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Sunday’s yoga class at the downtown Albany fire station started with an unusual touch: The instructor told war stories.

Dan Nevins told the story of how he lost his legs while serving with the Army National Guard in Iraq in 2004. He described a blast so powerful it tossed the 18,000-pound vehicle in which he was riding into the air.

“The truck disintegrated around me,” he said. “I was trying to make sense of everything. I knew I was hurt, but I didn’t know what was going on.”

Nevins said he was thrown from the vehicle and was patting himself over for wounds — only to find that he was spurting arterial blood from his legs.

“I knew I was going to die,” he said.

He said although everyone talks about how your life flashes in front of your eyes when you are dying, all he saw was a slide show of things he had left to do. Desperate to live for his family, he remembered trying to press down on the wound with his hand to slow the blood loss enough for him to get help. He said he remembers being in and out of consciousness and ending up in a hospital. Eventually he was told he had lost a leg and that he was likely to lose the other, which proved true.

Nevins said he recovered physically, but had “invisible wounds” from his wartime experience that he kept avoiding dealing with. Eventually, he said, he was using alcohol and sleeping pills to have any chance at sleep, and hoping he wouldn’t wake up. A friend recommended he try yoga as a way of dealing with his post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, which he did.

It was a decision that saved his life.

Nevins, who said he spends about 250 days a year on the road working as a professional speaker and yoga instructor, later became certified in teaching Baptiste Power Yoga. After talking about his experience, Nevins taught a yoga lesson that incorporated some of the themes from his talk, ideas finding the connection between the warrior pose and the things in people’s daily lives that they want to fight for.

The challenges you face on the yoga mat, he said, mirror the challenges of your daily life. A pose that requires your mental strength to hold is the same kind of challenge people face in everyday life.

Nevins, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, said after the lesson that Willamette Valley Power Yoga was the organization that arranged for him to visit. His lesson was free for veterans and first responders. Proceeds benefited the Albany Firefighters Community Assistance Fund.

Nevins said yoga healed the invisible wounds he got during the war, and his goal is to show veterans and first responders that they also can benefit from yoga. His experience as a veteran helps him connect with his audiences, he said. 

“I hope that they take away from this that yoga is for everybody,” he said.

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Anthony Rimel covers weekend events, education, courts and crime and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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