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Yoga instructor, entrepreneur shares road to recovery after traumatic injury and PTSD

Yoga instructor and business owner Drew Aversa taught goat yoga at Silver Lining Livestock in Central Point on Saturday. (KTVL/Genevieve Grippo)

The goat yoga craze hit the Rogue Valley on Saturday, but the four-legged guests weren't the only special thing about the session.

The session's instructor, Drew Aversa, is no ordinary yoga teacher. He comes from a background of inspirational recovery after suffering from a traumatic injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"So many people are going through that today, and I wish they could just find yoga and get rid of ego, get rid of whatever stigma they have attached to this 3,000 year old practice that has continuously healed people," said Aversa.

The SOU grad started his working career as a firefighter in California, but a traumatic injury left him confined to a wheelchair.

"I was using the jaws of life rescue tool opening a car door, and the tool blew out of the purchase point of the vehicle and crushed my hip," he said.

Though he was told he might never walk again, Aversa looked for a road to recovery that didn't include pills or surgery. That's when he came face-to-face with yoga.

"My brother in the fire department committed suicide," he said. "My other friend became addicted to pain medication from failed back surgeries through the workers compensation model. I was the only one that made it out. I had a thousand dollars left in my bank account and I went out to purchase a firearm to end my life. I kept praying everyday that I wouldn't, and I finally found yoga."

He says commitment to the practice allowed him to restart his firefighting career, but shortly after, a repeat injury put him back on the bench.

"You go from hero to zero," said Aversa. "It's devastating."

This time, Aversa was also diagnosed with PTSD. But still, yoga helped him through.

Now his aim has shifted from fighting fires to fighting the stigma against yoga. He said his mission is especially true in helping men, with only 18 percent of the male population currently practicing.

"Yoga allows the mind and body to connect. It allows people to come together, it allows that pause in our day-to-day life to just be," he said.

In the long run, Aversa wants to see a change in how injuries-- both physical and mental-- are treated in first respondenrs. He is also an advocate for alternative treatments like yoga to be covered under healthcare plans.

"I really hope our legislators in Congress and even at the state level can figure out solutions where this practice of yoga can be something that an independent provider of yoga can bill for," he said.

Aversa currently lives in California, but travels to southern Oregon frequently to visit family.

He is the founder and CEO of HEALMEN.com, a business focused on helping men move through trauma.

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