Veterans Make Use of Yoga to Reduce PTSD Symptoms

I work with a young lady named Lauren who is quite interesting. Lauren is our operations manager and usually comes in the office perky and ready to work. She is so full of energy and spunk that you have to wonder what’s going on with her. I happen to be quite blunt and simply asked Lauren what was going on in her life to make her so full of energy. Was it some sort of pill? Was it gluten? Is it a new energy drink? I was concerned that she was consuming a case of “5 Hour Energy” before she came to work. (That’s nearly 30 hours of energy.) “Oh Jon,” she replied, “don’t be silly.” Lauren happens to be very health conscious and is up to date with all of the new trends in exercise. She informed me that her new source of energy was not from a drink, a pill, or even pumpkin spice…it was yoga.

I won’t lie; I snickered a bit when she told me this was her new source of energy. I thought that yoga was just something for people like Madonna to do when they want to be pretentious. Then when Lauren told me that her yoga studio had decided to team up with our firm for a Veterans Day promotion, I couldn’t believe what I had heard. Our Vets are by far the toughest group of people on this planet; no way they are going to do this activity. As our social media specialist I had to get to work on promotion for the event. I thought I had better do research on this topic if I’m going to post about yoga.

The research I found made me a believer. It turns out yoga isn’t just for Madonna, it is for real people too. Lauren was on to something and I had to dig deeper. I then found a recent article in the Washington Post that stated yoga can be helpful for Veterans with PTSD. If you’ve read my blog in the past few months then you know I’ve been focusing on alternative PTSD treatments. This was suddenly right up my alley.

Generally if a Veteran is seeking treatment for PTSD he or she will be given some sort of prescription for medication. That includes medication for depression, anxiety, and more. I’m looking around my work space right now and I don’t see a medical degree so I really can’t comment on how these types of medications affect people. I do see an expensive piece of paper from West Virginia University that reads “communications,” so I can properly explain that I have talked to a lot of Veterans who don’t like taking mood altering medication because of the way it makes them feel. Many have explained that they feel like a zombie after taking medications for depression or anxiety etc. So, maybe something like yoga could be an alternative to prescription meds or at least used in conjunction with medication. Once again, I don’t have a medical degree from Dartmouth, just and inquiring mind who thinks a study should be done to see how yoga affects Veterans with PTSD.

Luckily for me someone with a medical degree did a study and the results were shared in the Washington Post article I mentioned earlier. The study was published in “The Journal of Traumatic Stress.” One thing I found interesting was that this particular article, and the study as a whole, focused on a type of yoga that was heavily centered on breathing exercises. According to the study, a key component of yoga is moving your mind away from negative thoughts. One of the most common elements of anyone suffering from PTSD involves reoccurring or intrusive thoughts. One can be led to believe that a practice that involves managing your own thoughts can be beneficial to individuals struggling with reoccurring thoughts.

The actual study focused on a group of 21 male Veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan who had also been diagnosed with PTSD. Eleven of the 21 participants took part in a seven day course that involved three hour classes every day. According to article, “The soldiers’ PTSD symptoms were assessed one week before the beginning of the program and then a week, a month and a year after its completion. Seven of the 11 involved in the active group continued practicing yoga after completing the program.” This would be considered a small group for a study, but what I found fascinating were the results of the study. The article went on to mention the findings:

“The study found that the group who had done yoga demonstrated fewer or less intense PTSD symptoms in comparison. Those who took part in the yoga sessions showed lower anxiety and lower respiration rates. They performed better in tests measuring eye-blink and breathing frequency in response to stimuli such as noise bursts, which are used to measure hyper-arousal and how well individuals are regulating emotions. The researchers also found that the sessions helped with intrusive memories: patients reported re-experiencing trauma during the exercises, but felt that the impact of the memories was reduced.”

Let’s keep everything in perspective. Do I believe that this is the miracle cure for PTSD? No. I simply like the idea of Veterans finding treatment for PTSD that works for them. I am personally not big on medication for depression. However, if that is what works for you, then that is great. This alternative from of treatment may be a great supplement for Veterans.

Read More: PTSD, From a Whisper to a roar. 

I asked Lauren how much yoga has changed her life, and she was kind enough to disclose a lot of personal information to me. She stated that she is not only more relaxed now, but she looked at it as more of a lifestyle change. She uses what she learned inside the studio in everyday life. After a stressful morning at work Lauren went into her office and practiced her breathing exercises at lunch. Even those 5 minutes of concentrated breathing helped her for the rest of the day.

I have decided to try yoga for myself. I am going to take a beginners class prior to Veterans Day, and then I am going to pay to take one of the Veterans Day classes offered by our friends at Full Circle Yoga in Vienna, West Virginia. (Classes that day will be free for Veterans.) I am not a Veteran, but I have a lot of friends who are, and I want to be there so that they don’t have to go at it alone. I honestly think this can be beneficial for the Veterans I know. Once complete I will write a blog about my experience.

Overall, we lose too many Veterans and active duty soldiers to PTSD. I am a fan of anything that can bring that number down to zero.

If you would like to know about service connecting for PTSD, or any service related disability, give me a call today for a free consultation: 1-877-526-3457. You can also fill out this form to learn more. 

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