Editor’s Note: Life Moves Yoga in Killeen, Texas, was selected as one of Reader’s Digest’s Nicest Places in America. Meet the winner, find out how the finalists were selected, and hear from our chief judge, Robin Roberts.
Army Lieutenant General Paul E. Funk II is no stranger to stress. He’s been deployed five times, leading soldiers in combat in Operation Desert Shield and more recent efforts in Iraq and Syria.
But these days, when General Funk II needs to work out his stress, he’s more likely to stand in warrior pose than to drop and give you 20. In 2011, the U.S. Army completed the biggest update to its physical fitness program in over 30 years and, for the first time ever, yoga is now part of the routine.
Known for their toughness and macho swagger, soldiers have been slow to replace “Yes, Sir!” and “Hooah!” with “om” and “Namaste.” But a movement that aims to change that is gaining momentum in Killeen, Texas, home to Fort Hood, the largest military base in the country. Its goal is to help service-members build physical and mental strength, even when they are battling wounds, both seen and unseen. And it’s starting at the top.
After his fifth tour, Funk returned home to take the helm at Fort Hood. He was born there, when his father, Paul Funk Sr., was commander-in-chief. He met his wife, Beth, there and they got married at the chapel on base.
“I’ve found yoga to be relaxing, but it also gives me an opportunity to think and put life in a balanced perspective,” Gen. Funk II told Reader’s Digest. “It’s a good practice for soldiers and families for that reason: It gives us time to slow down and get in tune with our environments while also building strength and endurance.”
Lucky for Gen. Funk II, he doesn’t have to go far to find his center. Life Moves Yoga, a studio owned and operated by his wife Beth Funk, is right across the street from the fort. She opened the studio in 2017 with a goal of helping wounded warriors regain mobility as well as peace of mind. In addition to offering various kinds of yoga to the soldiers and general public, Life Moves also holds a free class on Wednesdays called “Warriors at Ease,” which caters to soldiers who have suffered physical and mental trauma. Until recently, the class was paid for by a grant from the Bob Woodruff Foundation; when the grant dried up, Life Moves kept the classes going for free and has since trained more teachers in this special kind of yoga who give classes on the base itself.
“We had to continue it because it’s that powerful for the community,” said Beth Funk.
Caity Underwood, 31, is a student. She served for seven years but had to leave the Army because of medical problems that severely limited her mobility.
“By the time I got out, I couldn’t do a pushup because I couldn’t put pressure on certain joints,” she told Reader’s Digest. After just a few months at Life Moves, she can do many. Underwood goes every Wednesday.
“Wednesday is my favorite day,” she said. “It puts me in a better mood just by knowing I have that outlet.”
Another student is Lieutenant General Paul Funk, Sr., 78, a Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran who, in addition to being the former commanding officer of Fort Hood, is the commanding officer of the Funk family.
“The whole notion of mind, body, spirit is something that can be valuable to anybody and in particular those who have had setbacks, like being wounded in war,” he told Reader’s Digest.
Before you assume the whole base has swapped doing 100 pushups a day for warrior poses, Gen. Funk, Sr. admits that getting soldiers excited about a slower-paced workout has been a challenge. But the Army likes challenges.
“If ordered, I can promise you that all the members will try it,” he said. “But you can’t just order this and expect it to produce results.”
One enterprising non-commissioned officer at Fort Hood, who spoke with us on the condition of anonymity, has done just that. When asked to come up with a new physical training program for her crew, she suggested a yoga day.
“When I told my crew that we’re having a private class, they said, ‘I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible,’” she said. “But they didn’t have a choice because they had to come with me.”
Given that this is no ordinary yoga class, it won’t be long until they too see what makes it so special. And once they’re ready to try it again, Life Moves Yoga will be there.