Yoga for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Written by Dr. Minakshi Welukar.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a new addition to the healing benefits of yoga. Accumulating evidence hint that practicing yoga can make a big difference in relieving the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

fish pose

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a chronic anxiety disorder that can develop after experiencing a violent traumatic event. It's normal to feel frightened after a shocking experience. However, in PTSD whenever a traumatic stressor struck, a person feels intense fear or helplessness even when they are no longer in danger.

A characteristic symptom of PTSD is persistent re-experiencing of the original trauma through flashback, bad dreams or frightening thoughts. This leads to unnecessary feelings of fear making the person tense, stressed or angry. Getting such awful symptoms relentlessly makes survival more difficult. Normally, these people are at an increased need of physical and mental care.

Body-mind integration therapy of yoga exclusively addresses the symptoms of PTSD and makes life more comfortable.

What Research Says...

Yoga is receiving a growing recognition as a powerful tool for combating PTSD symptoms and promoting well-being.

One study tested the effects of Integrative Restoration (iRest), a form of mindfulness meditation on military combat veterans with PTSD. Within eight-weeks of iRest classes, it was found that yoga was an effective modality in reducing rage, anxiety and emotional reactivity. Additionally, yoga can offer beneficial effects in feelings of relaxation, peace, self-awareness and self-efficacy in such cases. The study is from Pubmed literature published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy.

Another study published in BMC Psychiatry noticed the potential role of yoga among the PTSD patients who were the survivors of natural calamity after one month. Researchers detected a significant decrease in sadness in the yoga groups who were the survivors of floods in the state of Bihar in north India. Yoga programs offered to survivors was a combination of loosening exercises (sithilikarana Vyayama), asanas and pranayamas followed by savasana.

Role of Yoga in PTSD

Yoga has an inbuilt capacity to change perspective on body and thoughts and develop an insight in facing and embracing painful life experiences.

Create a State of Balance

Overwhelming stress of PTSD throws the nervous system out of balance, leaving you feeling angry, agitated or depressed. Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation can help reduce stress response and initiate a relaxation response. Relaxation response calms down the mind and brings your body back to a state of balance.

Yoga Improves Mood

Yoga is a well-known technique to boost energy levels and improve mood. Specific bends with yogic asanas are associated with positive emotional effects. Adoption of different yoga postures causes the brain to release mood enhancing chemicals, which help to improve mood and reduce anxiety of PTSD.

Sudarshan Kriya Yoga for PTSD

Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY), a specific yogic breathing technique, harmonizes the body, mind and emotion. SKY breathing technique incorporates ujjayi, bhastrika and sudarshan kriya practicing several types of cyclic breathing techniques ranging from slow and calming to rapid and stimulating. Such techniques balance the nervous system, slow down stress response and release mood elevating chemicals from the brain.

One study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders compared the SKY with standard treatments like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and imipramine (IMN). Results shows promising benefits with SKY and concluded that SKY can act as a potential alternative to drugs in extreme depression.

Sudarshan Kriya Yoga is a sound solution for alleviating PTSD-related stress, anxiety, and depression.

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