Yoga Helps Treat Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, most commonly referred to as PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can occur after experiencing a traumatic event. War and combat are probably the most common types of events that bring out symptoms of PTSD, but any event that causes extreme trauma can bring out symptoms of this disorder, such as, bullying, rape, vehicle accidents, terrorism, abuse, and physical assaults.
Symptoms often associated with PTSD include:
- Re-experiencing the event over and over
- Avoiding thoughts or people associated with the traumatic event
- Feeling numb emotionally
- Feeling keyed up
- Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
- Feeling detached
- Difficulty concentrating
- An exaggerated startle response
- Headaches and chronic pain
Health Matters: About PTSD
These symptoms can be so severe that it impairs daily life to the extent where some sufferers commit suicide and others turn to drugs and alcohol making it critical for people experiencing such symptoms to seek medical attention. There are specific criteria developed by the American Psychiatric Association that a doctor will look for when making a diagnosis. According to the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder this includes "a history of exposure to a traumatic event meeting two criteria and symptoms from each of three symptom clusters: intrusive recollections, avoidant/numbing symptoms, and hyper-arousal symptoms. A fifth criterion concerns duration of symptoms and a sixth assesses functioning."
There are a number of treatment options for PTSD including therapy and medication, but one in particular is emerging to the forefront with astounding success--yoga. In fact, the army is currently spending $4 million to research how yoga and other alternative treatments help to ease the symptoms of PTSD.
Side Lean Yoga Pose
How Yoga Helps
A regular yoga practice helps alleviate symptoms of PTSD including anger, anxiety, depression, guilt and paranoia because it directly addresses anxiety and the fight-or-flight response, which is at the heart of PTSD. Yoga's gentle physical postures promote healthy, flexible bodies and often provide relief from pain and it deals directly with the mind-body connection helping to retrain the fight-or-flight response by implementing self-calming techniques, such as, deep breathing.
Other benefits include:
- The release of emotional issues
- Help towards relaxing and strengthening the body
- Unfreezing bad memories and creating new bodily memories
- Giving feelings of joy and personal empowerment
- The mind becomes more clear and open
- It produces acceptance of the self
- Life feels better balanced
- Provides a safe avenue to express stored emotions such as guilt, shame, anger, sadness and grief
All treatment options involve helping you to gain control over feelings associated with the traumatic event that caused the disorder. Psychological treatment or therapy should always the first treatment choice, but anyone who suffers from the debilitating symptoms of PTSD will also benefit from starting a yoga program in addition to other treatment plans. Support groups are also very helpful in allowing you to connect with others who are experiencing the same symptoms. The most important thing is to seek help if you are suffering from PTSD.
An Inspirational Woman Making a Difference
Lucy Cimini, the founding director of Central Mass Yoga Institute, has pioneered and developed a special yoga program specifically for vets with PTSD. She has given so much of herself to make a difference for sufferers of this disorder, and she has received national media coverage for her yoga work with combat veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Lucy also provides training to yoga instructors from around the world, and you can watch her in the enlightening feature documentary "Taking the Hill: A Warrior's Journey Home" (2008) by Appleseed Entertainment.