He said the breathing workshop, offered for veterans in Ohio through a special partnership between Covelli Enterprises and Project Welcome Home Troops, helps soldiers address the distress that some of them experience once they return to civilian life.
He completed a workshop in April and it had a profound impact on him, helping him to better deal with stress. “Breathing has a powerful effect on bringing you back to center. It helps you to stay calm and not get overwhelmed. It reminds you that you are in a safe place,” he said.
Project Welcome Home Troops’ program, Power Breath Meditation, is intended to give veterans tools to reduce symptoms associated with traumatic events and the stress of military service. At the same time, it helps improve their lives by allowing them to get more sleep, decrease depression and anxiety and improve their mental clarity and ability to connect and relate to family and friends.
“But after the first couple of days, they get it, and they leave transformed,” she said.
She said many tell her at the end of the workshop, “’I feel like the person I was before I went into the service.’”
Leslye said Congressman Ryan has been supportive of the project for a few years and recommended that Covelli Enterprises adopt it as one of its charities.
In 2014, alone, Covelli-owned Panera Bread restaurants raised $55,000 that is being used to hold workshops in seven different Ohio cities for veterans. Covelli also donates food for two days of the five-day workshops and Leslye said the food helps create a bonding experience for many of the veterans.
We want people to be able to start living again and to be able to start getting a fresh perspective on their lives again,” she said. Leslye said it is common for many veterans to go through the five-day training and to report that they have gotten their lives back.
“It has an effect on the brain. The breathing has a physiological effect on the brain in helping delink the strong emotions and physiological responses to experiences of stress and trauma,” she said.
Stanford University in a 2014 study confirmed the link between the power breathing meditation that Welcome Home Troops practices and the alleviation of post-traumatic stress.
“We hear from veterans that they lost a part of themselves and that those parts sometimes start coming back after the course. Some veterans will start writing or doing artwork or music after the course – aspects of their creative side that may have been lost to them for a time. There is a lot of healing that happens,” she said.
The breathing immediately leads to vets being able to sleep better.
She related the story of a woman who had been in the U.S. Air Force for her entire military career. She had been the victim of a military sexual trauma. She was fully of anxiety and tears the first night of the workshop and wasn’t sure she could make it through. “Every single night, she was afraid to go to bed,” Leslye said.
By the second day of the workshop, Leslye said she seemed a bit more relaxed – by the third day, she had released a lot.
“By the fifth day, you couldn’t recognize her, she was so bright, and full of life, standing tall. She brought a sign she found during the course that read: ‘It’s never too late to become who you always wanted to be.’”
Leslye said she told the group that she felt so much stronger. “Her whole body language had changed very dramatically.”
Leslye said that is a common story and that many veterans leave the course as different people.