On October 27, 2008 I was taking my last test to become a Jumpmaster at Fort Bragg, NC when I got into a horrific parachute accident.
Before they were famous, many truly influential men and women started by serving their country in the US military or grew up in military families.

Packing Heat: Military Healing through Hot Yoga

As told to Military Hub by Rian Hamilton, former Sergeant and combat veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division

I am a 27 year old former Sergeant and combat veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division. If you saw me today you would never know what I have been through.

Yoga has changed my life and continues to help me maintain a quality of living that I may have never attained otherwise, due to my extensive military injuries.

On October 27, 2008 I was taking my last test to become a Jumpmaster at Fort Bragg, NC when I got into a horrific parachute accident. I crushed my pelvis and was literally broken in half with my left leg jammed two inches into my back. I laid in the hospital for five days before there was a surgeon qualified enough to perform the surgery to reconstruct my pelvis, and even then, I wasn't able to escape major nerve damage which killed four muscles in my left leg, not to mention the hardware used to put me back together.

I spent a total of 2 weeks in the hospital, 2 weeks in a wheelchair, 6 months on crutches and 9 months with a cane - not to mention taking an untold amount of narcotics and painful rehabilitation. About 9 months after my accident the doctors concluded that I would never return to a condition where I would be able to run, wear body armor or carry a fighting load, nor would I ever jump out of another airplane or be deployed overseas again. The Army initiated a medical chapter to have me separated from the military.

I was destroyed. My world fell apart. I would be lying if I told you that I didn't feel sorry for myself because I did. I spent a long time in a very deep depression, in constant physical pain and wondering what someone my age was supposed to do with her life when she can't walk without a cane. I received my Honorable Discharge in January 2010 and took refuge at my older sister's house in Europe to try to gain perspective on life.

Enter Yoga. My sister enrolled me in regular yoga classes and within two weeks I started to feel better than I had felt since before my accident. I can't tell you the physics of it, I don't know why it worked so well, all I know is that it just did. I returned to the states and quickly became a regular at several yoga studios in North Carolina. Before I knew it, I was no longer walking with a cane. The more involved with the yoga community I became the more I realized that I was not alone; I had found a comraderie equal to my military community. I met people with injuries similar to mine and it gave me so much hope for my future.

When I moved back to NJ I was on a new military mission: to find that same kind of yoga community I had experience in NC. At first, I was disheartened to find that yoga practice was not as common around here in NJ as one might think. Then I found Riverflow Yoga in Bucks County, PA.

I had been dying to try the practice called Hot 26 Yoga, a series of yoga stretches done in 105-degree heat with 40+% humidity, designed to strengthen the spine, loosen the muscles, and focus the mind all at once. I was overjoyed to find that Riverflow Yoga, is a dedicated Hot 26 Yoga studio, and while it is over the border in PA, it is still close enough to my home in NJ.

The studio owner, Rhonda Uretzky, has a passion for hot yoga as well as a dedication to her yoga students. Walking into one of these hot yoga classes, I couldn't believe the diversity: men and women of all ages, shapes, sizes and ability, all there with the same goal of bettering themselves.

My friend Chris and I, who attend twice a week, are constantly being asked about hot 26 yoga by our friends; there is hardly a session we go to where we're not bringing someone else along with us who also wants to reap the benefits. When I was out of town and unable to attend hot yoga class for over 2 weeks, I started to physically and mentally feel terrible. I was eager to get back home knowing I could get back into my hot yoga routine.

I truly believe that yoga saved my life and I am certain that you would be hard-pressed to find a student or patron of Riverflow Yoga whose life hasn't been affected positively by attending these hot 26 yoga classes. The opportunity to be healthier and happier because of what we get from inside that hot yoga studio you absolutely cannot find in any old gym, nor anywhere else for that matter. Believe me, I've looked.

If you are on a mission to find a better workout, a healing practice, a way to strengthen your military mind and body, I urge you to try Hot 26 Yoga. Write to Rhonda ([email protected]) and she will help you locate a Hot 26 yoga class in your town, even if you are overseas.

A last word for those who think that yoga is soft: Hot 26 Yoga is NOT an easy series of simple stretches, not by any stretch of imagination. See if you can stand the heat, come into the studio and be counted among those of us who love our Hot 26 Yoga classes. I can almost guarantee that soon, you too will be bringing your military friends and family for this hot experience.

Sure, you have a busy military life and no time for yoga...do it anyway. Do yoga with your military family. In my opinion, you should consider making hot yoga a vital part of your military regimen as soon as possible. And since there are hot yoga studios all over the country - even all over the world - you can take your hot yoga practice along with you, whether on your next PCS or your next scheduled R&R.


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