Although "yoga" may be thought of for wimps, more and more veterans and military personnel are experiencing the many benefits of yoga and transforming their lives into healthy lifestyles. Many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and chronic pain.
The Department of Defense has noted the incidences of trauma are high and has been conducting research to explore new approaches for treatment. Preliminary results of one study led by Harvard Medical School assistant professor Dr. Sat Bir Khalsa found that veterans diagnosed with PTSD showed improvement in their symptoms, such as social withdrawal, flashbacks and nightmares, after ten weeks of yoga classes. These classes also included meditation and breathing, and daily practice at home.1
PTSD can be a lifetime struggle and is one of the main conditions treated by Veteran Affairs. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can affect people who experience events such as life-threatening circumstances, personal assault and terrorist attacks. 2 Approximately 70% of adults in the U.S. experience at least one trauma in their lifetime. It is estimated that 1 in 5 military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has PTSD, and 71% of female military personnel develop PTSD due to sexual assault within the ranks.3
Yoga therapy presents tools, which can complement traditional treatment to help alleviate PTSD symptoms, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and chronic pain. Other benefits of yogic exercises, meditation breathing and relaxation include calming of the nervous system, bringing awareness to the present, managing anger, and finding inner peace. A gentle rhythmic yoga style which is best suited to help people struggling with trauma is Kundalini Yoga.
Kundalini Yoga instructor and Vietnam veteran Tim Withee from Colorado is inspired by his own experience helping veterans like himself recover from the stress and trauma of war and find peace and healing within. Withee said in an article in the GJSentinel, “When you get home and take that uniform off, everybody expects you to be the same person you were when you went off, but you’re never going to be that way.” Through Kundalini yoga, however, Withee feels that those who have served can find a true means for recovery. Walter Reed Army Medical Center has used yoga over the past three years as therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.4
Here is what several participants of the Harvard study said about their yoga therapy experience. William, a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran, said, “Yoga took me out of myself” and had a more profound calming effect than drugs or drinking. 51-year old-veteran Joseph said, “I think what the yoga has really allowed me to do is give me the ability to ground myself. As a result, I’m more peaceful with myself in whatever moment I happen to be in.”5
Trauma effects everyone and we can help those in need to create happier, calmer communities by spreading the word about complementary therapies such as yoga therapy.
Kay Lani is an experienced certified Kundalini Yoga teacher and yoga therapy teacher with the knowledge to help those coping with trauma, stress, anxiety and insomnia. If you are interested in discussing a complementary therapy program, please contact Kay at email@example.com.
1) Harvard, Brigham Study: Yoga Eases Veterans PTSD Symptoms, December 8, 2010,
2)Veterans Affairs, Research & Development, www.research.va.gov
3) Stastistics: http://winoverptsd.com/wp/tag/combat-veteran-ptsd-statistics/
4) Find Relief from Inner Wounds ~ Veterans Find Relief from Inner Wounds through Yoga, www.yogatherapyweb.com
5) Harvard, Brigham Study: Yoga Eases Veterans PTSD Symptoms, December 8, 2010, http://commonhealth.wbur.org