Connected Warriors

Folks turned out in neon face paint and yoga mats for the Connected Warriors yoga workout and exhibit at Madison United Methodist Church Friday, Sept 6, 2019 in Madison, Ala. (Eric Schultz / Redstone Rocket)

For former Alabama State Trooper and Marine Joe Thomas, the Connected Warriors yoga class has given him a part of himself back.

Connected Warriors is an international nonprofit organization whose mission is to combat the growing epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder through the healing benefits of trauma conscious yoga. The local chapter will hold an open house at Restoring Bodies March 26 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Madison. Attendees can meet local Connected Warriors teachers and other veterans and will have the opportunity to observe or participate in a demo Connected Warriors yoga class. Thrivent Financial will provide a meal prepared by Forever Grateful chef and veteran, Lisa Grice. Guests will enjoy jazz music by veteran Bryan Easter and possibly win a door prize. For

more information, visit www.facebook.com/groups/ConnectedWarriorsofAL.

Thomas wasn’t a complete novice to the practice of yoga when he attended his first Connected Warriors class two years ago. Upon leaving the VA one day, he came across information for the classes and thought he would see if yoga would be beneficial to lingering issues from a back fusion surgery. He quickly became a devotee – even setting up a yoga mat in his living room to practice at home.

“The classes are geared toward our capabilities,” Thomas said. “There are a couple of us old guys and then there are the younger ones … and that challenges me as an older guy to keep up with the younger boys and girls. So there is a benefit to that.”

Part of what makes a Connected Warriors class different than the typical yoga class is that it serves a two-fold purpose. Not only are the students benefitting from physical exercise, but they are also fellowshipping with other former service members and first responders. All equipment is provided, and the classes are free.

Thomas hopes that more first responders take advantage of the classes. Having served as a law enforcement officer for 30 years, he said that he knew firsthand the wear and tear that can happen – not just on a body but also the mind. In addition to the physical benefits, Thomas said that he has seen an improvement his overall mood and emotions. And that the class has given him a newfound confidence.

“After my back surgery, if I was able to put my hands below my knees, I was happy. And now I can put my knuckles on the ground,” Thomas said. “I can do different breathing exercises, I can go into my meditation better, I sleep better and I have a lot more mobility. It’s given me my flexibility back.”

Connected Warriors offers four local weekly yoga classes for veterans, service members, first responders and their families. The classes are held on Fridays from 1-2 p.m. at Valley United Methodist in Huntsville, Saturdays from 12-1 p.m. at Hot Yoga of Huntsville in Hampton Cove and Thursdays from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at Restoring Bodies Fitness & Nutrition Services in Madison. The organization is now also on Redstone Arsenal and holds a class every Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in the Fox Den at Fox Army Health Center. For more information, contact Connected Warriors regional coordinator Sheila Levenhagen at 694-0287.

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