His marine duty took him to war zones heightening his inner stress levels. In order to stay alive, Blazejewski says, he internalized a "hyperarousal, hyper fight-or-flight mode" -- one that constantly made him feel on high alert. "When you're in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan, it's the middle of the night, and mortars start coming in and exploding through the roof," he recalled. "People are shooting at you, attacking you, you can't see who's the good guy and who's the bad guy. You are trained to keep running into danger when the bullets are flying at you."
When Blazejewski returned home, a new battle awaited. The enemy: the turmoil in his own mind. The stress he felt "was taking me to a dark place, and suicidal thoughts were creeping in, and I knew that wasn't OK," he said.
Isolated from his military community and struggling with deep bouts of depression, Blazejewski contemplated suicide. "It was a really dark time for me," he said. "I just wanted to stay home." His roommate offered to take him to a yoga class, but yoga was not something Marines did. "We consider it something only girls did and definitely made fun of it," he recalled. "My roommate pretty much dragged me to a yoga class. I went kicking and screaming." In 2008, a two-hour Friday night yoga class changed his life.
"I got my butt kicked, and I was sitting in a puddle of sweat," he said, smiling at the memory. But it was during shavasana -- a rest pose usually done at the end of practice -- when Blazejewski understood what yoga could do for him. "I felt just relaxation for the first time in over a decade," he said. "It really was the point in my life where everything started to change and I knew there was hope out there for me."
With the discipline of his Marine training, Blazejewski took a yoga class every day for six months. Then he enrolled in a yoga teacher training program where his instructdor advised him to take yoga to others like him - soldiers. So in 2015, Blazejewski created VEToga, a nonprofit that works to bring yoga, meditation and healing arts to military veterans and their families. He hopes to have a presence in every state.
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