John M. and Rhumdoul R.

Finding Peace After War
Yoga allowed me to be myself, to feel comfortable with who I am. I look at life really differently now.

John C. Mills and Rhumdoul L. Rom came to yoga via very different paths. But today, this husband and wife—who are both Kripalu Yoga teachers—share a mission: to help others find inspiration, healing, and connection through the wisdom of this ancient practice.

Rhumdoul was born in Cambodia, and is a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime, which killed three of her nine siblings among two million Cambodians. As a child and then a young woman, she lived through separation from her family, homelessness, and, eventually, a month-long journey by foot to a refugee camp in Thailand. Finally, reunited with her mother and a younger brother, Rhumdoul made her way to the United States at the age of 18 with her 11-day-old daughter, and began again. She learned English, went to school, and trained as a medical lab technician. She met John, who is an orthopedic surgeon and an emergency medicine physician, at a hospital in Claremont, New Hampshire, where they both work, and they were married in 2008.

It wasn’t until years later, when her mother died, that Rhumdoul was forced to face the depth of her trauma. Devastated by the loss of the woman who had been her touchstone through it all, she turned to yoga, and found the practice so powerful that she decided to train as an instructor, completing her 500-hour certification at Kripalu with the help of a Diversity Scholarship.

“Yoga changed me so much,” she says. “I can’t even say how much I gained. It’s not just the postures. It’s about connecting mind and body. Yoga allowed me to be myself, to feel comfortable with who I am. I look at life really differently now.”

John, meanwhile, experienced the military side of life from another angle: He served with the US Army Special Forces almost his entire career, both on active and reserve duty, in addition to assignment to the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea. After a 30-year career, John retired from the Army in 2005 as a full colonel, and continued his medical career in the ER until his retirement from full-time medicine in 2012. He’s had a lifelong interest in alternative and complementary therapies, and this holistic background ignited his study of yoga and Ayurveda.

“I was always interested in health and well-being, and what it takes to be extraordinarily healthy—not just stamping out disease,” John says. “We need to bring more simplicity and responsible self-care to our lives in order to not just survive but to thrive.”

It was Rhumdoul who first brought John to Kripalu, and he dove in at the deep end—taking Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training in 2013, quickly followed by Foundations of Ayurveda, and then certification in Kripalu’s Ayurvedic Health Counselor training, and finally certification in the 300-Hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training, with a focus in Ayurveda.

Today, John has created a yoga class just for veterans at the Keene Yoga Center in New Hampshire. Last Veteran’s Day, he offered free consultations for vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other chronic health concerns, and is continuing these consultations with individual clients. He also provides consultations for hospitals, health-care providers, and schools.

Rhumdoul, who also trained at Kripalu as a Journey Dance™ teacher with Toni Bergins, is sharing yoga and Journey Dance with kindergarteners through fourth graders in a local after-school program. Her passion is bringing yoga to underserved populations, including seniors, children, and women. “I want to see them be inspired in their own lives, to cultivate self-love, self-acceptance, and self-transformation,” she says. “We’re not alone in the world—I got here with a lot of help. My mission is to help others through yoga as I was helped, to make a difference in people’s lives.”