Tales Of THE Traveling Yogini ®

Healing Heroes: How Yoga is Serving Our Veterans

Friday, June 26 — 7:30pm – 9:30pm
Yoga Journal Live, Coronado Island, Hotel Del Coronado

Healing Heroes: How Yoga is Serving Our Veterans
with Keith Mitchell, Dan Nevins, Annie Okerlin & Gopi Kallavil

Over 21.8 million veterans alive today have served to protect our freedoms. Another 1.5 million are actively serving around the world. As they return home, a staggering number of these young women and men can feel their own freedom inhibited – or even taken away – because of physical injury, emotional trauma, and spiritual questions. Yoga and meditation can be a crucial bridge for those on the path of recovery, empowering our veterans to regain a sense of internal freedom through awareness, breathing, meditation, and physical activity. For many, exposure to a yoga practice can open the door to practical tools, emotional calm, and the camaraderie that has been missing. Each veteran, regardless of their background has a unique journey ahead of them as they seek to reconnect with their country, their families and themselves.

Join Yoga Journal in this continuation of Naropa University‘s Radical Compassion Symposium, where you’ll learn how yoga, meditation, and art therapy can be a crucial piece of the puzzle for those recovering from traumatic injuries. We’ll hear directly from combat veterans, yoga therapists who work with vets and their families, and those who support philanthropic initiatives for those returning from combat. Through their stories of courage, integrity, and hope, the panel will illuminate how they use yoga to rehabilitate physically, mentally, and spiritually, and will explore the growing movement of bringing yoga’s healing power to our wounded warriors.

The panel features coordinator of the Naropa University graduate art therapy program Michael Franklin, former NFL Star Athlete Keith Mitchell, decorated soldier and director of Warriors Speak Dan Nevins, founder and director of the Exalted Warrior Foundation Annie Okerlin, and chief evangelist for brand marketing at Google Gopi Kallayil.

The evening will open with remarks from my friend who also lives in Coronado, Bhava Ram. There will be an opportunity for audience Q&A.

$10 in advance; $15 at the door. Proceeds from this evenings events will benefit Exalted Warrior Foundation, and other organizations of the panelist’s choice.

Dan Nevins

I’m very excited about meeting Dan Nevins.


Dan began his military career out of high school as a paratrooper stationed in Germany. On November 10, 2004, as an infantry squad leader in Balad, Iraq, an IED detonated beneath his vehicle on a combat mission. Nevins suffered a traumatic brain injury, his left leg was amputated below the knee, and his right leg, after more than 30 surgeries, was also amputated below the knee. In May 2008, he was awarded the George C. Lang Award for Courage, the highest award bestowed by Wounded Warrior Project. Dan is director of Warriors Speak, a prestigious group of wounded warriors and caregivers who share their stories of courage and integrity with the public. Dan’s passion for yoga started in November 2013 when a friend and yoga teacher lead him to meditation and yoga asana. He quickly grew frustrated with attempting a yoga practice on two prosthetic legs and tried the practice with his legs off. That is when his world cracked open and his life changed from experiencing a connection to the earth that he’d been missing for close to a decade. Dan has completed Baptiste Level 3 yoga teacher training and feels so strongly about the life changing power of yoga for “every body” that he has devoted most of his personal time to teaching yoga, leading workshops, teacher trainings, and master classes at every opportunity.


I’m thrilled to introduce you to Dan Nevins:


How are you connected to Wounded Warrior Project? What is Warriors Speak?


My official role at Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is Warriors Speak Director. Warriors Speak is a program that I helped create, which identifies, recruits and trains our organization’s national spokespeople (who are either wounded warriors or caregivers of severely wounded warriors), who travel around the country sharing their stories of tragedy and triumph with the support of Wounded Warrior Project with audiences of all sizes (team of 12 regionally based spokespeople and some support staff). In my role, I am responsible for the strategic vision, training, development and deployment of the Warriors Speak team, as well as the cultivation and development of our National Campaign Team (NCT), which is an all volunteer team (currently at 80 people), who are either warriors or families of warriors who have benefited from WWP programs and services and have chosen to spend their personal time to raise awareness and further the mission of WWP, which is “to honor and empower wounded warriors”.

Outside of my role at WWP I have personally, and of my own time and accord, devoted myself to getting warriors on their mats. I’ve worked with grassroots organizations like Exalted Warrior Foundation (although not with them directly YET), in raising awareness for their mission in their local areas and am working on a national program of which all of the grassroots organizations, that serve veterans through yoga, around the country could participate in.


Your AMAZING energy comes through loud and clear on social media ~ YOU ARE SUCH AN INSPIRATION ~

I strongly believe that we all get “something” in life that you either “grab the gift” and run with it or… you either remain stuck or in victim mode and/or just reacting to life, instead of manifesting a life you thrive in.

Dan, can you tell me how your life has changed since the IED accident? (On November 10, 2004, as an infantry squad leader in Balad, Iraq, an IED detonated beneath his vehicle on a combat mission)


My life has changed in many ways. I could talk about all of the obvious physical challenges as a double amputee, about the 2 years I spent in the hospital, the 30 something odd surgeries, and about living with a Traumatic Brain Injury… but what I feel is most important to say here, is that, I wouldn’t trade back. My experiences in combat and what I’ve learned in the past decade is completely worth it all. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back and be the man I was 11 years ago. Not that I was a bad person… I believe that most people would say that I was a great guy, a passionate leader and lover of life. The difference is, that now I’ve truly learned what is important in life.

I wake up every day now, knowing that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I feel God’s hand on my life everyday. I feel my place in the universe, and it is right here, right now. I know that what happened to me, was supposed to happen, that it would lead me down this path of discovery and awakening to a new way of being. Still a great guy (I hope), still a leader, still passionate, still loving life, yet not from the egocentric, self-serving place of, “what’s in it for me”, but rather “how may I be of service”… and not just saying it, but meaning it.

I just want to help people, and after my experience on the mat, I know that my role is to try to get people “like me” on their mats, and hopefully that will lead to the same sort of personal revolution and revelations that I’ve had in my life since finding yoga. You don’t change the world to change your life; you change your life to change the world.


What has yoga taught you about yourself and life?


Yoga has taught me to be still, and to move. It has taught me to take action and responsibility for the change I wish to see in the world. It has taught me balance, and stability on and off the mat. It’s taught me that living authentically is the only way to actually be alive. Most importantly perhaps, it has revealed to me a life that I can be proud of, a community I love, and a purpose that I’m extremely passionate about. I’ve been fortunate in life to be involved in some important things and to have served my country with honor. I am very lucky. All of that said, outside of being a parent, being a yoga teacher and what I’m up to in life now is the most important thing I’ve ever done.

and while you’re at Yoga Journal LIVE this weekend

You can also take classes with Dan on Saturday and Sunday.

See you this weekend ~




  1. Priya's Gravatar Priya
    June 26, 2015    

    Stephanie, what an absolutely amazing article. It was really inspiring and for me it just sums up all the reasons why yoga is so amazing. My ambition is to do teach yoga and help others. Dan has been through so much yet here he is giving it all back. Reading this article this morning just made me even more determined to become certifed to teach. Thank you for this, and all the amazing articles and words of wisdom you share. xoxo

  2. June 26, 2015    

    congratulations on coming to such an amazing decision!

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