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'Veterans Yoga Project' Growing In Popularity

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The popularity of yoga continues to increase. According to the National Institute of Health, nearly 10 percent of U.S. adults practice yoga.

That number is also on the rise for Veterans. Yoga is also becoming a more common practice for military members returning home from war.

Finding peace in this ancient practice has turned out to be a very good decision for Nicole LoVald, one of the owners of Spirit of the Lake Yoga and Wellness Center. She picked up yoga about five years ago.

"I'd been working corporate America for the last 15 years and I realized I just wanted a lifestyle to have a little less stress," she said.

After growing tired of that desk job, she and her husband decided to buy a Yoga studio in Excelsior.

"I think yoga can help you drown out some of the noise in your life or maybe it's something traumatic that can help you calm down," John LoVald said.

After deployments to Iraq and Kosovo, he retired from 25 years of military service and after encouragement from his wife he picked up Yoga.

"I think when you're in the military, there's always this focus on strength. And when you come back sometimes there is less focus on drowning out some of the noise," Nicole LoVald said.

Her husband is just one of the many reasons she is encouraging other veterans to put yoga into practice.

"I think it's really important in today's society and today's world to add calmness into their lives," she said.

Ross Hedlund was deployed to Iraq twice and picked up yoga after his second deployment.

"I do it to help build a little bit of resiliency and more balance and into my overall life," he said.

Jenn Byier has served in the National Guard for 17 years.

"Being in the military can sometimes be a high stress environment, so just having a practice that focuses on can beneficial for anybody not just military," Byier said.

The LoValds are hoping this new venture won't just lead to Vinyasa for veterans, but trying a new yogi pose as well.

"I think it's important to focus and for veterans to be able to focus yoga is a great way us to be able to channel that energy," John LoVald said.

The couple strongly encourages other veterans to get involved in the practice of yoga. They opened their doors to active duty military members and veterans on Veterans Day to a free day of yoga.

They also work with the Veterans Yoga Project, whose mission is support recovery and resilience for veterans as well as active duty military.

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