Battle Body Retraining: Using yoga to help veterans adjust to life back home

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- It takes months of training before our military members are sent to war -- but many were sent home without much more than a thank you. That's where Battle Body Retraining comes in. It's a program devoted to re-training our veterans for the civilian world.

Putting your mind and your body at ease isn't always easy -- especially for military veterans.

Former soldier Andy Hendrickson believes yoga and Qigong hold the key.

When his Army Reserve unit was deployed to Afghanistan in 2003, yoga was one of the tools he brought with him.

"While there I had a hard time sleeping at night, helping run a combat support hospital, so I began doing yoga on my own to help myself sleep better," Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson says he didn't realize yoga would lead him to change careers.

"I came off of my deployment, came back home, took yoga classes and decided to become a yoga instructor and offer it to veterans here. The course is called Battle Body Retraining because the military trains people to go to war and the military is finally realizing, we need to do a better job of training people to come home from war," Hendrickson said.

Michael Cody joined the Army in 2004 -- and was deployed to Iraq that same year.

Several near-death experiences left him shaken.

"All of a sudden I heard the loudest boom in my life and I learned later that a mortar round had came in and landed right next to my motor pool.  If I would have been delayed, which happens all the time in the Army, for another five minutes I probably would have gotten a good face full of shrapnel," Cody said.

Those experiences followed him home.

Before finding Hendrickson's yoga class, he was under constant physical and emotional stress.

"I could not sleep to save my life in my house.  The slightest noise, I would wake up.  If I ever left my house and came back and realized I left the door unlocked, I would have to clear the entire house with a rifle to make sure that nobody was hiding anywhere otherwise I would just be wired," Cody said.

Sleep isn't the only thing Battle Body Retraining addresses.

Hendrickson's class has helped veterans take control of the emotions that arise from PTSD.

"They`ve been able to use some of the techniques to use from punching the wall or a cabinet or saying or doing something," Hendrickson said.

The class has even helped those like James Moore with physical issues.

"Give yoga a chance, give exercise a chance because if you start moving muscles and working on things that you`ve never worked on before it will make a difference," Moore said.

The classes are free to all veterans -- and happen every Friday from 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. at the VA Hospital.