When you google the word “yoga,” you won’t typically see images of men like Justin Blazejewski, the founder of VETOGA. Your search is going to provide you with hundreds of pictures of thin, young, white women in tights doing acrobatic poses that most folks can’t do. Don’t believe me? Try it and see.
When you google VETOGA, you’ll find a diverse set of images of our nation’s heroes–veterans and their communities, attending training, smiling, and practicing yoga asana. Justin Blazejewski created VETOGA, his non-profit organization, after finding the healing practice of yoga due to a back injury he sustained while serving in the US Marine Corps. After committing to yoga practice, and extensive travel to Afghanistan and Iraq as a government contractor, Justin had the desire to share his practice with others, specifically those impacted by war zones and the nuances of serving in the Armed Forces.
VETOGA’s mission is to provide yoga, meditation, and healing arts to military veterans and their families and communities. They accomplish this by holding free monthly yoga classes, events, and veteran-specific 200-Hour teacher training throughout the year. As the son of a Desert Storm veteran, this mission resonates with me. My father and I talked about his time in the military, but we rarely talked about his time at war. That’s intentional. It makes me wonder how access to a program like this would have helped him manage his own PTSD diagnosis or how he could/can benefit from participating.
In addition to leading this non-profit, Justin is also a member of the Phoenix Rising Council here at The Kaivalya Yoga Method. Like Justin, TKYM is dedicated to creating opportunities for underrepresented populations to become phenomenal yoga teachers and spiritual leaders. Inspired by the mythical phoenix, we started the Phoenix Rising Project Scholarship to burn down the old ideas of “diversity” in wellness and rise from the ashes even better, stronger, and more inclusive. The PRP targets members of the following communities: Veterans, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, survivors of abuse, and individuals with disabilities. Once a month, the council meets to select one individual from each community to receive a 50% scholarship for the TKYM 200 hour teacher training program. For more information about the Phoenix Rising Project or to apply, click here.
Justin will be leading our second ever virtual Karma Yoga Class here at TKYM on Sunday, November 22nd at 12 pm EST. Our Karma classes are all about serving others. In the spirit of service, we will donate 100% of the proceeds to VETOGA to continue to uplift and support this needed work.
Justin and his organization, VETOGO, inspires me. While I’m confident that I won’t be able to convince my dad to join (some things take a little more than time–ha!) I’ll undoubtedly be logged on and ready to flow.
If you’d like to join me in class and support VETOGA, click this link to register today! You can also find out more about VETOGA by listening to Justin’s episode on Alanna’s Modern Mystics podcast, or visiting the VETOGA website here.
Video: ‘Huge Ripple Effect’: VETOGA Empowers Service Members, Veterans and Spouses with Power of Yoga