Sonya Quijada, a U.S. Army Veteran of 28 years, is a devout yoga practitioner and instructor. Her hope in her second career is to help people feel better by using adaptive yoga movements to live a higher quality of life through their journey of aging.
“Yoga is all about listening to your body and honoring your limitations,” said Quijada. “It’s about setting aside what you used to be able to do, or what you want to do and realizing what your body can do so you feel and move better.”
Dating back to between 5,000-10,000 years ago in Northern India, yoga has taken on different forms in its wider emergence in the 20th Century. Yoga in all its variations continues to increase in popularity as many realize its preventive and healing benefits.
People seeking alternative therapies will find the discipline can offer a holistic mind and body lifestyle. It can also serve singular needs such as meditation, breathing exercises, or yoga asanas. Asanas are the physical exercises that pair movement with breath.
“I’ve been doing yoga for about 30 years and have been certified to teach since 2008,” said Quijada. “Through my practice and my teachings, I’ve seen how yoga strengthens the body, rehabilitates injuries, increases range of motion and helps with emotional well-being. It really helps us explore the ‘genius within us’ at whatever age or ability we begin.”
These days, yoga instruction is taught in studios in every major city in all forms from hot yoga, yin yoga to vinyasa and power yoga. It is also taught online with each instructor integrating their own approaches into the foundational principles of yoga and yoga asanas. Their lessons often weave in the shared, communal appreciation for its transformative potential.
Quijada began her own yoga practice as an extension of physical therapy after a military airborne operation parachuting accident in her 20s. Over the decades, her yoga routine has helped her deal with the enduring impact to her body from these types of rigorous career-related demands.
“If I want to move my body on my own in my 70s, and be self-sufficient, then I have to consider the long-term effects of ignoring the signs my body gives me when pushing through with the ‘no pain, no gain’ philosophy,” Quijada said. “Yoga is the cure and is what taught me to honor my limitations and to release the burdens I no longer need to carry.”
Yoga is an accommodating practice that can be done anywhere from inside the living room to overseas in an austere combat zone. With its many applications to help veterans with complex issues from military service, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs has incorporated yoga as an alternative therapy in its whole health programming.
“The AARP Florida team has been looking for flexible and helpful ways to connect with adults 50+ and veterans as we quarantine,” said Michelle Cyr, associate state director for outreach and advocacy in Tampa Bay. “The known benefits of yoga that offset the body aches and emotional heaviness make it an ideal member offering.”
Members interested in taking virtual classes for free and from their living room with Sonya can click here to register. Classes will be held every Thursday at 6:00 pm for six weeks beginning May 21.
Sonya is a trauma-informed Registered Yoga Teacher, with training in the alignment-based Anusara Yoga, and additional specialized certifications for Yin Yoga, Warriors at Ease, Wisdom Warrior, and iRest Yoga Nidra level 1.
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