Yoga: an Alternative Therapy for PTSD

Veterans Day is a day to honor all those who have served in our military forces, as well as the spouses and family members who stood, and continue to stand by them. Oftentimes, we send our soldiers off to encounter unthinkable actions and horrible situations. Those who are fortunate enough to return home are in need of ways to cope with what they have witnessed.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is classified as an anxiety disorder that presents symptoms following exposure to a violently traumatic event. In the typical case, the individual with PTSD persistently avoids all thoughts and emotions, and discussion of the stressor event and may experience amnesia for it. However, the event is commonly relived by the individual through intrusive, recurrent recollections, flashbacks, and nightmares. These symptoms can last for years. 

While it is not often spoken of, PTSD can make it extremely difficult for our veterans to return home to the way things were. This can make home life stressful for spouses and loved ones who cannot understand PTSD and don’t know how to help. Many who do seek help from physicians are supplied with antidepressants or referred to a therapist. While these are the most common remedies offered to our veterans, there are several alternatives that can also be useful.

Yoga and meditation have been found to successfully relieve the symptoms of PTSD. Recent studies show that approximately 20 million North Americans practice yoga.  Why?  Simply put, yoga makes you feel better.  If practiced regularly, yoga increases our physical health, emotional well-being, and mental clarity.

A key component to yoga practice is pranayama, or attention to breath.  Yoga teaches us to breathe deeply.  This goes a long way in making us feel better by improving the intake of oxygen into the cells of the body.

There is also a strong correlation between breath and the mind.  Slow deep breathing helps to calm the mind and emotions, reducing stress and anxiety.  The poses or postures in yoga, combined with deep breathing, help the body by improving circulation, removing waste materials, and both strengthening and stretching the muscles.

The word yoga itself is a Sanskrit word that means “union”.  The practice brings the body and mind together, leaving the student feeling refreshed.  And the beauty of yoga is that virtually anyone can practice no matter the fitness level.  There is a yoga practice that is right for everybody at different stages of life.  With regular practice people can receive all the benefits yoga has to offer.

BENEFITS OF YOGA:

  • Promotes overall well-being
  • Improves strength, flexibility and range of motion in joints
  • Enhances good posture which in turn promotes healthy organ functions
  • Aids digestion and elimination
  • Promotes healthier breathing patterns
  • Stimulates and tones the nervous system, stabilizing emotions
  • Develops mental acuity, through developing focus
  • Builds confidence

Consider yoga as a way to maintain your good health.

Here is a deep breathing exercise to introduce yoga into your life. This can go a long way in helping a person to feel better. Breathing deeply is one of the best ways to alleviate anxiety, one of the main symptoms of PTSD.

Caution: Sometimes, in rare cases, deep breathing can trigger anxiety attacks, so please practice in an environment where you feel safe and supported.

Three Part Breath

This can be practiced in a comfortable seated position or  lying on your back. Relax. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath. Exhale completely.  Take a slow deep breath in, drawing the breath into the the belly. As the belly fills with air, push the belly button outward. Pause. Exhale slowly from the belly and pull the belly button in toward the spine. Pause. Inhale slowly and feel the lungs inflate with air. Notice how the ribcage expands outward. Pause. Exhale slowly and feel the lungs deflate. Pause. Place your hands on your chest near your heart. Inhale slowly and feel the space around your heart expand. Pause. Exhale slowly and keep your attention on your heartbeat. Pause. Inhale slowly and send the breath all the way to the belly, then the lungs, then the heart. Pause. Exhale from the heart, through the lungs, to the belly. Pause. Continue breathing this way for at least 12 complete breaths. You may wish to journal about any images or emotions you experienced during this exercise.

To schedule a Private Yoga session at Transcend, call 520-544-8086 or email info@transcend.la.

 

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