Last year the Wall Street Journal wrote an article, A Transcendental Cure for Post-Traumatic Stress, with the tagline, “One study of soldiers showed a 50% reduction in symptoms after eight weeks of meditation.”
While yoga practice and meditation are different, the journey towards mindfulness is something they have in common. This article outlines how Transcendental Meditation, or TM is being used as a treatment for PTSD. Specifically, studies find:
There is a scientific basis for the observed benefits of TM for combat-related PTSD. In several studies, TM has been shown to buffer fight-or-flight responses, which are thought to be overactive in people with PTSD, as evidenced by their hypervigilance, anxiety and exaggerated startle responses.
With this article in mind, I asked my dear friend Ms. Havoc, currently stationed in Kuwait City, to speak about this, as well as how she thinks yoga fits into a military lifestyle. Here is what she said:
I first heard about yoga and meditation being used in the military through the David Lynch Foundation. I was excited to see that the military was exploring any option to help returning soldiers deal with the traumas of war any way possible. The widespread occurrence of PTSD from a battlefield with no front line is being addressed with an importance never seen in US military history. Upon returning from a deployment there are dozens of resources to reach out to and provide a soldier with the support necessary to help them admit and accept that they may have PTSD and provide them with the tools to deal with it. To have something like yoga, to use it to help sync the mind and body seems genius.
Even if you experience no traumatic event, there is still a heightened awareness that you elevate to and exist in for a year and then some. With the possibility of dying by IED (improvised explosive device), being shot by a sniper or drowning in a vehicle that rolls over and into the Euphrates can put any one on edge. Coming back from that takes time and patience. Yoga, from my limited personal experience seems like it would allow someone the time to simply breath, to look inward and recognize that their mind is racing still and that maybe they just need to take a deep breath and relax.
I have only done some casual meditation and my yoga experience is limited to one class at a YMCA and the P90X disc. Despite this I still believe in the benefits that could be proven to exist if yoga was introduced to standard military practice. If the military allowed yoga classes to be something available alongside the rows of treadmills and weights in the countless number of gyms in every theatre of duty it would make the task of helping soldiers build up their overall resiliency. This will only make it that much easier for them to recover, body and mind, after returning from war.
In closing, yoga is awesome. I want more of it.