In a 2010 study conducted at Harvard and Brigham Young University and funded by the U. S. Department of Defense, researchers found that after only ten weeks of a regular Yoga practice, veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) experienced a marked difference in their symptoms.
PTSD forces the mind to disassociate from the body, leaving a person feeling disconnected from their surroundings. Even if the event happened years ago, the mind replays it as if it were happening right now, releasing the body’s reaction to stress.
Doctors add that trauma often causes people to feel terrified of physical sensations in their bodies. Often they simply do not feel safe inside of their own bodies. This will cause them to feel unsafe due to the physical sensations that certain asanas evoke in them.
Yoga’s meditative nature and its attention to the present, work to break the cycle of suffering, while focusing on posture and body awareness. The body and mind become less reactive and stop pulling a person back to the past and into an uncertain future. In a sense, Yoga is the perfect treatment for PTSD.
When working with PTSD suffers, a gently flowing Vinyasa can help the person place and keep their attention on the present while moving through the poses. Yoga instructors should remember that the stress level a person is under from the PTSD can lead to moments of anxiety and judgment, so this is an ideal time to remind students that a Yoga class is not the time for judgment of one’s ability. The judgment is likely due to the hyper vigilance that comes with the flashbacks of the trauma that caused the PTSD, so by teaching students a non-judgmental approach to the practice of Yoga will help with their high anxiety level.
How Yoga can Relieve PTSD Symptoms
Yoga is an ideal way to challenge the fight or flight response that powers many PTSD related reactions. The meditative aspect of Yoga allows students a safe way to explore their emotions without being controlled by them. The movement of the body helps relieve physical tension by lengthening, stretching and relaxing muscles.
Yoga is an effective way to treat the core arousal system of the body and promote body awareness and a focus on the present. Regular practice can help lessen or alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, including depression, anxiety, anger, and paranoia.