Iraq War veteran Dan Nevins never thought yoga would be the thing that changed his life.
Until 2015, Nevins, a retired Army sergeant from Florida, hadn’t struggled with the invisible wounds of war. The physical wounds — losing both legs after his army truck hit an IED in 2004 — were something he’d been able to begin dealing with. When he fell into a depression after a surgery in 2015, however, it was yoga that saved his life.
Since then, he’s taught thousands of yoga classes to veterans and civilians alike through the Wounded Warrior Project, an non-profit organization that helps offers services and programs for veterans and their families.
“I am committed to working with veterans and helping others to work with veterans,” Nevins said.
Nevins had slowly been building his confidence after losing his legs, but when he’d had his 36th leg surgery and was on crutches, he fell into a depression.
“I never really suffered from the invisible wounds of war for nine years and then after being home alone, I couldn’t ride a bike. I couldn’t climb a mountain. I couldn’t go play golf. I couldn’t ride a horse,” Nevins told InsideEdition.com. “I started ... to suffer for the first time. I was going downhill really fast.”
Nevins explained that he couldn’t sleep at night or he would sleep and wake up with nightmares. He’d pop a handful of Benadryl and chase it down with whiskey just to try to get rest.
One day, he vented to his friend about his troubles and she recommended yoga. He initially thought the idea was dumb, but he committed to three private classes with her. The first two were a disaster, he said.
“I was trying to do these poses and she was saying things I didn’t understand,” Nevins said. “I was off balance the whole time she was saying ‘press your feet into the ground,’ and I looked at her and was like ‘say feet one more time’ because I didn’t have any. I was just upset at myself because I was not used to not being good at things.”
During the third class with his friend, however, he said something profound happened. Nevins took off his prosthetics. It was a vulnerable moment for him, as no one usually saw him without the devices. As he performed of the poses, he felt something change.
“The earth sent this powerful feeling through my body and up and it felt like it was coming out of my hands and I was lit up from the inside out and tears were streaming out of my eyes,” Nevins said. “I was having this breakthrough, the most powerful moment in my whole life and it was on a freaking yoga mat.”
He attended a teacher training for the first time, just to better learn the poses. He was not expecting to actually be the teacher one day.
Eventually, the now 46-year-old ended up teaching a class in his living room to another veteran who said he was suicidal and needed some help. Nevins wasn’t very good at teaching, but it was then he decided to go to a teacher training class for a second time so he could better help others.
Nevins now also gives speeches across the U.S. to share his story, and he even slips into yoga studios to teach on his travels as well.
“It was sort of like I found this cure, whether you call it a coping tool or a cure for the invisible wounds of war. ... I just wanted other people to do it,” Nevins said.