Veterans turn to Yoga for PTSD

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Many veterans are turning to Yoga to deal with severe depression and the symptoms of PTSD rather rely on highly potent prescribed medication.   The recent report by the GAO confirms that the VA has dropped the ball in helping vets get the support they need in dealing with the crippling effects of PTSD.   In fact, Yoga is buy just one form of alternative therapy that Veterans are finding beneficial as they seek to regain control of their lives.

In fact, the video below highlights one such program which offers a 100 hour certification course from Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans.

Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans

Yoga has long been associated with “wellness” and it is encouraging to find so many programs popping up throughout the United States that Veterans find useful in dealing with stress.  Certainly, the rigor of Yoga requires a level of self-discipline and commitment that builds a more resilient body and attitude to deal with everyday stress.  Found below is a brief excerpt of the certification program for Mindful Yoga Therapy:

Yoga practices are a powerful complement to professional treatment for Post Traumatic Stress. A mindful, embodied yoga practice can provide relief from symptoms and develop the supportive skills that Veterans need in their lives. This in-depth certification prepares teachers to share Mindful Yoga Therapy with veterans in either a community or a clinical setting — and if you’re a certified yoga teacher, we invite you to help support the healing journey of Veterans in your area.

The Mindful Yoga Therapy’s 100-Hour Certification program consists of five modules presented over five weekends, covering both the Beginning Mindful Yoga Therapy Program and a new Resilience Program. 
The 12-week Resilience Program is the follow-up to the Beginning Mindful Yoga Therapy Program. Both programs include a 12-week protocol that incorporates Embodyoga® supports and all five “tools” from the Mindful Yoga Therapy “toolbox.”

Found below is the story of one veteran, Army Lt. Col. John Thurman who lost 26 co-workers during 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.  He suffered from severe smoke inhalation while trapped in the building under the debris.   “In the months after the attacks, Thurman found he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Thurman’s PTSD meant he wasn’t sleeping for months after the attack, even with the prescription drugs he was taking. And his pulmonary function hadn’t returned to full capacity.”

But when Thurman started doing yoga, it “made all the difference in the world in my ability to deal with the stress and my injury from that day.” He fell so in love with his time on the mat — with yoga’s traditional asanas, or poses, and deep breathing — that in 2013 he attended teacher training. He left his job at the Pentagon and is now teaching yoga full-time, including at the  Pentagon Athletic Center, where his classes are packed.

Starting Friday night and running through Sunday, Thurman and 17 yoga teachers from five states will be gathering at Yoga Heights in the Park View neighborhood of the District for yoga for PTSD and trauma training. The studio will host workshops specifically designed to heal and help veterans suffering from both the emotional and physical wounds of war.  Credits: Warrior Pose — One way to help veterans with PTSD? Lots of yoga. – Washington Post (blog)

Research Studies Seem to Support Yoga Therapy

Indeed, so intense has been the demand by Veterans seeking alternative treatment therapies to prescription drugs that the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the Department of Defense are funding research studies to determine the efficacy of Yoga in treating PTSD.  Found below are some of their findings:

Researchers have demonstrated that trauma-sensitive yoga, which focuses on stretching, breathing techniques and meditation, can help patients regain their inner balance, calming that part of the brain that has become hyper-aroused under severe stress.

Trauma or prolonged stress can cause a malfunction of the parasympathetic nervous system, researchers say. That’s the part of the brain which enables the body to relax, easing pain and even helping unblock digestive systems — often a problem for wounded troops who get high doses of medication and not enough exercise.

In war zones, researchers have found, this parasympathetic nervous system often becomes “frozen” as the body gears up for danger by injecting adrenaline into the bloodstream, causing rapid breathing and pulse and hyper-vigilance — the “fight or flight” response.

That’s good and necessary self-preservation in times of peril that helps keep troops alert and alive. Back home, however, that hyper-vigilance is out of place and can cause insomnia, anxiety and outbursts of anger. Returning warriors with PTSD become dependent on drugs or alcohol “because they have no other way to calm themselves down,” said Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a clinician and researcher who has studied PTSD since the 1970s.

Drawing from traditional yoga, trauma-sensitive yoga teaches patients to firmly plant their feet and activate their leg muscles in poses that drain energy and tension from the neck and shoulders, where they naturally gather, causing headaches and neck pain. “The goal here is to move tension away from where it builds up when you are stressed, and focus it on the ground so you feel more balanced and connected,” Carnes said.

One of her patients was struggling with outbursts of violent anger, a common effect of PTSD, and had gotten into raging arguments with his wife. Several weeks into regular yoga classes, he went home one day “and his wife lit into him and he could feel a confrontation coming on,” Carnes said. “He told me that he’d taken a deep breath and told his wife he was going upstairs to meditate. And that was the first time he’d been able to do that.”

Practices like iRest and other forms of yoga are so clearly effective that now they are taught and used at dozens of military bases and medical centers — even at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Norfolk, Va., home of the Navy SEALs, the branch of commandos who killed Osama bin Laden.

“I knew anecdotally that yoga helped — and now we have clinical proof of its impact on the brain, and on the heart,” said retired Rear Adm. Tom Steffens, a decorated Navy SEAL commander and yoga convert. Within the military services and the Department of Veterans Affairs, he said, “I see it growing all the time.”

Steffens, an energetic man with a booming voice, first tried yoga to deal with his torn bicep, an injury that surgery and medication hadn’t helped. He quickly became a convert, practicing yoga daily. Visiting with wounded SEALs a decade ago, he noticed that “the type of rehab they were doing was wonderful, but there was no inward focus on themselves — it was all about power as opposed to stretching and breathing.”

The military’s embrace of yoga shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, yoga — a Sanskrit word meaning to “join” or “unite” — dates back to 3,000 B.C., and its basic techniques were used in the 12th century when Samurai warriors prepared for battle with Zen meditation. Credits: Military Battle PTSD With Yoga – Huffington Post

Stand For the Troops is committed to providing our brave warriors with the best treatment available as the seek to reclaim their lives from the debilitating effects of PTSD.  Certainly, funding for Yoga therapy is a welcome relief to many of our Veterans.



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