If you pay attention to any form of pop culture, you know that Yoga is becoming more and more popular. Everywhere you look there are reports about how Yoga can help people with a variety of conditions. Yoga can be used to help athletes perform better in sports from tennis to football. Yoga is also great to help reduce stress. Our firm is consistently on the lookout for new and alternative ways for individuals to treat conditions like anxiety, depression, and PTSD. So, when we heard Yoga was being used in multiple studies to help Veterans with PTSD, we had to learn more.
I’ll admit that I was the typical yoga doubter in the past. I thought that yoga was just something for people like Madonna to do when they want to be pretentious. Then when I heard a local yoga studio had decided to run a Veterans Day promotion, I couldn’t believe it. Our Vets are by far the toughest group of people on this planet; no way they are going to do this activity. I decided to do some research to find out why a yoga studio, especially one in Parkersburg, WV, would be catering to Veterans.
The research I found made me a believer. It turns out yoga isn’t just for Madonna, it is for real people too. 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 at my workspace 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 an 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 the 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 on 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. As someone who has struggled with depression, I personally don’t like using medication to treat depression. However, if that is what works for you, then that is great. This alternative form of treatment may be a great supplement for some Veterans.
In research on this subject, I asked a yoga instructor 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.
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.