Hello again!  So, earlier this year my friend and I planned a trip to Orlando for a nerd convention called Walker Stalker Con.  Yes, I’m a geek for The Walking Dead…I was hooked on the show before I was hooked on yoga, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I have never really been into zombie movies or shows, but this particular story line and the characters that have been created are truly exceptional. Needless to say, I was very excited to have the opportunity to meet some of the cast.  I knew, however, that I did not want to waste this opportunity by simply gushing all over these individuals for photos and autographs, because they are in fact, just people, albeit, some pretty influential ones. So I decided that this would be an amazing opportunity to begin my mission of spreading awareness about the benefits of yoga for mental illness, as well as a great way to get the word out about the nonprofit I have become so fond of, called Connected Warriors.  The following is the letter that I mailed and passed out to the cast and crew of the show.  I hope you find it compelling enough to check out the Connected Warriors cause! Om shantih.

Salutations to you, Walking Dead cast and/or crew member,

               My name is Ashley Lauren.  I’m a huge fan of your show, as well as certified Sampoorna yoga instructor currently located in South Florida.  I would like to start by saying that from the beginning, I have found the story and characters behind your show incredibly inspiring.  I began watching shortly after my first cervical spine surgery in 2010, and I have always found its resounding, “Never give up” message particularly encouraging.  In some way, your show helped me maintain hope through some very difficult times, and I am forever grateful to have discovered it.  I’m writing to you today because I have a story to tell, and I’m hoping that maybe you just might find some inspiration in it as well.    

               For many years before and after my spinal surgeries, I felt like one of the walking dead.  From a very young age a plethora of physical and emotional issues plagued my body and mind; and for well over 15 years I had been walking through a seemingly endless revolving door of doctors’ offices and pharmacies.  I was a very active child, and due to a dangerous disregard for my own wellbeing, I injured myself quite a bit.  On the emotional end of things, early on in life I was diagnosed with major depression and insomnia…then anxiety disorder…then bipolar disorder.   Pain and psychiatric medications flooded my medicine cabinets, and it didn’t stop there. The utter lack of control I felt over my own body and mind led me into years of substance and alcohol abuse, as well as self-harm and dangerous risk taking behavior.  After the injury that led to my spinal surgeries, I lost my job as an EMT, and subsequently lost my desired career as a surgeon due to peripheral nerve damage and chronic spinal pain.  Things were not looking good for me or my future.

               But about three years ago, something miraculous happened that turned my entire life around completely.  My mother invited me to join her at a yoga class.  As I said, I was always an active person; however, prior to my back injury,  I enjoyed lifting weights and running in place while listening to angry music, and from middle school onward, that was my daily routine; I thought it helped keep my demons at bay, so to speak.  Obviously this routine was no longer an option for my worn out physique, so I figured I would give yoga a try, and I can honestly say that for the first time in my entire life, I found peace within.  Consciously connecting to my breath literally changed my world, and I finally had hope of one day having complete control over my mind and body.  As I started to regain control over my physical and emotional states, managing my chronic pain without medication became possible.  I began to respect myself and my body again, which led me to desire a healthier lifestyle.  I began an Ayurvedic diet, cut out alcohol, and am now entirely prescription medication free for the first time in over 15 years; all thanks to yoga, meditation, and positive thinking.

               Yoga saved my life, but my story doesn’t stop there. I wanted to share the extraordinary benefits of this practice with the world, so in 2014 I decided to acquire my teaching certification.  In March of this year, I got my first studio job, and while posting flyers for my classes at my local grocery store, I ran into the person who, I would say, is actually the true inspiration for this letter.  For the purposes of this letter, I will call him “Steve”.  Steve is a marine veteran.  He was in the service for about 30 years, and was discharged due to a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Like so many servicemen and woman, Steve was having trouble assimilating himself back into society after so many years in a structured military setting.  Finding an identity is not easy when you have been told exactly who and what to be for 30 years.  Steve was also struggling with haunting memories of his wartime experiences, and was having trouble concentrating and could barely sleep at all.  Two of his brothers in arms had already taken their own lives due to their difficulties reintegrating into civilian life, and Steve had the desire to break that cycle.  

I knew that if he was ready, through yoga, I could help this man and others like him; and so, immediately following our first conversation, I began researching PTSD conscious yoga, and learned of a chilling statistic; on average, about 22 veterans commit suicide every single day in the United States.  That’s almost one suicide every hour.  In my research, I was pleased to see that many organizations were making great strides in battling mental and physical illnesses in veterans through yoga, and so, thanks to Steve’s story, I was inspired to take teacher’s training workshops with two incredible causes: Yoga Warriors and Connected Warriors.  While both organizations are remarkable with similar philosophies, Connected Warriors really stood out to me in particular.

Connected Warriors is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing wellness programs that enhance the lives of veterans, service members, and their families. They are community based, and are run strictly by volunteer yoga teachers who hold classes for these military families free of charge.  That’s right! FREE!  How beautiful is that??  Currently Connected Warriors offers classes in 14 states and holds about 175 classes each month with an attendance of over 1,200 individuals.  Connected Warriors is offering hope to those men and woman who are feeling hopeless.  For most, medications and traditional talk therapy are not enough to relieve the crippling symptoms of PTSD and other trauma related post-service issues. Yoga is a positive experience that directly contradicts the feelings of helplessness brought on by trauma through conscious connection of breath and movement. Through regular practice, these men and woman are able to heal themselves emotionally and physically.  I recently had the opportunity to attend a class held at the VA in Miami, and was so moved to see the change in disposition of the men before and after class.  

So, you’re probably wondering, why is this chick contacting us about all of this? That’s a good question.  The truth is, we need your help to spread the word about how beneficial yoga is at fighting the debilitating effects of mental illnesses and to help the Connected Warriors mission spread even further. While yoga is growing in popularity in the US, not enough people are aware of the transformational benefits that can take place for people suffering from emotional trauma.  Even those who are aware of the benefits may be hesitant to try yoga because they are under the impression that yoga is a religious practice.   So how can you help?  That’s another great question!  The Walking Dead has become one of, if not, THE most popular shows on television.  With your help, through social media, word of mouth, and maybe even a segment on The Talking Dead we could easily reach millions of people in a very short time.  This could greatly benefit our country and even further, benefit mankind in general. I truly believe that every time a new person takes up yoga as a practice, it brings us one person closer to world peace. In exchange for your help, I will teach you and the entire cast and crew of The Walking Dead a free yoga lesson.  What do you say?  Are you ready to feel what it’s like to unite your mind, body and spirit through yoga? Lord knows Rick, Sasha, and Father Gabriel could use some yoga in their lives!  Thank you for your time and consideration.  When you have a chance, please check out the Connected Warriors website for more information.  

Om shanti.


Ashley Lauren

Connected Warriors Inc.

900 Broken Sound Pkwy

Boca Raton, FL 33487