For many years now, yoga has been the popular activity here in America for those seeking relaxation, mindfulness, and improved health and fitness. But did you know that yoga was developed over 5,000 years ago in India as a system for enhancing mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing? According to the Yoga Alliance, millions of people practice yoga today for fitness, stress relief, wellness, vitality, mental clarity, healing, peace of mind and spiritual growth.
More recently, doctors and yoga experts have come together to use yoga as a method of treatment for those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Veterans and wounded warriors, specifically, are becoming the subjects of several research studies to examine whether practicing yoga can help improve their symptoms of PTSD.
One research study notes that traditional treatment methods for PTSD which are supported by the Veterans Health Administration include prolonged exposure therapy (PE) and cognitive processing therapy (CPT). Although these therapies have shown to improve overall symptoms of PTSD, the reduction of specific symptoms, such as sleep and anger problems, has been inconsistent (Staples, Hamilton, & Uddo, 2013). Yoga’s reputation for helping to calm the mind and body, alleviate sleep problems, and reduce anger make it a key method of study for veterans experiencing these symptoms in association with PTSD.
Programs assisting veterans across the country have been incorporating yoga practice into their curriculums. The Give Back Yoga Foundation has developed a yoga program for veterans which has been widely used by VA hospitals, various Soldier and Family Assistance Centers, and wounded warrior wellness programs across the country. One of the courses led to the development of the Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans program, a training program for yoga teachers and a model for yoga programs in VA hospitals across the country. So far, feedback from veterans who have utilized the program has been favorable, and research studies are confirming the benefits.
The goal of yoga for veterans is to help them find a calm and steady state of mind that will allow them to lead productive and peaceful lives. Practicing yoga has the potential to help them regain control over their minds and bodies, but also to transition back into civilian life and reconnect with themselves, family, and friends.
With such promising results, there is hope for veterans suffering from PTSD that they can lead successful post-deployment lives.
Staples, J., Hamilton, M., & Uddo, M. (2013). A Yoga Program for the Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Veterans. Military Medicine, 178(8), 854-860. Retrieved October 24, 2014, from http://publications.amsus.org/action/doSearch?AllField=yoga for veterans