As a military veteran, sexual assault survivor, cancer survivor, and mother of three who has completed more than 50 marathons and triathlons, Renee Champagne Davis is an undeniable force. It was reckoning with vulnerability, however, that sparked her awakening and now compels her to guide others toward their own awareness. iRest Meditation, she says, has played a pivotal part in her journey.
While serving in the Air Force, Renee was raped. In this experience, she is not alone: at least 25% of women serving in the U.S. military have been sexually assaulted. Women in the military are more likely to be raped by fellow soldiers than killed in combat.
“I remember going to my bunk and crying. Then I woke up, put on my uniform, and went back into the field.” At that time, back in the early 2000s, support for military personnel affected by sexual trauma was very limited, she recalls.
In addition, recruits were expected to be self-sufficient, so asking for help did not feel like an option. “We have all these go-getter personalities in the military. I thought, I can’t freakin’ fall apart.’”
She didn’t fall apart—but because she was haunted by her trauma, Renee wound up leaving the job she deeply loved. In her new career, she began bringing yoga and health classes to military colleagues.
Yet exercise often served as a form of escape, rather than connection. “When you go through trauma, it’s very easy to disconnect,” she says. “I was teaching yoga, but I wasn’t really practicing. There’s a very big difference.”
That sense of disconnection heightened in 2007, when Renee was stationed in Germany and her trauma unexpectedly resurfaced. In response, a psychiatrist prescribed medications that ultimately exacerbated her feelings of fear and disbelief, rendering her suicidal.
In that dark moment, she reached out to a person she only knew by reputation: iRest Teacher and Trainer Robin Carnes, co-founder of Warriors at Ease. Robin helped Renee arrange an iRest training session in California with Richard Miller.
The training was extremely challenging for Renee. “I had to lie on my back. I felt really vulnerable,” she says. “I just started crying. I stood up in the middle of the training and went back to Richard [Miller] and said, 'This is bullshit.’”
With support, she made it through the event, and with time and practice, her life gradually opened up. In 2008, Renee completed her iRest Level 2 Training and has continued to both use it in her own healing and share it with others. She emphasizes that, through iRest and other modalities, she has found a freedom that prescription drugs simply do not offer.
“iRest helped me find my faith, experience love again and connect—really connect—with my family and myself. It’s not easy, and I have to practice, or I end up disconnecting and falling in old patterns.”
Today, Renee holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health from the College of William and Mary, is a 500-hour E-RYT, iRest© Level 2 Teacher, and is a trauma counselor and yoga therapist who partners with national and local organizations, including Warriors At Ease (among many others).
“Healing is very personal,” says Renee. “You have to be ready. It’s not just something you go do. You do it when you’re ready to heal and you’re in a safe environment.”