“Veterans often feel so isolated because we think we’re damaged or different but yoga can change that because it’s all about being connected with the earth and people around you.”
Meet Dan Nevins, a 43 year old U.S. veteran, yoga teacher, and motivational speaker who lives in Ponte Vedra, Florida.
This past week, Nevins was invited for the second year in a row to teach yoga at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
The yoga demonstration was a part of the first lady Michelle Obama's « Let's Move » campaign dedicated to solving the problem of childhood obesity and raising a healthier generation. « I got to lead all these kids and it was amazing because last year it was really fun and goofy but this time they got so into it, they were totally in the moment, » Nevins said.
Nevins lost both his legs and suffered a traumatic brain injury after an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated under his vehicle while he was deployed to Iraq in 2004.
After the sustaining injuries in Iraq, Nevins spent 2 years and had 36 surgeries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.. « I initially came out of it with my right leg, but after another year I had it amputated because the pain and bone infections were unbearable — and it was the best decision I've ever made, » he said. Nevins is now a bilateral below-the-knee amputee and wears prosthetic legs. « Getting my prosthetics definitely helped my ego because people liked them, kids thought I was a really cool Transformer, and when I went out girls didn't even care that I was an amputee, » Nevins says.
Nevins has been an adaptive athlete since 2007 but didn’t start yoga until 2014, when he took time off to recover from a surgery and struggled with post-combat stress.
After rehabilitation, Nevins says played competitive golf, rode his adapted road bike around the country, and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. He also became an executive at the Wounded Warrior Project, which raises awareness and supports injured veterans. « It was great, but what I was actually doing by competing in these ego-boosting, achievement-driven sports was avoiding my invisible, emotional wounds of war, » Nevins says.
Two years ago, Nevins had to spend 8 weeks at home recovering alone on crutches, which he says made it impossible to work or take care of his young daughter. « I had never really identified with veterans who struggle with PTSD but I finally got it, things got so dark and I couldn't cope with my post-combat stress anymore, » Nevins says. Every day, 22 veterans commit suicide in the United States. « I didn't want to be that statistic, so I reached out to a friend for help — and by chance she also teach yoga too. »