The Healing Power of Yoga

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Written by Sean O’Neill & Jamie Malinowski

Sean’s Story:

Greetings Team Red, White & Blue

I’m a fairly new member to the team. I had just heard about the team from a friend in Chicago shortly before the Boston Marathon bombing. After seeing Team RWB’s response to the terrorist attack, I knew this was a group I wanted to join.

My name is Sean O’Neill – former Infantry Captain, United States Marine Corps – decorated Iraq Combat Veteran. I served in Iraq in 2005 in Al-Anbar province along the Euphrates, where our unit lost 48 Marines and Sailors. After returning home I’ve tried to deal with Post Traumatic Stress through physical activity. I ran the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon with my fellow Marines, and the Marines from another amazing group, Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness. We ran to honor and remember the 48 brothers we lost.

The crew from SFHW had introduced me to the idea of yoga as therapy for veterans, and even though I had dabbled in yoga while on active duty, it was only for stretching purposes. I would have never imagined how much of an impact it would have later in my life. Shortly after I joined Team RWB, I heard about a local yoga studio through Kate Nemec Bielak, who heads up the SW PA Chapter. The studio was offering free classes and discounts for veterans. So I started taking classes at Prima Yoga in Cranberry, PA and have been hooked ever since.

Since I started practicing yoga for therapy on a regular basis I continue to be amazed by the welcoming, understanding and supportive nature of the yoga community. The staff of Prima Yoga is an excellent force multiplier for Team RWB. I can not recommend enough how beneficial my yoga practice and involvement in Team RWB has been to my overall health, and the welfare of my family as well. As an example, earlier this summer I had not been going to yoga for a couple weeks due to the tempo at work. My wife said to me in the car one day, “You haven’t been to yoga in a while have you?” I replied with, “no, it’s been a couple weeks.” She lovingly responded, “I know, I can tell.” One more interesting tid-bit; I recently discovered that my dad, a Vietnam Combat Marine, used to do yoga years ago to deal with his PTSD – long before it was in fashion. Too bad our Vietnam Vets didn’t have amazing support groups like Team Red, White, & Blue. Thank you all for the amazing work you do day after day to help reconnect our veterans with the proud and supportive communities we love so much.

Semper Fidelis – Fidelis Ad Mortem,
Sean M. O’Neill
Captain, USMC

Prima Yoga’s Story:

I became interested in Bikram yoga after taking my first class in Washington D.C., where the studio owner was a retired Army Ranger. I gravitated towards the Bikram yoga because it was more structured, and required more physical strength and mental concentration than other yoga classes I had taken in the past.  After seeing the benefits and changes in my body after practicing for two years, I decided to go to training and eventually bring Bikram yoga back to Cranberry Township by opening Prima Yoga in September 2011.

My husband is also a veteran; he served six years as a Marine, and completed three tours in Iraq. I have a special place in my heart for those who are willing to give of themselves in order to keep the rest of us safe and free. Bikram yoga is great for vets because it gives them the physical challenge they desire, but also helps them to relax, and reduce stress/anxiety. Bikram says “It’s never too late, it’s never too bad, you’re never too old, or too sick to start from scratch once again.”  Every vet can benefit from yoga; they just have to start somewhere.

In the past, I’ve done special classes for Team RWB, so vets could take a class with other like-minded individuals. I also run different charity events throughout the year at the studio, and have donated the proceeds to Team RWB. I truly believe Bikram yoga can help vets both physically and mentally, and I love to share my passion for yoga with those who want to learn more.

Jamie Malinowski
Prima Yoga