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Former Marine finds peace through yoga

As a former Marine captain and company commander, Anu Bhagwati spent five years serving. But it was not the physical side of the military that eventually wore her down.

"You've really got to be on your A-game and in charge, and whatever challenges face you, you just got to suck them up and continue to command and continue to be a strong leader," said Bhagwati, in an interview with at her office in New York City.

Bhagwati is the executive director and co-founder of Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), an organization she founded after leaving the Marines to fight the daily discrimination she and other women in the military experience.

"I loved the physical part but I think the psychological warfare I was under and a lot of my fellow women in the Marines were under was something that you had to learn to negotiate and survive and that was very difficult for me," said Bhagwati.

Anu Bhagwati, third from left, pictured with fellow Marines during her time in the military. Photo provided by Anu Bhagwati

"There are very few women in the Marine corps, only 15 percent of the entire military is female, so you're really up against a culture that's not used to working with women and doesn't really work well with women, I think," she added.

After her service, as well as founding SWAN, Bhagwati qualified to become a yoga teacher.

Surprisingly though, her new passion led her directly back to her past.

"The only people I wanted to teach and share with were veterans, which was very ironic cause I left very angry about my experience," said Bhagwati.

For the last five years, Bhagwati has taught yoga to veterans twice a week in New York City at the Integral Yoga Institute.

She says yoga has helped the 200 vets she's worked with heal from the physical and mental challenges of military service.

Anu Bhagwati pictured during her time with the Marines. Photo provided by Anu Bhagwati

"They want something that's not invasive and has side effects, that only feels good and often times yoga and meditation will do that," said Bhagwati.

Bhagwati says yoga relaxes the veterans in her class, although the emotions that practice can bring up may take some getting used to.

"Yoga, I mean the poses, the breathing, the meditation, it processes all of that in ways we're not really taught to process that in the military," said Bhagwati.

Integral Yoga Institute will be offering free yoga classes for all veterans on Veterans Day.

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