At the age of 19, Ed Knoll volunteered to enlisted in the service. He graduated from basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood in the Spring of 1966. After completing basic officer training and graduating as a Second Lieutenant, Ed was part of a group of fifty who were sent to Panama to attend a number of specialty training schools, including airborne, jungle, and survival school.
In November 1967, Ed headed to Vietnam, where he served as platoon leader for four or five months before becoming Executive Officer. Not too long after, the Company Commander was wounded, and Ed took over the company. To this day, he is the only one he knows of within the Infantry Division who was a First Lieutenant Company Commander for a company in combat in the Vietnam War. His tour ended in 1968, and he left the service after arriving back home in the states.
Forty years after arriving in Vietnam, Ed found himself in his first yoga class. “I decided to try yoga because I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and am 100% disabled. The VA at that time and still to a certain point, wants to medicate you. And I didn’t like the medication, so my doctor told me why don’t you try more exercise? So I decided to try yoga.” Over time, and with the supervision of his doctors, Ed slowly began coming off of many of the medications which had been prescribed for his PTSD. Nowadays, he takes his daily vitamin and aspirin, and does yoga – and that’s been enough to help maintain a quality of life he enjoys.
“My first impression of a yoga class was I can’t believe people are saying it’s that hard, and I can’t believe people want to do it and that it does that much good for you – and it proved me wrong because it has helped me immensely.” Ten years after starting yoga, Ed decided to attend yoga teacher training with Yoga Buzz, in hopes of equipping himself with the tools to be a teacher for his fellow soldiers. “I saw […] the soldiers that were being heavily medicated and it wasn’t doing anything for them. So I decided if doing yoga has helped me, maybe it’ll help them.”
Since graduating from teacher training in Spring of 2017 (fifty years after his arrival in Vietnam), Ed has continued attending yoga classes at the VA St. Louis Healthcare System, assisting other yoga teachers and even teaching a class of his own. He has watched his peers’ mobility increase – and even has a student who has quit smoking (after a little pestering from Ed). His class started out with four students – and as of this interview, he had 17 in his most recent class. “So it’s growing, it really is, and they really love the chair class,” Ed says, clearly proud of himself and his fellow soldiers.
The VA St. Louis Healthcare System was one of Yoga Buzz’s earliest partners, and generously provides space for the Yoga Buzz 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training Program. They also hosted the Accessible Yoga Training with Jivana Heyman last fall at Jefferson Barracks. One of our very first graduates from the program is Jean Ferguson, who works for the VA in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Jean has been instrumental in advocating on behalf of the benefits of yoga, and helping build the yoga program at the St. Louis VAs. We are incredibly proud to have her as a part of the Yoga Buzz family.
Recently, the National VA program has launched a program called “Whole Health,” which focuses on a more holistic approach to wellness for our nation’s Veterans. In addition to working with their doctor, Veterans are given access to health programming such as yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, nutrition, and even access to a mobile app called Mindfulness Coach. The program is growing, and especially growing in St. Louis. Yoga classes are packed – and there is a demand for more classes and bigger spaces to host the
large groups of Veterans who are attending.
If you are a Veteran in the St. Louis area who is interested in attending free yoga classes (or checking out more information about the Whole Health program), email us at [email protected] and we will be happy to connect you to your local resources. You must be a current patient of the VA with medical approval to attend class.
View the full interview with Ed Knoll below: