Yoga has long been advocated to de-stress and relax the mind and body. It’s particularly effective in healing people with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) such as veterans. Along with helping to cope with PTSD, it also improves physical and mental health.
Generally, the common aids for veterans to cope with their traumatic experiences during their years of active duty are therapy and medications. They do help but only to an extent. This is where yoga can intervene as an adjunct.
Regain control over the nervous system
Meditation is an important part of yoga, with mindful breathing as an integral part. In PTSD, the person is hyper vigilant and constantly in the ‘fight or flight’ mode. The sympathetic nervous system is hyperactive, flooding the body with stress hormones.
Yogic breathing can help regain control of the central nervous system in a natural way. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for relaxing the mind and body, overcoming the state of hyper arousal. It brings down the cortisol level, the stress hormone, and reduces blood pressure and heart rate.
Reconnect to the body and practice self-compassion
People who have experienced extreme trauma often become disassociated from their bodies. Yoga helps them reconnect. It offers several postures that help in grounding and connecting to their bodies. Yogic postures focus the mind entirely on the body, and in its responses during the transition between the postures.
This assists in mindfulness which helps them stay in the present moment while observing the ebb and flow of their emotions. This eventually puts them in more control of their emotions and responses to them.
It helps them deal with flashbacks of their traumatic past without succumbing to them, safe in the knowledge that it’d pass. It teaches them self-compassion, to be more acceptable and forgiving of themselves. Learning these basic yet tough skills is a big step towards healing.
Intense traumatic experiences often push people into anxiety, depression, and isolation. Once the person starts avoiding social interaction, preferring isolation, it only gets worse from there.
As simple as attending a yoga session with other people with similar experiences can give these people, a sense of belonging and camaraderie. It gradually builds-up trust and reassurance which is greatly beneficial.
Practising yoga regularly provides a routine which is reassuring. Veterans feel disoriented once they retire. The yoga class acts as a community that helps them in re-learning socialising.
Yoga in ‘combat readiness test’
In 2011, the US Army integrated yoga in its ‘combat readiness test’ in an attempt to revamp its physical readiness training. It now includes aspects of yoga along with the advantages of rest amongst other fitness regimes.
Conventional army training involved driving the soldiers harder and harder. It didn’t help soldiers with what they’d do during combat duties. Mostly, it resulted in injuries, stress, broken bones and loss in training time.
They introduced breaks in long marches which proved rejuvenating. Yogic postures such as bakasana/crow pose, tadasana/mountain pose, chaturanga dandasana/four limbed staff pose and adho mukha svanasana/downward dog pose have been integrated since then. It has helped them with their principles of precision, progression, and integration.
Call it yoga for veterans , the advantages can be of help to any human being. And if you stay in Santa Clara, Esha Yoga can help you with your health and fitness conditions. There are classes tailormade for different times of the day. You can wake up for a yoga class or reboot with yoga after a hard day at work. Just go to Classes and pick the class that suits you best.