Nearly one in five soldiers returns home from active service in Afghanistan or Iraq suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or both. A recently published study shows that yoga can help active-duty service members manage combat stress and that it may prevent the onset of PTSD.
Researchers from the Air Force and a Boston-based nonprofit called Yoga Warriors taught yoga to deployed Army and Air Force personnel in Kirkuk, Iraq. Participating service members experienced reduced anxiety and better sleep. “Through the practice, they become their own most powerful agents for anxiety control,” says Air Force Major Jon Greuel, the lead investigator of the study.
“I got on my mat that first day, and something happened,” says Susan J. Lynch, Gulf War Vet (from the VetsYoga DVD), “I felt a sense of peace that I had not felt since before deploying. I could be in charge of this PTSD that was in charge of me for so many years.”
Yoga for Veterans: Organizations that Provide Support + Promote Healing
Yoga resources give service members and veterans tools to adapt peacefully to civilian life. Here are a few to get started:
VetsYoga: Introductory Series for Veterans and Military Personnel
This DVD from yoga teacher Daniel Hickman offers two military-friendly yoga practices and interviews from veterans explaining how yoga helped them find relief from PTSD. It features a 45-minute beginner practice and a 30-minute relaxation practice, and it emphasizes cultivating breath and body awareness. The DVD is available at a 50 percent discount for veteran and military personnel.
For more information, visit vetsyoga.com.
This 10-week program for stress management includes yoga asana, meditation, and yoga nidra. It is offered free of charge to any service member or veteran. Created by yoga teacher and former Army infantry officer Eric Walrabenstein, Bootstrap is raising funds with the goal of giving at least one million days of their program to troops returning home.
For more information and to donate, visit bootstrapusa.com.
Yoga for Vets
This organization consists of more than 500 yoga studios and gyms around the country that have committed to giving 4 free yoga classes to veterans. Founder Paul Zipes, a yoga teacher and veteran of the US Navy, says offering free classes gives veterans a real chance to fall in love with yoga.
Veterans can find a participating location at yogaforvets.org.