WATERLOO — The Black Hawk Veterans Affairs office will offer free yoga lessons starting Sept. 4.

Classes will be from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the chapel of the Pinecrest Office Building, 1407 Independence Ave. It is free to veterans and their spouses, and anyone who works with veterans.

Yoga instructor Nikki Carrion has a master’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa in community health.

“I’ve been doing this for many many years and I felt like it was needed,” Carrion said. “I started working with older adults about 20 years ago.”

She joined the Healthy Cedar Valley Coalition in January 2018, where she developed the idea of offering yoga classes to veterans.

“There was no hesitation,” Carrion said. “They immediately said that they liked the idea and that we should see who we should contact about getting it done.“

The next thing Carrion knew, she was on the phone with Black Hawk County Veterans Affairs Executive Director Kevin Dill.

“Kevin right away was on board and interested,” she said. “So we had a meeting and it’s just gone from there.”

Dill is a proponent of yoga for veterans.

“VA groups all over the country have started doing yoga for veterans,” he said. “Veterans with PTSD have responded that it’s helping them.”

Carrion will be offering hatha yoga and yoga nidra in chairs.

“Yoga in general means union, and when we think of yoga often times people think yoga is kind of a scary word to some people,” Carrion said. “They think of the spiritual aspect, they think of the roots of yoga.”

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Westernized yoga is different, Carrion said.

“What we do in the United States still means union, but it’s more mind, body and breath,” Carrion said. “There are no spiritual undertones to the classes at all.”

There is an upper body and some lower body strengthening benefits to yoga, Carrion said.

“Yoga nidra is equivalent to yoga sleep,” Carrion said. “It is a guided relaxation.”

Relaxation poses are more difficult to do than one might think.

“We’re always thinking, thinking, of what we have to do next or we forgot to do earlier,” Carrion said. “A lot people have a problem falling asleep at night. If a person has PTSD, it’s probably one of those symptoms, difficulty sleeping. This helps people understand how to distract themselves away from other distractions.”

People can be physically exhausted but mentally energetic.

“It helps to teach that person how to balance the energy between their mind and their body,” Carrion said. “I’m going to encourage people to do this at home and to learn how to use that when it comes to problems falling asleep at night.”

Carrion is able to teach the class through the Max and Helen Guernsey Charitable Foundation.

The class starts Sept. 4, but the yoga won’t begin until the next week on Sept. 11, when she will give away a free DVD set called the “Healthy Rewards Three Pack.”

“Sept. 4 is the introductory class,” Carrion said. “The purpose of that day is for me to come in and tell people what they can expect if they decide to participate in the classes.”

In October, Carrion will do fitness assessments for members of the class.

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