Free yoga for military veterans

Gulf War Veteran wants to help those suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – John Hrenko is probably not what you first picture when you think of a yoga instructor, but that's the point. The Gulf War Veteran wants to break through the stereotypes and reach out to other veterans.
"I spent 26 years on active duty, I flew, we


nt to flight school out of college. I retired as a Navy captain but I am perfectly comfortable just being yoga John," said Hrenko.
It's been four years since the retired Naval Officer and Aviator took his first yoga class. He admits, it took some courage.
"My first experience was at a local YMCA where a lot of people start. I was one of 25 people in the class and I was the only male.  I was also the oldest in the class," Hrenko told News4Jax. "That's where the yoga journey began."
Today, at 67, he is living with the many benefits of yoga and he's determined to share the gift. John is specifically looking to help veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress. He believes that basic yoga will help them relax, recognize what sets them off and enable them - in time - to control it. The tough part, getting those men and women in the door.
"I really want to make this a safe place. It's really hard to get veterans into a yoga studio because of the stigmas," Hrenko admitted.

He knows those living with PTS need to feel comfortable enough to take the class and makes every effort to show them they are in a safe place.


"The first thing I do when we start class is I walk around to every exit and physically show them that I've closed those doors and show them they are locked. We explain to the PTS veteran that we will never come up behind them, we will never touch them. When I am teaching, I am always talking so they can track me audibly," he explained.
Hrenko hopes that veterans with or without Post-Traumatic Stress try the class just once. So far those who have tried, have come back.
"That's the bottom line," he said. "If you touch one, and impact one life and can keep one veteran from triggering. As you know, the suicide rate is 21 to 22 a day. If we can improve the quality of life on just one individual a day, it's all worth it."


are held every Tuesday at DownDogz Yoga in St. Augustine and are free to Veterans and anyone they would like to bring with them. Service dogs are also welcome. 

For more information you can call (904) 540-0445 or check out the below links: