NEWS | April 8, 2019

Retired Combat Medic Teaches Soldiers Resiliency Through Yoga

By Spc. Ashton Koller U.S. Army Central

U.S. Army Central conducts physical readiness training weekly as a unit to ensure readiness and resiliency of Soldiers. However, this was no ordinary PT session on April 3, 2019.

Paula LeBov, Red Cross employee and USARCENT Resiliency Program Manager, was invited to lead a PT session and introduce Soldiers to yoga. LeBov instructs a yoga class regularly at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Using her knowledge in the matter, she was excited to bring a change of pace to the week's PT session.

“I wanted to do something different,” said LeBov. “Something that would make them feel good and make them happy about coming to PT.”

LeBov served in the Army for 24 years as a combat medic. Throughout her time, she served as the master resiliency trainer for the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. LeBov retired from the Army as a sergeant first class with four combat tours; two in Iraq and two in Afghanistan.

“After serving multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the horrors of combat will forever be etched in my mind,” said LeBov. “Then there are the post-deployment horrors facing my fellow servicemen and women including suicide, substance abuse and domestic violence.”

LeBov said she had to find something to help her with the everyday struggles she faced being a combat veteran.

“It tore me up physically and mentally,” said LeBov. “A friend of mine suggested yoga, so I started doing that. I realized it helped me a lot, so after 10 years of just participating, I decided to learn how to instruct a yoga class.”

Going through a tough 200-hour course, LeBov was determined to finish so she could help others.

“Yoga helped me so much,” said LeBov. “I wanted to learn how to teach it so I could use it to help other combat veterans the way it helped me.”

The smiles on Soldiers’ faces were evidence to LeBov that they enjoyed the PT session.

“Seeing people enjoying themselves while doing the exercises is really awesome,” said LeBov. “It makes me feel really good when I am able to help others with what I was also going through when I was enlisted.”

Army Spc. Tasha Kilen, executive administrative support specialist, Company B, Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, was present for the yoga class and expressed the enjoyment she got from the yoga.

“Aside from trying something new, it was a great way to wake up,” said Kilen. “I got a good stretch in, was able to exercise some of my muscles, and it really lightened up my mood as well.”

LeBov aims to help Soldiers with everyday stresses of being in a deployed environment. Kilen feels as if she achieved just that.

“She was walking through everybody and correcting posture,” said Kilen. “I found that extremely helpful because my hips were canted in a certain way in one position then she came over to fix it. It felt so much better after that. So I think she did a great job helping everybody with on the spot corrections and just guiding everybody.”

With the new Army Combat Fitness Test making its way through the ranks, flexibility can potentially play a key factor when it comes to some events.

“Yoga is very beneficial to physical, as well as mental, health,” said Kilen. “Having that flexibility is going to be huge for the ACFT going forward.”

Following the completion of the class, Soldiers appeared relaxed and more focused.

“The class went great,” said LeBov. “You could tell at the end how everyone was really lively and full of energy.”

Kilen said with the use of guided breathing, yoga is able to help you relax better throughout the day.

“It was a huge stress reliever,” said Kilen. “You’re able to work all of the kinks out of your muscles to help you relax by the end of it. Now that I’m feeling more refreshed after yoga, I can put my focus now into what all I need to get done.”

Kilen said she enjoyed and benefited from the class, and hopes to see it implemented in the schedule more often.

“I think this should be incorporated at least quarterly,” said Kilen. “It was definitely a morale booster just trying something new and collectively as a group to relax and stretch.”