MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
When Cheryl LeClair’s husband returned home from a deployment to Afghanistan a few years ago, he came back with a traumatic brain injury, commonly referred to as TBI. He didn’t get it, however, from combat. He and other Marines were conducting Marine Corps Martial Arts Program moves when his head was slammed onto the deck.
Regardless, LeClair saw the pain her husband was going through. She wanted to do something that would help her husband reduce his pharmaceutical drug intake and also help those returning from war with post-traumatic stress disorder as well.
Already a certified yoga instructor, she heard about a yoga-related program designed to help those with PTSD, TBI and even insomnia. The program, Intergrative Restoration, or iRest for short, is renamed after Yoga Nidra, which is an ancient meditative practice dating back to thousands of years ago. iRest heals the various unresolved issues, traumas and wounds that are present in the body and mind, and restorative in that it aids the body and mind in returning to a natural state of functioning, according to the Integrative Restoration Institute, which was created by Dr. Richard Miller.
Practiced at more than 10 military installations and Veterans Affairs hospitals in the United States, LeClair brought these services to combat veterans and all active-duty service members aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and the surrounding communities. She began helping veterans through the Back on Track program, which is an accelerated two-week treatment program for Marines and sailors diagnosed with PTSD administered by Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune’s Mental Health Department.
For the past 15 months, she has volunteered an hour a day, five days a week. Noticing the treatment’s positive response, Marine Corps Community Services’ Semper Fit department hired her.
Only through referrals can a person attend the Back on Track program. Realizing this, she also wanted to help those who do not necessarily have PTSD-related issues, so she spends an hour every Thursday evening at Second Wind Eco Tours in Swansboro, N.C., to administer the therapeutic treatment to active-duty service members and other combat veterans for free.
“A few years ago, when I was instructing yoga students, a lady by the name of April Clark graduated my course,” said LeClair. “At the time, she worked for a corporation fulltime. I told her if she ever decided to open up a yoga studio to let me know. A few months later, she decided to take a different career path and opened up a yoga studio and here I am. Her father is a retired Marine sergeant major, so she fully supports what I do.”
During an iRest session, LeClair will have the participants lie down on the floor and get comfortable with the use of pillows, mats and towels. From there, she guides her participants to reconnect their minds to their bodies through breathing techniques. Shortly after beginning, they are deep asleep.
“Studies have shown that one hour of this treatment is worth three to four hours of regular sleep,” said LeClair. “Here, they are able to clear their minds.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Haslett, a corpsman with Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, has attended LeClair’s Thursday evening’s class for the past six months, and though he does not suffer from PTSD, he said that one hour a week has made a huge impact on his life.
“This class helps me manage stress levels with my job,” said Haslett, who deployed with Combat Logistics Battalion 8 last year. “Being a corpsman, you have to deal with hundreds of Marines and this class has been a tremendous help. I am able to work with a lower stress level and I even sleep better at night.”
Corporals Kevin Marburger and Cody Sellers are patients in the Back on Track program. Wounded from combat operations in Afghanistan last year, they have developed PTSD and insomnia and credit LeClair helping them with their sleep-related issues.
“Every time she did the iRest treatment, I would wake up so rejuvenated,” said Marburger. “I still sleep four to five hours a night, but the treatment made me a lot calmer.”
Sellers elaborated on the fact that LeClair’s treatment is not a one-weapon armory – her therapy is able to be molded in tune with whatever circumstance a service member comes to her class with.
“We all have different disabilities and she is able to adapt to that,” said Sellers. “If one guy has an arm issue and the other a knee, she keeps that in mind when she is here helping us.”
Willa Feldhaus, the Back on Track coordinator, said LeClair has been a blessing to the program and the patients love her.
“I have heard many Marines and sailors propose to her,” joked Feldhaus. “They want her around all the time so they can continue to receive the treatment continuously. All joking aside, she’s a saint and will work whenever she is needed, any time of the day.”
LeClair found a way to help others and is sticking to it - as she said, “If you have a gift that is of benefit to others, use it.”
“I do this because I have so much to be thankful for,” LeClair said. “Once I saw the difficulties my husband was going through, I wanted to help out. I knew yoga was good for the mind and body and once I researched iRest, I got involved and brought it to this area. I love those who protect us and will continue to help out in any way I can.”