Anthony Scaletta will tell you he didn't come to yoga, yoga came to him.
"Yoga has completely changed everything for me," the 36-year-old Johnstown resident said. "I don't think it's an exaggeration to say it saved me because I was on a destructive path at different times in my life and it kept me from going in the wrong direction. Then it allowed me to grow beyond that and it's become a way of life for me."
While still a 17-year-old senior at Bishop McCort Catholic High School, Scaletta enlisted in the U.S. Navy through the Delayed Entry Program.
He served two tours in and around Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom.
"I was in Naval Special Warfare with the Special Boat Teams and we used small fast attack boats to insert and extract SEAL platoons and other special forces in and out of water-borne environments," he said.
Scaletta said the job was great, but his body took a beating from it.
"The boats were a little over 30 feet in length and they have a racing haul on them and they launch every time they hit a wave, which is every couple of seconds," he said. "Every time you slam the shock would transfer up through your heels and up your spine. Pretty much most guys who did that are pretty broken, especially with their spines."
In 2003, Scaletta completed his military service and spent a year traveling throughout Europe.
"At the time I didn't know it but I was basically not dealing with the transition back into civilian life," he said.
Within a year of leaving the military, the pain in his back intensified.
"I knew right away it was from the boats and knew something was really wrong," Scaletta said. "I was a 24-year-old guy and thought this level of pain was not right. I would be laid up in bed in so much pain, not knowing what to do, and that's how yoga found me."
He started by doing stretch work and that helped alleviate some of the pain.
"It moved beyond just being on the floor and right away I noticed if I stretched and opened my body I felt better and it helped manage the pain, " Scaletta said. "It then became a self-study of yoga and it became a balm to soothe my nerves."
In January 2007, he had a spinal fusion surgery in his lower back.
"When the surgeon opened (me) up and looked at my spine he said my spine looked like that of someone in their 70s or 80s," Scaletta said. "It had been that worn down. I had put my body through a lifetime's worth of shock within a few years."
He said he didn't officially begin to study yoga until 2010 when he started looking into yoga teacher training.
Scaletta enrolled at Asheville Yoga Center in Asheville, North Carolina, in the fall of 2014 and completed 230 hours to receive certification.
"It was intense, it was yoga 24/7 for 21 days straight," he said.
In December 2014, Scaletta returned to Johnstown and joined the staff at Just Breathe Mindful Movement Studio in the Westwood Plaza in Lower Yoder Township.
He teaches classes four or five times a week at the studio in flow yoga, restorative yoga and yoga tonic.
He also teaches yoga Friday mornings at Club Lifelines Fitness.
Scaletta will offer private lessons at his home for those who are interested in one-on-one sessions.
In 2015, Scaletta completed certification in Mindful Yoga Therapy, an arm of the Give Back Yoga Foundation, that brings the tools of yoga to veterans.
"This is yoga for veterans but specifically yoga for PTSD; it's trauma-informed yoga for PTSD," he said. "I also volunteer with them as the outreach coordinator for veterans and I travel around to teach other yoga teachers the introduction to the Mindful Yoga Therapy program."
Scaletta is hoping to start Mindful Yoga Therapy classes in the area where participants would meet for a 12-week period a couple times a week.
"I'm one of only 70 Mindful Yoga Therapy certified instructors in the world and I happen to be here," he said. "I'd love to be sharing the program and it's adaptable to anyone with sensitive needs."
Scaletta said he plans to continue his study of yoga because there is no end point in the learning.
"I'll never get to any point and say, 'I'm done,' " he said. "I don't consider myself a teacher. I'm a very serious student who's committed to the practice, and in my studentship I have the privilege of stepping into the seat of the teacher and sharing these practices with others."
Those interested in learning more about Mindful Yoga Therapy can email Scaletta at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a list of classes offered at Just Breathe Mindful Movement Studio, call 255-9642 or online at www.justbreathemms.com.
Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25. ___
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