As soon as Debby Kaminsky, a yoga instructor from Short Hills, started planning her trip to Israel this summer, she knew she would bring yoga with her.
Kaminsky runs Newark Yoga Movement, a not-for-profit she founded dedicated to teaching yoga, and the stress relief it offers, to schoolchildren and firefighters in Newark. She has also worked with people at an AIDS clinic in Tanzania.
Visiting her daughter, a rising junior at Middlebury College who was volunteering with Magen David Adom, she found another cohort that could use some relief from the stress of their daily responsibilities: the Israel Defense Forces.
During a visit to Israel in mid-August the yoga instructor gave a class to a unit of women soldiers at an IDF parachuting school.
A supporter of Friends of the IDF, Kaminsky got the organization’s help in setting up the session. “They’ve never done anything like teaching yoga,” said Seth Rosenberger, director of the New Jersey FIDF and a former “lone soldier.” “She gets them out of their day-to-day activities, which can be so stressful. The act of doing yoga provides relief. But also, when you get to do an activity like this while serving in the army that makes you feel like a normal person, that can be so important.”
Rosenberger said he’s interested in bringing yoga to the IDF on a regular basis.
Although she offered just one session, Kaminsky was able to leave them with tools — how to breathe, how to stay more focused, and to reduce headaches — that they can use going forward. The class included more than 40 women, of whom “only two or three” said they had ever done yoga before.
The experience was eye opening for Kaminsky, who also received a tour of the training base.
“It really put things in perspective. I just didn’t realize what goes on and how long it can take to pack a parachute properly!” she said.
She added, “It was really thrilling and inspiring. And any one of those women could have been my own daughter. It was also shocking to me how many go out for cigarette breaks. I guess that’s their way of having some time to themselves. If they had more yoga, maybe they wouldn’t need their cigarette breaks!”
Kaminsky was in Israel for eight days and returned home Aug. 15. She also gave a session at the Israel Tennis Centers, which brings the sport to at-risk and underprivileged youth.
She got her introduction to yoga while her twin children, then four, were in preschool at the JCC MetroWest in West Orange in 1997. She has come to believe so strongly in the power of yoga that she quit her job in advertising to become a yoga instructor in 2006.
“I found yoga could strengthen and tone my body while making me feel much less stressed and more open to receiving things. I decided instead of marketing products I wanted to market the transformation and help that yoga can offer,” she said.