut of humanity is coming to these classes; from those suffering from PTSD to wheelchair bound Veterans. I feel blessed to be here helping our warriors find happiness and peace.”
For more information about Yoga classes offered the Miami VA, contact Richard Roberts at or call (305) 479-5307.


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