Veteran’s yoga studio aids in recovery from PTSD |

ANDERSON, Ind. — During a 13-month deployment in Afghanistan with the National Guard in the early 2010s, Allison Sage witnessed many things she still doesn’t want to talk about.

Her transition back to civilian life was a difficult one. A native of California, her Army National Guard company was based in Delaware, and upon her return in 2012, she struggled to make connections and maintain relationships.

“I felt like I came home to a place where I didn’t have anybody,” she recalled.

Sage was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during her time overseas. Her deployment took a heavy physical toll on her, as well. As a member of a convoy security detail, she spent much of her time either as a gunner or driving trucks, wearing full body armor nearly every day. A decade later, she still feels the effects.

“If I don’t move my body, almost every joint hurts,” she said. “My back in particular has had a lot of issues. A few head injuries, a couple of accidents here and there. The physical injuries are what hit first through the first couple of years of me being home.”

She received additional mental health diagnoses and battled insomnia, finding few treatments that helped.

“At the time, when people like me were coming home, the (Veterans Administration) was giving us a lot of medications,” Sage said. “I had 12 daily prescriptions to take. So I was really struggling there for a few years.”

She moved to Colorado and, while living there, crossed paths with Comeback Yoga, a nonprofit organization offering free classes to military veterans in an effort to help them respond to traumatic life experiences. Having tried yoga once before, Sage was skeptical, but at the urging of her therapist and her doctors, decided to give it another chance.

She quickly learned that her previous approach to the discipline — seeing yoga as a workout offering mostly physical benefits — had held her back.

“I took away from those interactions that I was doing yoga wrong, or that I was too broken for yoga to even help,” she said. “That’s something I’ve heard a lot of veterans say.”

The classes she took in Colorado featured trauma-informed yoga — designed specifically for veterans like her who were dealing with both physical and mental health issues — and de-emphasized the discipline as a strictly physical exercise.

“There was no expectation to perform or do anything but show up and try your best, and that was really liberating for me,” Sage said. “I was like, ‘OK, well, if I don’t do yoga the way everybody on the internet is doing it, but I do it the way that actually works for my body that has all these injuries and stuff, maybe I’ onto something.'”

With a renewed sense of motivation, Sage practiced trauma-informed yoga for two years before deciding to train as an instructor so she could share what she had learned with others.

Sage moved to Indiana in 2019 to be closer to her boyfriend. By then, she had taken 400 hours of yoga teacher training classes through Kindness Yoga Studio in Denver and was teaching for Comeback Yoga. She opened her own studio, Sage Yoga & Ayurveda, in downtown Anderson, Indiana, last year.

Her offerings include a trauma-informed yoga class, which she provides at no cost to veterans — a small way, she believes, of paying it forward.

“Money does not come freely to everybody or in the same amount, and I wouldn’t have been able to experience yoga had it not been for free offerings,” she said. “I don’t want money to be the reason that people can’t access this stuff.”

Working with a team of four other instructors, Sage offers breathing classes, guided meditation and other instruction, including a class blending principles of 12-step programs with yoga.

“Observing what Allison has done with the yoga studio reminds me that you can teach while you’re still learning,” said Sybilla Medlin, an Anderson resident who has been taking classes at the studio for several months. “You can help people when you yourself aren’t in that perfect place yet.”

Sage’s authenticity and candor about the difficult circumstances she’s dealt with, as well as a desire to make sure others know they don’t need to be perfect, is what makes her teaching particularly effective, said Josh Medlin, a massage therapist who shares studio space with her.

“A lot of people, when they think about yoga, they have this image of someone who’s at perfect peace and super flexible and the ideal human, almost,” he said. “Allison doesn’t put up any kind of front. It’s very real, and she makes it feel like this is something for everyone.”