Yoga can help with post-trauma peace

Jane Stueckemann, Opinions Editor

Anthony Scaletta told three yoga students in a class Feb. 15 at Just Breathe Mindful Movement Studio in Westwood Plaza to think of something they were grateful for and focus on how the gratitude felt.

This Yoga Tonic class is one of the classes Scaletta teaches in addition to private sessions. He is a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance of Arlington, Va., a nonprofit association that represents yoga teachers and studios.

Additionally, Scaletta has a specialty certification in Mindful Yoga Therapy, which is considered trauma-informed yoga.

“It was designed for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder,” Scaletta said.

Scaletta seems to have a unique connection to this type of yoga as a U.S. Navy veteran. He is also a 2010 Pitt-Johnstown graduate.

“Through my personal service in the Navy, I ended up injured mentally, physically and emotionally. Yoga found me, though, and saved me,” Scaletta said.

Trauma-informed yoga is all about choice, according to Scaletta.

“Experiencing trauma makes you feel like you’ve lost control, so the goal is to make it (the yoga practice) about control,” he said.

“Veterans’ nervous systems are so jacked up. They’re constantly in a fight- or-flight mode. If I can create a space where their nervous system can drop into actual scientific relaxation, it’s a great tool to help them navigate their lives post-military,” he said.

Last spring, Scaletta taught a 12-week, trauma-sensitive yoga class on Pitt-Johnstown’s campus.

The class was organized by psychology professor Sharon Bertsch as a research venture for students to study the psychological effects of this type of yoga on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I knew he (Scaletta) was committed to yoga as an outlet for veterans, and he was super enthusiastic through the whole class. I was thrilled with what we got, and the veterans felt they got a lot out of it,” Bertsch said.

Scaletta said he had seen the classes work.

“Sometimes, veterans will come up to me after a class and tell me that was the calmest and most relaxed they’ve felt since they left the service,” he said.

However, the class was offered only once because there was no budget to run it again. Bertsch said she was disappointed they could not renew it.

“There is evidence that these therapies are useful for veterans, and there are enough of them that need some help,” she said.

Scaletta said trauma-informed yoga isn’t helpful only for veterans.

“I’m firmly centered in the belief that, if you’re human, you’ve experienced trauma. My job as an instructor is to create a container that is as secure as possible, so that someone aware of their trauma feels like they’re in a safe environment,” Scaletta said.

Scaletta’s training in trauma-informed yoga seems to compliment his normal yoga classes. Yoga student Julie Horowitz of Johnstown said she experienced many benefits because of yoga. “I originally started yoga to ground myself. I was going through a real upheaval in my life, and yoga brought me a sense of peace,” Horowitz said.

Fellow student Jenifer Rys agreed.

“It’s one more tool to use for my well-being. I can’t imagine not having those components in my life,” Rys said.

Just Breathe Mindful Movement Studio management is to open a second studio in Pinnacle Chiropractic in Richland, according to Scaletta.

“We should be opening in the summer. I believe in a dedicated healing space, so I do the best I can to help us grow. We’re a community,” he said.