Can Yoga Ease the Symptoms of PTSD?

The stress-relieving powers of yoga are well known, but a new study suggests that the practice can also reduce the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This problem affects women about twice as often as it does men.

26 women, both military veterans and civilians, with an average age of 44, took part in a study conducted by the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Health Center. 14 of them took either weekly yoga sessions for 12 weeks or twice-weekly sessions for six weeks. The sessions stressed mind-body connections and breathing. The women participating filled out weekly questionnaires on how they were feeling. A control group filled out the same questionnaires but did not take part in the yoga sessions.

Both groups saw a decline in PTSD symptoms, with the yoga group seeing the most improvement. Karen Mitchell of the National Center for PTSD told Reuters Health, “The yoga group did well – they improved in their PTSD symptoms – and our control group actually did well, which we didn’t expect.”

She added, “I do emphasize that the yoga (group) definitely didn’t do worse. Yoga could potentially be triggering for people with trauma, so while that’s not as exciting a finding, I think it is important to say that.”

A similar study into the effects of yoga on PTSD symptoms was conducted by Julie Staples at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Care System in New Orleans. Staples gave her results to Reuters: “Simply stated, yoga may regulate aspects of the endocrine system and the nervous system that are out of balance in PTSD. Yoga also reduces the stress response which plays a role in PTSD symptoms.”

Mitchell suggests that women who are considering trying yoga for relief of their PTSD symptoms spend time looking for the right class and instructor for their needs. “You want to feel comfortable with your instructor, especially if you’re new to this – you want to know that they’ll come around and help you align and feel comfortable with them doing that so you don’t hurt yourself and also you have a more positive experience if you feel connected with the instructor.”

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