HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Learning to use a camera has become the latest tool in this pandemic for yoga instructor Christian Allaire.
He is no longer instructing students in a studio but now teaches online.
Not only does he have to continue to be mindful of the poses he's teaching, but now everything is about the on-screen product, he explained.
"In my own head, I'm thinking to myself, is the lighting on right? Am I casting a shadow? Did I hit play? Did I hit record?" said Allaire, who is also a 20-year Coast Guard veteran.
He became hooked when he found yoga about 12 years ago after retiring from the military.
"There was a uniform, there was symmetry with the mats, there was a ritual with it, and that really connected me," he said.
Now he's the chief operating officer of the Veterans Yoga Project or VYP.
The nonprofit started nearly a decade ago, helping vets who were dealing with trauma. Over time, it has grown to support recovery and resilience among vets, their families, and communities through yoga, breathwork, and meditation.
"For veterans, it provides a community," Allaire said. "It provides [a] purpose. You stay physically fit."
Dr. Dan Libby is a licensed clinical psychologist and yoga instructor who created VYP after working with vets at Veterans Affairs.
"One of my veterans came in before class and said, 'Hey Doc, I stopped taking my sleep meds because now I can meditate to go to sleep,'" said Libby. "And that was the moment this organization was born."
Like everything else in this pandemic, VYP pivoted its classes online, where they are now reaching more veterans than ever before, helping them deal with pain and distress.
Libby said these practices aren't a substitute for mental health therapy; instead, they complement each other.
"Getting that professional support is a really important part for people, especially for people who are recovering from post-traumatic stress, and yoga is an amazing and empowering tool that can facilitate that process," Libby said.
While yoga is not a cure-all, Allaire knows that it has helped save lives.
"I know personally a couple of veterans that were at the precipice, that were at the abyss, that started to practice yoga and it gave them just enough space, enough clarity of mind to say, 'OK, let's take a step back here.'"