by Starre Vartun: Promising results from practitioners point to yoga’s ability to reduce post-traumatic stress disorder in those afflicted…
Anecdotal evidence and scientific studies alike have shown that yoga can help military personnel who are experiencing symptoms of, or full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Returning men and women who have served in combat zones often have trouble turning off the very habits of body and mind that make them good at their work in war zones (the body becomes used to hypervigilance but bad at relaxing, even to the point where restful sleep becomes next to impossible), and can suffer from anxiety, insomnia, anger, depression, pain and other physical and mental issues.
Yoga for PTSD has a slightly different focus, though it is still recognizably a mind-body practice. iRest is just one of the techniques used by teachers specifically for returning military, which is different from the yoga most of us experience when we take a class at a gym or a yoga center in that its much more about calming than revving up the sytem. While many civilians enjoy the more athletic and muscle-toning aspects of yoga, the type of yoga practiced and promoted for those who suffer from PTSD includes stretching, breathing, meditation and relaxation, which has proven benefits which are believed to stem from the ‘turning down’ of the parsympathetic nervous system, which regulates the fight-vs-flight response (and can continue to operate in hyperdrive post-war).
Marine Sgt. Senio Martz, who served in Afghanistan, told the Huffington Post of his yoga practice, “I gotta push myself to try some of these techniques,” he admitted. “But last night after yoga, I had a good sleep. That’s a place I haven’t been in a long, long time.”
Yoga teacher Robin Carnes, who founded Warriors at Ease, is an expert in teaching former soldiers like Martz, and she told HuffPo that teaching soldiers was a tough sell at first, but the results spoke for themselves. “They were immediately like, ‘I can’t do this, it won’t work, you have no idea what’s going on in my brain.’ I’d say, ‘Just try it, it’s helped others.’ And probably because they were desperate — nothing else had worked, including drugs — they did try it. And I saw, sometimes within the first day, they started to relax. Snoring! They’d tell me, ‘I don’t know what happened, but I feel better,'” says Carnes.