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Yoga is being introduced to a growing number of veterans deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan struggling with serious mental health problems including Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), major depression, and traumatic brain injury. These men and women who have risked their lives to serve our country need our help. Providing instruction and practices in yoga and meditation may help these veterans lead more successful post-deployment lives, helping them transition back to civilian life and reconnect with themselves, friends, and families. Veterans with PTS use yoga as a method to regain control over a nervous system that is always “on edge”, and to regain control over self-destructive behaviors and habits. Since trauma lies in the body, mind, and spirit, a holistic, integrated treatment approach that includes mindful yoga practices can be used to re-connect with ourselves as we are in the present moment, letting us feel comfortable in our own skin.
From the Veterans Administration to non-profit organizations and community-based support groups, programs are being developed for veterans of Vietnam, the Gulf War and for the men and women returning from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan to help them to deal with combat-related stress issues. Many of these programs are incorporating yoga training into their curriculum. As a result, veterans all over the United States are discovering yoga and the benefits of the practice.
One of these programs is being offered by one of our board members, Suzanne Manafort at her yoga studio, Newington Yoga Center in Newington, Connecticut. The course began as a once a week class several years ago and turned into the inspiration for Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans, a training program for yoga teachers and a model for yoga programs in VA Hospitals all over the country. Her program has incorporated a variety of yoga practices, including Asana, Pranayama, Meditation and Yoga Nidra. Feedback from Veterans in this and similar programs has been overwhelmingly favorable and research is confirming the benefits. Yoga Nidra is now recognized as a Tier I Integrative Medicine Modality (IMM) for working with chronic pain, and a Tier I IMM for working with PTSD in military settings. Read about the need for yoga therapists in this field in Yoga Therapy Today.
Yoga programs are also benefitting incarcerated veterans, who represent approximately 9% of the overall prison population in the United States. In San Quentin State Prison, this population is being served by the Prison Yoga Project and Veterans Healing Veterans from the Inside Out, an organization formed by decorated veteran and inmate Ron Self. Click here to read a special interview with Self on how yoga is helping incarcerated veterans to heal.
Video: Scientific Results of Yoga for Health and Well-Being. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Transforming Trauma: a qualitative feasibility study of integrative restoration (iRest) yoga on combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder. International Journal of Yoga Therapy. Stankovic L. 2011; (21): 23-37.
Effects of sensory-enhanced yoga on symptoms of combat stress in deployed military personnel. American Journal of Occupational Therapy. Stoller, CC et al. 2012 Jan-Feb; 66 (1): 59-68.
Association of participation in a mindfulness program with measures of PTSD, depression and quality of life of a veteran sample. Journal of Clinical Psychology. Kearney DJ et al. 2012 Jan: 68(1): 101-16.
The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Ross, A., & Thomas, S. (2010). 16, 3-12.
Abstract: A pilot study measuring the impact of yoga on the trait of mindfulness. Behavior Cognitive Psychotherapy. Shelov, D.V., Sunchday, S., & Friedberg, J.P. (2009). 37, 595-589.
Abstract: Yoga clinical research review. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. Field, T. (2011). 17, 1-8.
Yoga on our minds: a systematic review of yoga for neuropsychiatric disorders. Psychiatry. Balasubramaniam M, Telles S and Doraiswamy PM (2013) 3:117. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2012.00117
Allostasis and Allostatic Load: Implications for Neuropsychopharmacology. Neuropsychopharmacology. McEwen, B.S. (2000). 22, 108-124.
The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies. J Altern Complement Med. Ross, A., & Thomas, S. (2010). 16 (1), 3-12.
Effects of yoga versus walking on mood, anxiety and brain GABA levels: a randomized controlled MRS study. J Altern Complement Med. Streeter, C.C., et al. 16 (11):1145-52.
Trauma-Sensitive Yoga: Principles, Practice, and Research. Emerson, D., Sharma, R., Chaudry, S., Turner, J., International Journal of Yoga Therapy, No. 19 (2009), pp. 123-128.
Breathe In, Breathe Out: Breathing practices to help balance the nervous system.
With Suzanne Manafort
This CD contains a series of short breathing practices that are part of the Mindful yoga Therapy Program. These Embodyoga® practices are offered and adapted by Suzanne Manafort for the Veterans at the PTSD Residential Rehabilitation Program (PRRP) in Newington, CT, as part of the Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System.
Track 1: Introduction 3:38
Track 2: Cellular Breath 7:15
Track 3: Three Part Breath 6:31
Track 4: Alternate Nostril Breath 8:04
Track 5: Ujjayi (Victorious) Breath 6:01
Track 6: Guided Meditation 11:11
iRest Yoga Nidra: Easing into Stillness
with Karen Soltes
iRest® Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation practice that has been effective in improving sleep, decreasing anxiety, alleviating chronic pain, and creating an overall sense of well being. iRest was developed from traditional Yoga Nidra practice by Dr. Richard Miller. It is being used in a variety of clinical settings as an adjunctive therapy for a wide range of challenges. iRest is being used with both active duty soldiers and Veterans as an adjunctive treatment for PTSD, substance abuse, chronic pain and a wide variety of other conditions. The practices on this CD are beneficial for both experienced meditators and those new to meditation.
Deep Relaxation:Yoga Nidra
with Patty Townsend
Yoga Nidra is a systematic method used to prepare both mind and body for deep rejuvenation and heightened awareness. It is suitable for all practitioners. Regular Yoga Nidra practice may help minimize symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), increase coping skills, and induce restful sleep without harmful side effects.
This CD is divided into two tracks. The first track is introductory and can be repeated as necessary. The other track is a complete practice that can be used to facilitate relaxation or sleep and to improve physical and psychological well-being.
Patty Townsend is a master teacher with a background of over 40 years in yoga and meditation.