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Yoga classes at Pentagon helping veterans combat PTSD

Nestled deep inside of the mammoth Pentagon building lies an athletic center where treadmills, bikes, a basketball court and other traditional gym hardware await employees. Now, a new trend is catching on inside these walls: Yoga.

Lieutenant Colonel Melinda Morgan has been teaching yoga at the pentagon for the last year. But her belief in yoga's healing power dates back to 1997.

"I was diagnosed with an immune deficiency that was going to possibly lead to arthritis and that arthritis could eventually lead me to being in a wheelchair, I had two young children, that wasn't an option," she said to CBS News.

Yoga has been a part of Morgan's life ever since. Now, she is on a mission to use yoga to help others. After 9/11, Morgan taught yoga to special-forces teams in Germany and ever since, she takes the yoga mat wherever she travels.

"In 2009 and 10 I was deployed to Afghanistan for 13 months and the yoga mat was really the thing that kind of kept me together through some very stressful times," she said.

Melinda has learned to use certain words to empower her students who are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

She notes that The Veterans Yoga Project, a non-profit organization with a mission to provide education and support for the mindful use of yoga to aid in recovering from post-traumatic stress and other psychological difficulties, has a program that was integral in helping her understand how to teach yoga to veterans. It is called "Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans Coping with Trauma." Morgan is acutely aware of the fact that teaching yoga to veterans is very different than teaching yoga to non-veterans.

Air Force Captain Duilia Mora, another yoga teacher at the Pentagon, also recognizes the importance of catering yoga classes to her veteran students.

For example, word choice can be very important when leading the students through the class. Morgan and Mora both note that they do not use phrases like "bind your hands" or "surrender" in their classes. Instead, they use words that give the student a sense of ownership and security.

"'You're the boss,' I use that one sometimes," Morgan told CBS News.

Mora sees that the students are not just physically benefiting but also mentally benefiting from the practice.

"I think for me and my students, the most important thing is building that resiliency, that strength, that soft but full of fortitude at the same time," said Mora.

In the last year, the number of weekly classes at the Pentagon has shot up from 1 to 7 and for many students, yoga is a tool to combat PTSD symptoms.

"One hundred percent sure, based on what I've seen, that yoga can assist in the recovery," Mora explained.

But yoga at the Pentagon is doing even more than that.

"Learning to relax and listen to your body I the hardest part," says Air Force Master Sergeant Amaani Lyle, who has been going to the classes for 3 months now.

Lyle has not been deployed yet but she's sure that yoga will go with her when she is.

"Now I have a portable little thing that I know how to do and it can keep my calm in any situation no matter how intense it is," Lyle explained to CBS News.

For military personnel, yoga is clearly becoming more popular.

"Especially here at the pentagon they come because they are curious or they want to stretch because everyone around here runs, and all of a sudden something clicks that's a little bit more than physical. And then it connects to the breath, and all of a sudden becomes something that is light in the body and you smile more," said Mora.

For Morgan and Mora being in the military means more than training, it also means sharing yoga with fellow veterans.