More Evidence That Yoga Helps With PTSD Recovery


Much of the research and many published articles about PTSD are related to our military veteran population, and deservedly so.

However, the development of PTSD can follow any type of trauma, and over a third of the physically assaulted women in the U.S. experience PTSD symptoms. Treatment with cognitive-behavioral and exposure therapies helps some of these women reduce or recover from the disorder, but these treatments are not effective for too many struggling individuals.

Another Treatment Option

An interesting study that ran from 2008 to 2011 suggests another promising treatment option for PTSD sufferers.

A total of 64 women with trauma-induced PTSD were assigned either to a weekly women’s health support class, or to a weekly trauma-informed yoga class; each of the classes ran for ten weeks. Participants were assessed using a PTSD scale, and a trauma assessment scale before, during, and after the ten sessions.

The research results were surprising:

  • Those attending the weekly yoga group - which involved yoga poses, breathing exercises, and guided meditation - were more able to stay focused on the present moment, and control their impulses.
  • After 10 weeks of sessions, 16 of 31 yoga group participants no longer met the PTSD criteria, compared to 6 of the 29 support class participants.
  • According to the trauma scale, the yoga group maintained their gains through all the sessions. Those in the support class showed improvement for a few weeks, then relapsed.

Benefits of Body Awareness

The reason yoga might have proven successful for many study trauma victims is the increased body awareness it cultivates. Yoga opens us to the moment-by-moment changeable nature of experience, helps us isolate and focus on specific emotions, and our physical responses to inner and outer stimuli.

This heightened inner awareness may help individuals tolerate the unpleasant feelings and memories that can flood people having PTSD, making it easier for them to address those issues in a non-threatening, non-reactive way.

Though one study does not prove something is true the outcome of this research is promising, and since many veteran treatment programs now incorporate yoga practice there should be an increasing volume of data available about the efficacy of yoga for PTSD recovery.

Source: NICABM
Photo credit: Lucy Kalantari

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