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Veterans Yoga Project gives veterans peace of mind and body

Nov. 8, 2019

By Matt Kane
Sports Editor

DELANO — This coming Monday, Nov. 11, the nation will formally honor its veterans who served the United States all over the world in all aspects for all branches of the military. Guest speakers, parades, music, salutes, and plenty of proud flag-waving will consume the country for most of the day. Then, when the calendar turns to Tuesday, Nov. 12, everybody will return to their busy, everyday lives, and the thoughts of those same veterans, who, one day earlier, were so revered, will get pushed to the backs of our minds for storage until Memorial Day, or next year’s Veterans Day.

For the veterans who are honored on Veterans Day, though, the memories of their own services do not go away, and, in some cases, remain at the forefront of their mind as the result of physical and mental trauma.

That is the case with Delano’s Ken Beamish, who served three years stateside in the United States Army before receiving an honorable discharge after blowing out both knees and injuring his back and neck in separate incidences.

“The muscles in my back are always in a spasm,” said Beamish. That back has four bulging discs.

Stretching and getting his muscles to relax tend to relieve some of the pain. In the spring of 2018, Beamish found exactly what he needed to help with his physical discomfort — a local chapter of the Veterans Yoga Project.

Offered biweekly in Delano by licensed instructor Allison Kelley, the Veterans Yoga Project is an organization described on its website as “dedicated to improving the health and well-being of military veterans.”

“My doctor has been on me and my wife for years to try yoga. Allison started doing this, so I thought I would give it a shot,” said Beamish. “Coming here every couple weeks, or as often as we can, to stretch my back muscles out seems to reduce my pain and increases my mobility.”

The yoga classes are free to veterans and a relative. Beamish attends the Delano class with his wife, Sara. The two feed off each other, she said.

“Yoga isn’t supposed to be a competition, but we tend to laugh at each other when the other is struggling with a position,” said Sara Beamish.

That laughter and some light-hearted banter is welcome by Kelley.

“We keep it light,” she said. “We try not to be too serious.”

At a class, where soothing music sets the backdrop as Kelley’s soft voice instructs the students through the movements, light chuckles are often heard when someone struggles with a position.

That laughter quickly subsides as the students begin to relax, both mentally and physically. This state of being is what Kelley and the students are after.

“It allows them to unwind and de-stress, and to just be in a space that is safe to them. That’s my goal, and that’s what I create for them here,” she said. “What you get from yoga is up to you. I provide the space; that’s my job. They can take out of it what they want to take out of it.”

For the Beamishes, the take differs slightly. While Ken Beamish is looking for physical relief, Sarah Beamish gets the most out of clearing her mind.

“The flexibility part is good, but I think it’s more about the meditation and the spiritual side for me,” she said. “When we are just lying still and Allison is taking us through some of the meditation, it forces me to become more centered and I am able to quiet the thoughts that are consistently going through my mind. For an hour, I can have just a little bit of stillness — I enjoy that.”

Kelley hosts her Delano class at Iron Barre Yoga Wellness Center on Railroad Avenue in Delano two Sundays per month. The space is donated by owner Laura Johnson.

A typical class in recent weeks had only three students. Ultimately, the class size does not matter, but Kelley would love to see more veterans take advantage of the service.

“It’s still tough to get people to come in, because I think it is a demographic that is hard to reach,” said Kelley. “I’ve always told my students that I am always willing to teach to one student. Whether one shows up or seven show up, I will teach.”

Kelley is hoping to gain more interest from veterans, and notoriety and financial support for the Veterans Yoga Project. She is hosting two classes, open to the public, during Veterans Gratitude Week, which runs Nov. 8-18.

The first public session is Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 6:15 p.m. at The Fire Within Yoga studio in Buffalo. Her public session in Delano is Monday, Nov. 17, at Iron Barre Yoga. That session begins at 4 p.m.

“These gentle classes are open to anyone in the community who wants to support our local veterans and active duty service men and women who serve our country,” Kelley said. “It is a donation-based class, meaning you can give what you can. All funds raised go directly to the Veterans Yoga Project and to helping veterans and their families.”

Kelley’s two public classes are part of the more than 340 classes already registered throughout the United States for Veterans Gratitude Week.

More information on the Veterans Yoga Project and Veterans Gratitude Week can be found online at VeteransYogaProject.org.

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