After former U.S naval aviator Kathryn Thomas was told she would never be able to fly a helicopter again — due to a broken ankle that suffered complications — she was left depressed and anxious.
Flying was Thomas’ dream since she was a child — ever since she’d watched a helicopter demonstration at the age of 11, she knew she wanted to be a helicopter pilot. But after a long recovery and her exit from the Navy, she needed a way to find herself. She turned to yoga.
“I started to practice yoga and that’s really what changed my outcome because I was able to find myself again on my mat,” she told Upworthy.
Since then Thomas started Yoga 4 Change, a nonprofit that helps others in northeast Florida who are recovering from trauma. It mainly serves young people who are experiencing abuse or trauma, people struggling with substance abuse or in recovery, military veterans, and those that are incarcerated.
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This non-profit organization has professional yoga teachers that instruct classes in schools, rehabilitation centers, community spaces, and correctional facilities at no cost to the participants. Its mission focuses on things like empathy and vulnerability, and allowing individuals to reconnect with the body, mind, and spirit.
The classes in correctional facilities have been particularly impactful. In fact, Alan Calkins — a former inmate — is now training to be a Yoga 4 Change teacher. “It’s definitely changed my life for the better. It’s opened my eyes to a dimension of spirituality that I had never acknowledged before,” Calkins said.
Yoga 4 Change has now helped over 15,000 people in their recovery.
Here’s a video telling the story of how Yoga 4 Change was founded, and the impact it’s made in the communities being served: