Veterans With PTSD Benefit From Mindful Yoga Therapy
Veterans benefit from yoga – Veterans struggling with the growing problem of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have new hope in helping to alleviate their symptoms with Mindful Yoga Therapy (MYT), according to research that finds the specific yoga practices in its protocol can help improve their physical and psychological well-being.
A group of academics from several nationally renowned health centers recently revealed the results of the research that found MYT significantly helped veterans deal with their PTSD, including reductions of almost 30 percent in their scores on the PTSD Checklist — one of two systems known as the gold standard of assessing whether people are reducing their symptoms of PTSD.
MYT is a therapeutic yoga training program for already certified yoga instructors. In this training, they learn specific practices which are worked into a 12 week protocol that uses yoga to help teach veterans (or other populations who have experienced trauma) how to work through symptoms of PTSD. The advanced (100 hour) MYT training allows instructors to combine this protocol with clinical therapy to help develop veterans’ self-control and mindfulness as a strategy to improve their wellbeing. That’s critically important at a time when suicide, addiction and substance abuse due to PTSD are increasing among veterans.
The peer-reviewed study, presented at the American Academy of Health Behavior’s March conference in Tucson, Arizona, offers promising findings for promoting MYT to help veterans. A group of 17 veterans — six women and 11 men – took part in the research, attending weekly classes to learn about different yoga practices including Pranayama, Asana, Yoga Nidra, Meditation, and Gratitude, and changes in their well-being were tracked using various scales.
Among the findings, the research showed that veterans who took part in MYT over several weeks perceived their own well-being to have improved after each session. For example, one participant who was asked to rank their well-being gave it an initial score of 2.5 at the first session and showed a constant improvement over the course, including a peak of almost 3.5 at the sixth session.
The research also showed that the veterans’ perceived levels of their own stress plummeted after taking part in the yoga program, showing a direct connection between MYT and reduced PTSD symptoms. Using a Perceived Stress Scale that ranks participants’ belief of their own stress levels from the low of zero to the high of 40, veterans who practiced MYT, overall, recorded a drop from roughly 27 on the scale to about 20 — a major reduction that promises to help people recovering from PTSD.
The research also indicates that the practices have benefits beyond yoga, because several participants said they used the skills developed during MYT — such as managing anger and relieving pain — to better inform other aspects of their life, further helping them cope with their PTSD.
The findings help to show why MYT gets such rave reviews from yoga instructors who have taken the advanced therapeutic trainings. “I had prior training in many of the yoga practices but this training was like the PhD of trauma yoga,” said Mary Beth Ogulewicz, who attended one of the MYT trainings in 2015.
The research was conducted by the REAL Human Performance athletic training facility in collaboration with the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Interact for Health, which awards grants for programs that aim to improve health and well-being. The team’s results are so promising that further studies are planned to assess the long-term impact of MYT.