Yoga Helps War Vets Handle PTSD

Previous studies have shown yoga is valuable in reducing the stress of university students, and depression, anxiety, alcoholism and PTSD in tsunami survivors, as well as helping cancer patients. Now, a new study is the first of its kind to provide scientific support for the benefits of yoga’s breathing techniques for veterans who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan and have been diagnosed with PTSD.

For the study, researchers followed 21 male veterans who had been diagnosed with PTSD to evaluate the benefits of sudarshan kriya yoga, a practice of breathing-based meditation which has a balancing effect on the autonomic nervous system. During the study, 11 of the participants underwent a seven-day program involving daily three-hour sessions of sudarshan kriya and the other 10 were used as the control group.  At baseline, the researchers assessed the soldiers PTSD symptoms, and then again a week, a month and a year after the programs completion.

The researchers found that those who participated in the yoga program showed fewer or less intense PTSD symptoms. In addition, these participants showed lower anxiety and lower respiration rates, as well as helped with intrusive memories.

Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and one of the authors of the study, said, “A clinician could use a ‘tool box’ of psychological assessments to determine the cognitive and emotional style of the patient, and thereby determine a treatment that would be most effective for that individual. Right now, a large fraction of individuals who are given any one type of therapy are not improving on that therapy. The only way we can improve that is if we determine which kinds of people will benefit most from different types of treatments.”


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