ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Yoga, anyone? A local yoga class is doing more than teaching downward dog or tree pose. Its focus is on local veterans, combating an invisible wound.

Every Thursday evening, Ashley Prokopiak starts her yoga class with a few rounds of breathing exercises, helping her students to center their bodies and quiet their minds.

But for students in this class, Prokopiak is teaching them more than just poses. She’s helping them cope with an invisible wound left by war — a mission that hits close to home for Prokopiak.

“I also have two veterans in my life who struggle with everyday activities and I have found that this helps them navigate the world after service,” said Prokopiak.

Post-traumatic stress disorder affects 8 million people during a given year. It’s why Prokopiak is looking to put a dent in that statistic.

She’s partnered with Dogwood Therapy, a private occupational therapy practice, to bring a veterans program called “Connected Warriors” to Albuquerque.

“Yoga has been known to provide synchrony of mind body and breath, which in turn can create elements of self-empowerment and be present in what feels like chaos,” said Prokopiak.

Her class is giving these veterans those tools. Prokopiak hopes opening classes like this one to more veterans will help others see that you don’t’ have to be an expert or flexible to apply yourself.

Often, yoga can be as simple as sitting and breathing. It’s something veteran, Sarah Harbaugh, says has helped her tremendously.

“Applying those breathing techniques to help ground yourself to understand the ground that you stand on. Like I said, taking deep breaths to help remember where you are in present,” said Harbaugh.

Harbaugh served in the Air Force for six years.

Prokopiak hopes that this will inspire other veterans to use yoga as an outlet or even become an instructor to help other veterans going through the same issues as they are.

Classes are every Thursday from 6 to 7 at night. Organizers say you don’t have to be suffering from PTSD to attend. They’re free for veterans and their families.

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