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    Saturday, July 13, 2024

    Groton instructor inspired to start yoga class for veterans, military

    Connie Steffes leads a chair yoga class Wednesday, April 17, 2019, at the Groton Senior Center. Beginning May 10, she will offer a free yoga program for veterans and active-duty military members who may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder or other stress. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Groton — Seeing a need in her community, a local resident and yoga instructor is starting a yoga class at the Groton Senior Center for veterans and military service members.

    "I just think it's really important to give back to our military," said Connie Steffes, a longtime fitness instructor with the town.

    The new yoga class, called "Healing Warriors," which will begin May 10, is designed for veterans and military "who may be experiencing (post-traumatic stress disorder) or stress associated with civilian readjustment, or just need a place to rest and restore," according to the senior center. It is free to veterans and military from all communities.

    To teach the class, Steffes said she completed the 100-hour teacher training for YogaFit for Warriors, a program started by Beth Shaw, the founder of YogaFit, an international program; Shaye Molendyke, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel with a master's degree in counseling and the director of YogaFit for Warriors; and Kristy Manuel, a senior trainer with YogaFit. The program focuses on PTSD and trauma-related issues for military and veterans, Steffes said, and can be used as an addition to conventional treatment.

    The class will be slower paced than most typical yoga classes and will include meditation, breath work focusing on relaxation, and yoga poses with the goal of helping to release trauma stored in the body and heal in a safe environment, she said. She added that she hopes the class also will provide camaraderie and friendship.

    This class in not intended to replace any medical treatment or traditional therapy, but can be used to complement them, said Kathy Williams, program supervisor at the senior center.

    "This class begins in a safe space, with guided breathing and turning inward to connect with the mind and body," according to a description of the class. "Students are then led through physical poses with specific poses designed to help release trauma. By gently bringing the brain/body back into a rest mode it can help restore physical, mental and emotional balance."

    Steffes, who teaches a seniors yoga class and has served for years as an instructor in a variety of capacities at the senior center and Parks and Recreation, will be donating her time for free, because she wants to give back to the military community. She said she herself comes from a military family, as her father served in the U.S. Navy and her brother was drafted to serve in the U.S. Army for the Vietnam War and died in basic training. 

    Living in an area near the Naval Submarine Base and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, she wanted to offer the unique, blended program free of charge to veterans and military in the community. She and her husband are also a sponsor family for Coast Guard cadets.

    "The Senior Center is appreciative and thrilled that Connie is offering this class free to Veterans and Military personnel," Williams said. "This is a population that has done so much for our country and sometimes they are underserved. This is her way of giving back to those that protect and protected our nation."

    While there are already coffeehouses for veterans to get together and socialize, the class will offer them alone time and an opportunity to take time for themselves to de-stress, rest and restore and put themselves first for one hour a week, she said. 

    "Veterans are a group that continue to serve through giving back to the community they live," Williams said, "we are proud to give back to them."


    If you go

    What: Healing Warriors, a yoga class free to veterans and military age 18+ from all communities.

    When: 5 p.m. Fridays from May 10 through Friday, June 28.

    Where: Groton Senior Center, 102 Newtown Road.

    To register, call (860) 441-6785 or go online to grotonrec.com.

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