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Army mom to teach yoga class to veterans

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Yoga instructor Dottie Gross of Suwanee is trying to develop interest in a yoga class called Yoga Warriors International, targeted for military veterans. Gross began yoga to ease stress about three years ago soon after her son Allen Grice joined the Army.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Yoga instructor Dottie Gross of Suwanee is trying to develop interest in a yoga class called Yoga Warriors International, targeted for military veterans. Gross began yoga to ease stress about three years ago soon after her son Allen Grice joined the Army.

SUWANEE -- When Dottie Gross' son joined the Army three years ago, her heart sank.

"It felt almost like a death," she said.

Soon after Allen Grice, her only son, became a part of the military, Gross searched for ways to cope with the stress, especially when he was deployed and driving a Humvee in Afghanistan to search for improvised explosive devices. Gross called that job one of the most dangerous in the military.

But after she joined an online support group of military mothers, someone suggested yoga as a coping mechanism. Gross was hesitant. Then the conflicts overseas became a higher priority in her life.

"I was like any suburbia mother," said Gross, a former 20-year employee of a major cosmetic company. "Until it strikes you, you don't know what's going on."

Gross soon became a believer in the discipline that she said creates a greater connection between mind and body through breathing techniques.

"Immediately, I felt relief, and breathing helped with long-term stress," she said.

And after she watched her son's demeanor change follwing military service, she knew there was a way to help. So Gross, a Suwanee resident who teaches two yoga classes per week at Rainbow Pilates on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, is looking to offer a free yoga class for veterans to help ease stress.

The owner of Rainbow Pilates, Sonya Dube, agreed to donate the hour to Gross and the class.

"As a part of giving back to the community, I just thought it'd be great," Dube said. "She has a great following, and people love her."

Gross has trained in Orlando, Fla. and received certifications from a group called Yoga Warriors International. Based out of Massachuetts, Yoga Warriors International's mission is to alleviate symptoms of combat stress and post-traumatic stress of people working in high stress environments. The organization also teaches yoga to caregivers and family members.

"I knew I had to make a difference," she said. "That's the avenue for me."

While Gross has practiced yoga for three years, she has taught it since December. The class for veterans, though, is structured differently than others. The version is called Hatha, and movements are slower and verbiage is different. For example, Gross doesn't say the word 'surrender' to a veteran. Gestures and poses are tailored to avoid memories or feelings from the battlefield, or bunker.

"It's an affirmation practice," Gross said. "Everywhere I turn, I see healing. We're giving them permission to release emotions, because the Army teaches them to suck it up."

While she struggles with her son's decision to join the Army, Gross supports him, and said she feels "like it's my duty to give back. That community has given us so much."

Grice, 23, is home for the summer, but attends the University of Alabama. Gross said he plans to make a career out of the Army.

While she wishes that the wars this country is involved in would end, Gross said doesn't want the decision her son made to join the military draw a wedge between them. Instead, she looks to find a peace about it.

"I've had to balance the fact that it's his decision," she said.