Blue Ridge Mountain Meditation Retreat Aims To Bring Peace and Connection to Veteran and Service Members

Veterans are our greatest renewable resource. They are leaders, problem solvers, and team players who thrive in adversity.  However, when they return home from their service, many struggle to fully re-integrate with their families, work life and community.  It can be challenging for a Veteran to relate to the life they left behind after exposure to traumatic events, chronic stress and the adverse conditions they observe people existing in.  When they come home, many experience a loss of camaraderie, mission, purpose and can’t relate to the ‘first world problems’ that civilians complain about.  They are often on their own to process these feelingsIf they reach out for help, they may be offered therapies that offer only partial or temporary relief, or pharmaceuticals that mask symptoms but have undesirable side effects.  Veterans don’t want a handful of meds, they want relief.  They want to feel like themselves again.


Recent data from Veterans Affairs now shows the number of Veterans diagnosed with PTSD has tripled from 2008 and in 2017, an estimated 940,000 Veterans are living with PTSD.  Every day 20 Veterans in distress are taking their own lives. It is an epidemic that is impacting the individual Veteran, their family and community and ultimately, is a reflection of our country as a whole. If these men and women are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice by volunteering themselves for service in the United States Armed Services to serve and protect our country, isn’t it right that our communities honor these veterans and help them to receive the greatest possible support and care on their return?


More and more, veterans are seeking integrative health therapies that are demonstrated to be effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression.  The SKY Breathing Meditation workshop, of Project Welcome Home Troops (PWHT), a program of the International Association for Human Values, is one of therapies gaining interest and attention from both the U.S. Armed Services and from the Veterans Administration (VA).  PWHT’s multi-disciplinary workshop is offered free of cost to veterans and their immediate family members.   In a few short days, they begin to feel relief from their symptoms, enjoying improved sleep quality & duration, better regulation of emotions, and an improved sense of wellbeing.    After the five–day workshop, many also report feeling more peaceful within and have a healthier connection with the outside world.  


Art of Living Retreat Center, Boone, NC

From August 24 – 27th, Project Welcome Home Troops will bring nearly hundred of its Veteran alumni. Veterans from 20 states and the US Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands will come to the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, NC. for a weekend of meditation, being in nature and building camaraderie. These Veterans will become ambassadors and teachers for the program, ultimately leaders of PWHT – making the program their own and bringing it to their fellow Veterans across the country.


Veterans Practicing SKY Breathing Meditation

SKY Breathing Meditation is presently part of a clinical trial at the War Related Injury and Illness Study Center of the Palo Alto VA comparing SKY Breathing Meditation to Cognitive Processing Therapy, a common treatment for PTSD at the VA.   In an earlier study of the workshop conducted with Veterans at the University of Wisconsin, Center for Healthy Minds and Stanford University, a statistically significant reduction in the symptoms of PTSD was noted.  Follow-up data after one month, six months and a year showed that the improvements measured immediately following the workshop were sustained, indicating that the changes may be permanent.


The workshop begins to heal the invisible wounds of war and service.  Changes begin to manifest for the Veteran outwardly, and include improved relationships and hope for the future.  They welcome the reignited sense of camaraderie and report a desire to become a better spouse, parent and employee.  Many of the veterans at the end of the workshop say, “I got myself back.”  This workshop has the power to do for a veteran what years of medication or talk therapy may not be able to achieve.


The primary investigator at the VA clinical trial states, “The implication of this program is enormous.  We may have the ability to reach and treat a whole group of Veterans in a significant, efficient and cost-effective way.”


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IAHV SF Bay Area Partners to Deliver a Youth Study Abroad Program from Osaka, Japan!

December 27, 2014

In 2013 & 2014, IAHV in San Francisco Bay Area partnered with Osaka Global School (OGS) to help coordinate a Youth Study Abroad Program sponsored by the Japanese Government.

The IAHV Team had the joy and honor of bringing together employers, educational institutions and youth organizations to help students become better prepared to lead with new perspectives and a broadened vision.

Masahiro Terada, OGS Study Abroad Coordinator, reached out to IAHV to conduct a yesplus workshop each year for 48 OGS students (16-19 years old), 4 OGS Educators and 2 Japanese government officials.   This year as a service project the students visited a local Farmers Market and gave Free Hugs along with origami animals with their name printed in Japanese characters.   They were a huge hit with the local farmers and families!

IAHV Participated in a Full Spectrum of Enriching Experiences with the Students

  • Led yesplus! program empowering tomorrow’s leaders with tools to build confidence, clarity of mind, social connection, and resilience. Witnessing students unfold to their full potential is a memory that lasts a lifetime. Every city can offer IAHV’s YES! and yesplus course to students visiting from abroad. Leads: Jennifer Stevenson & Justin McGurrin (see testimonials below)
  • Facilitated DeAnza College lecture series on Environmental Stewardship, Green Building and Astronomy with a visit to the Planetarium.
  • Facilitated UC Berkeley campus tour.
  • Facilitated Google campus tour.
  • Facilitated Cultural Exchange led by the Cupertino High School Japanese National Honor Society. OGS students shared their Japanese cultural presentations and performed a FLASH MOB which inspired everyone to get up and dance non-stop!
  • Accompanied students in a breathtaking bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Led Panel Discussion on “Success in School and Valuable Life Lessons” shared by Karishma Anand, Uma & Johann Berlin.
  • Created a private Facebook Page with the students, teachers & government officials to share pictures (+1,000), videos and stay connected.
  • Accompanied OGS Students conducting research on hot topics of our times by interviewing people in historic San Francisco neighborhoods (Fisherman’s Wharf, Castro District, Wharf, Haight/Ashbury, Golden Gate Park).
  • Led OGS Farewell Party – Hands down the best party in town filled with scrumptious vegan food from Enjoy, dance, gratitude, happiness and friendship!

The IAHV Team was tremendously grateful and honored to work with the Japanese government, educators and students.

Osaka Global School Students speak

“Through this course, I learned many skills that are useful in my life. For example the saying that Jennifer told me, “The present moment is inevitable” impressed me. I often run away from things that I have to do in that moment. Later, most of time I realized I made mistakes and feel regretful. So everything that comes in front of me for now on I will take responsibility for and overcome them. Moreover whenever people say bad things to me, I won’t change my style. I will listen to them but won’t be affected. Thank you Yesplus.”

“I really wanna take this course again!! No one can change the Past, No one knows the future!! All the things we did, we made, we had, anything good, anything bad – All of that made who we are now, so we just need to accept the past, to enjoy this moment, then we can be happy all the time, all of life!! I learned from this course and will try to apply it in my life.”

“Through this course, I felt like I could change myself. Before I participated in this course, I was just not confident, nervous, and shy. Also I was hiding my feelings inside my heart. However, I feel like I can be “myself” by doing the breathing and hearing the class knowledge points. I always worried about what others thought about me, and I hated public speaking/giving presentations. But I realized we have to accept “myself” and “others” – being myself became important. 100% effort and enjoying the present moment helps us focus on what we’re doing. I realized many things I previously rejected that are important for living. Thank you letting us experience many wonderful things, for letting us realize important things for our lives. I really enjoyed and I’ll keep practicing breathing.”

“When I took this course, at first I was nervous and shy to speak to everyone, but after a few days I could share all my opinions, experiences, etc…, and share my own ideas!! After a few days, I woke up before my alarm, feeling really clear. So I thought, “Oh the breathing is affecting my body!” Awesome! The games where fun and I learned “cooperation” and “how to be happy.” These four days were really fun and a good experience for me. I will try to continue the breathing in Japan! Thank you”

In December 2014 the OGS Students graduated from their program sharing…

“Yesplus teachers were great and gave us advise about our lives. We were lucky to learn how to control ourselves.

Silence behind bars: Retreat helps Homestead inmates defuse anger

Miami Herald : November 03, 2016


About 20 women sit in a circle on blue legless chairs placed over yoga mats in a white-walled classroom. In one corner, artsy cutouts of the words “joy,” “compassion” and “courage” are taped on the wall, while an overflowing arrangement of yellow and purple flowers decorates the opposite end of the room.

The shoe-less women know each other well and laugh at each other’s jokes. If it weren’t for the corrections officer looking out the door, this room could be a yoga studio in any hip neighborhood.

The women are inmates at the Homestead Correctional Institution, an all-women’s prison, and for three days they were immersed in a silent, meditative retreat. After the silence was declared over, the women couldn’t stop talking.

“There’s a lot I can’t control in prison, but this class gave me control,” said Catherine Lafleur, who is serving a life sentence for killing her husband in 1999. “Taking just one moment for breathing, it makes such a difference. It has made my life better.”

The retreat is part two of a breathing and meditation course called Prison Program. The International Association for Human Values, which organized the program, seeks to teach people in penal institutions a breathing technique called Sudarshan Kriya. The technique, created by Indian spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, is aimed at delivering relief from accumulated stress. (Shankar is not to be confused with the musician, Ravi Shankar, who gained fame through George Harrison.)

“I worked so hard on myself to find the courage to heal,” said Deidre Hunt, who was on death row for eight years and is serving a life sentence for murder.

Hunt said she was in solitary confinement for most of those eight years and wished she had known about the breathing technique at the time. It would have made it easier and quicker to heal, she said.

“If I do this every single day, it changes you,’’ she said. “After, you don’t recognize yourself. You think, ‘Why didn’t that upset me?”’

Meera Khan, who is in prison for welfare fraud, said she wants to open a yoga studio when she gets out. She said the practice could benefit not only people in prison, but those on the outside.

“This could discourage people from committing crimes,” she said. “Society needs the Prison Program”

During the retreat, the women silently did yoga and underwent guided meditation, stopping only for meals. There were no distractions. No TV, no radio, no reading. At night, the women slept in their cells. Some wore small signs on their shirts alerting others not to speak to them until Monday.

After the retreat was over, the women took turns recounting their experience and the impact meditation had on their lives: “Transformed.” “Peaceful.” “Calm.”

One inmate called her prison term a “blessing” because she discovered meditation there.

Whatever their background or their crimes, the participants agreed the meditation and silent retreat led them to discard and defuse their anger.

Gabriella Savelli is program director and an avid practitioner of meditation. “People have their hearts and minds shift,” she said, her voice breaking. “To see people feel love again in a way that they want to contribute to the world — it’s real, they’re not faking it.”

The program has been running at the Homestead prison since 2013, with more than 130 women going through Level One.

Savelli, who lives in Washington, often leads the classes. When she’s not there, local volunteers guide meditations and visit to motivate the inmates.

Prison warden Marie Boan said in a written statement she instituted the program because she believed it would help the inmates reduce their stress.

“The program has been wonderfully beneficial to those who participate, allowing them to learn the value of patience and alternate means, instead of lashing out toward each other when stress rises,” she wrote.

Since 1992, Prison Program has taught meditative practices to more than 10,000 inmates, correctional officers, law enforcement staff and crime victims. Twenty three prisons around the country have instituted the program’s Level One, which introduces the practice in two- to three-hour courses several times a week. Homestead Correctional is only the second prison in the country to have completed the silent retreat.

Savelli said the silent retreat offers greater benefits than Level One, and she hopes more prisons will adopt the program.

“The amount of release and clarity you get with the intensity of a weekend like this is a lot faster than waiting for things to dawn on you,” she said.

“When you’re in state of non-agitation, you have a certain clarity and a state of calmness that allows you to see what’s not working for you,” she said. “It’s not to say you get done with this and you levitate to the clouds, but you just have an ability to shift that comes over time when you cultivate wisdom.”

Ecuador Trauma Relief

On April 16, 2016 a powerful earthquake shook Ecuador with a moment magnitude of 7.8 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of VIII (Severe). More than 500 people were killed and thousands became homeless. The most affected regions were Manta, Pedernales and Portoviejo.

After the immediate response with the provision of material aid, such as water and medicine, several volunteers of Art of Living Foundation from different Latin American countries (Argentina, Paraguay and Panamá) traveled to provide support to the local team in Ecuador.

The Trauma Relief Programs were offered in the city of Portoviejo, (Manabí Province, western Ecuador) providing relief to hundreds of people, and involved:

  • 15 volunteers from 4 countries: Ecuador, Argentina, Paraguay and Panama
  • 4 days in the affected area
  • 5 shelters assisted
  • 600 people benefited with Yoga, Meditation and BWS Trauma Relief courses
  • 1150 people reached through the volunteers’ activities

In order to provide a sustainable support to the affected areas, during this visit many volunteers of the Art of Living Foundation were trained to teach trauma relief courses involving breathing techniques, meditation, yoga and playful activities.

The next steps will include: empowering local leaders, training youth with leadership skills (YLTP) and developing regional service programs to help the long-term rehabilitation of the community.

The International Association for Human Values (IAHV), in partnership with the Art of Living Foundation (AOLF) has established a disaster relief fund to provide trauma relief program. Your contributions will be used for mobilization of volunteers (air travel and ground transport), accommodation , organizing trauma relief workshops and supplies for the workshops.

IAHV is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All contributions are fully tax-deductible.

Please mail checks to: IAHV, 2401 15th Street NW, Washington DC 20009

Or donate online by clicking here.

Handing Over Ceremony of Palar River Rejuvenation

December 03, 2015

“The Whole world is struggling for water and it is said that if a third world war happens it would be because of water.”, said IAHV & Art of Living Founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, bringing the attention of the citizens of Kaiwara (dist Chikkaballapur) to a possible solution for their water problems.

Volunteers begun work for Palar’s rejuvenation, the removal of silt and reviving the small streams which flowed to the river after the rains. Initial work has commenced in Phase-1 on 10km streams, covering 35 villages. Until now, 40 recharge wells, 2 recharge borewells, 2 boulder checks and 1 water pool has been constructed. Narayanavana, a grove of medicinal plants with 30 different varieties has been created.

Along with the farmers, we have started planting trees. 3000 trees were planted within one month. This will continue and 10000 saplings will be planted in the next few months.

A Narayana Vana has been created at Kaiwara, as part of the rejuvenation project. There are 32 species of rare and endangered plants, like, Sita Ashoka (helpful in relieving stress and addressing gynecological problems), “Kadambi” (traps dust) and Atti tree (other organisms and birds nest in this tree). In total, there are around 200 trees and 2,000 herbs and shrubs in this Vana.

Palar Then and Now
40 years ago: The majestic Palar river flowed through the 3 states of Karnataka, Andhra and Tamil Nadu, with lush natural vegetation decorating its banks. Flowing even in time of drought, the river fed and replenished numerous wells and streams, ultimately merging into the Bay of Bengal.

Present Day: Today, the soil has corroded, basin is filled with silt and the wells and streams are a thing of the past.


September 28, 2015

Our Founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Ji handed over recharge structures of Palar River Rejuvenation to Gram Panchayat and inaugurated Narayana vana at Kaiwara, Karnataka on 19th Sep 2015.





New Study Shows Anti-Anxiety and Anti-Depression Effects of SKY Meditation

WASHINGTON, DC : Nov 5, 2015, The Art of Living Foundation and International Association for Human Values announced today that studies conducted by doctors and researchers at the Fatebenefratelli e Oftalmico Hospital of Milan, Italy, found that SKY, a yoga based breathing technique program, significantly reduces levels of anxiety and depression. This suggests a promising new low-cost adjunct therapy for improving mental health and well-being without side effects.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in ages 18 and older, or 18% of the population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The positive outcomes of reduced cortisol levels with the SKY breathing technique in patients suffering from both anxiety and depression brings into focus an alternative, low-cost treatment for one of the most widespread health issues of our time. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recently reported nearly 90 percent of Americans value mental health and physical health equally, yet about one-third find mental health care inaccessible, and more than four in 10 see cost as a barrier to treatment.
Sudarshan Kriya Yoga as an effective anti-anxiety and anti-depression treatment

In the Italian studies, Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY), a comprehensive yoga breathing based program, demonstrated significant improvements in patients suffering from depression and anxiety. The researchers found SKY to be effective in relieving both clinical and non-clinical anxiety and depression. Interestingly, patients who were not on medication achieved the same impressive results as patients who were on medication. And results persisted at six months, showing it could not be a placebo effect.

These observed psychological improvements are corroborated by physiological changes documented in other depression and anxiety studies, such as reduced biomarkers of stress including cortisol (the stress hormone), increased levels of prolactin (a wellbeing hormone), and the return to normal of specific brain wave patterns that are often abnormal in depressed patients.
According to the researchers who conducted the study, there is sufficient evidence to consider SKY as a beneficial, low-risk, low-cost adjunct to standard psychotherapy and/or pharmacotherapy used in the treatment of stress, anxiety and depression.

“We chose SKY because the protocol is based on simple breathing techniques that the patients can easily practice at home. This allows them to see concrete results day after day and recognize that they can take charge of improvement of their condition. This is very important because it further leads to some essential and desired side benefits: empowerment, improvement of self-esteem, and a positive change in patient’s perception of their disorder,” said Dr. Stefania Doria, psychiatrist and lead author of the scientific paper published from this research.

About the study
The study was conducted in the Neurosciences Department of Fatebenefratelli e Oftalmico hospital in Milan with 69 adults (25-64 years) with a primary diagnosis of anxiety disorders. Participants were divided into two groups: one underwent SKY treatment only, and the other had SKY treatment in addition to the standard pharmacological antidepressant and/or anxiolytic treatment. An important finding was that SKY was uniformly effective in providing remission from the clinical conditions in both patients who were on medication, as well as those who were unable or unwilling to take medication. The study results demonstrated that the implementation of SKY therapy in a scientifically controlled, medical environment significantly reduced the levels of anxiety and depression in patients suffering from these disorders. For more, click here.

Sudarshan Kriya Yoga:
Sudarshan Kriya™ and its accompanying breathing practices (SKY) are derived from the 5,000 year old Yogic Science of Breath. Taught by certified instructors of the Art of Living Foundation & IAHV, SKY incorporates specific natural rhythms of the breath to harmonize the body, mind and emotions.

About the Art of Living Foundation (AOLF) and International Association for Human Values (IAHV)
Founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, AOLF is an international humanitarian organization that offers educational and self-development programs to manage stress, foster inner peace and improve well-being. IAHV is a global organization that offers programs to reduce stress and develop leaders so that human values can flourish in people and communities. Both the non-profit organizations hold a consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

Nepal Earthquake Relief

April 26, 2015

On April 25, 2015, a devastating earthquake has occurred in Nepal. More than 8,000 people died, 16,000 people injured, 5,00,000 houses & buildings destroyed and 2,70,000 houses & buildings partially damaged. (Reference:

Pursuant to the natural tragedy, the International Association for Human Values (IAHV) in partnership with the Art of Living Foundation (AOLF) established a Disaster Relief Fund to provide humanitarian assistance for the victims of the Earthquake. More than 8000 volunteers are working in ground zero in 12 out of 13 major impacted districts of Nepal covering 103 Municipality/VDC of Nepal to provide Immediate Relief and Trauma Relief. These districts are Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktpur, Dolkha, Shindupalchwok, Ramechhap, Okheldhunga, Gorkha, Kavre, Dhading, Lamjung and Nuwakot.

Our Immediate Response (Within a month):

  • Distributed Relief Materials (Food, Medicine, Tents, Blankets, etc) to 1,50,000 victims worth INR 4Cr.
  • Conducted more than 225 Trauma Relief Workshop benefited 30,000 victims worth INR 3Cr.
  • More than 8000 volunteers worked in ground zero in 12 out of 13 major impacted districts of Nepal worth INR 16Cr.

Mid/Short Term Rehabilitation Plan:

  • Build 13 Earthquake and Flood Proof Communities Living centers in 13 most impacted districts of Nepal and use them for shelters for needy and to impart vocational skills.
  • Build 300 temporary shelters for needy in selected village.
  • Train 1000 Youth of the region to select 300 Employed Youth Leaders who would support infrastructure building and conduct Trauma Relief workshops.
  • Conduct 5000 Trauma Relief Workshop covering 1.5 million impacted populations.

Local AOLF and IAHV volunteers are starting Mid/Short Term Rehabilitation Program. Our Trauma Relief Workshops and long-term survivor rehabilitation programs will continue to supplement all relief efforts.