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Yoga for PTSD, anxiety and depression
Posted in Depression, Treatment

“Yoga is the cessation of the movements of the mind.” – Patanjali, “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”

Yoga is more than just a good way to get in shape. It is also the practice of creating a fluid current with the body to move the bubbling buildup of unrest in the mind. Its efficacy is proved by those who use it to rehabilitate from post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety.

Trauma-informed yoga: Uncoil the poised snake

Yoga is Sanskrit, meaning to “join” or “unite. Its basic techniques were practiced by ancient warriors preparing for battle. Now the mind-body meditation reached U.S. veterans to mitigate PTSD.

“Yoga intervention: breathing, meditation/mindfulness, and physical practice, was found to reduce tension, anxiety, and (the incidence of) trigger events,” explains Jessica Matthews, American Council on Exercise’s senior adviser on health and fitness education.

A 2014 study also demonstrated trauma-informed yoga significantly reduced symptoms of treatment-resistant PTSD in women.

A person who’s had trauma is like a coiled snake, ready to act. In the brain, when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it freezes and floods the bloodstream with adrenaline. The “flight or fight response” is engaged but cannot be automatically shut off. Thus, cyclical symptoms of hypersensitive responses keep the person ever-vigilant and always “on.”

While this self-preservation mode is necessary in a traumatic episode, hypervigilance is out of place in domestic life and can instigate insomnia, anxiety and intermittent rage.

Trauma-informed spotlights the ambience as a “safe space,” stilling the mind and grounding the emotions. Stretching, deep breathing and meditation techniques work effectively to bring hypervigilance to heel.

Yoga instructor Robin Carnes works with troops and explains the transparency needed in doing yoga with PTSD patients.  Carnes says when she leads trauma-informed yoga, she first opens all doors and drawers in a room, so that the soldiers don’t become distracted by apprehension over what might be hidden.

Yoga, an adjunct to therapies

If there are multiple learning styles, it would follow there have to be diverse methods to unlearn as well. Professor Emeritus Richard M. Felder, B.Ch.E., conducts workshops worldwide on effective teaching.

“Students preferentially take in and process information in different ways: by seeing and hearing, reflecting and acting, reasoning logically and intuitively, analyzing and visualizing, steadily and in fits and starts,” he says, adding that when mismatches exist between the learner and the teacher, inattentiveness, discouragement, lack of confidence and quitting altogether may result. “Most seriously, society loses potentially excellent professionals.”

So too is it with leading patients in detox, treatment and recovery.

Rebecca Macy, is a researcher who works with violence and trauma survivors and led a University of North Carolina meta-review on yoga with those experiencing mental health issues. “While there are some promising benefits to using yoga, there isn’t yet enough evidence to support the practice as a standalone solution for improving mental health and well-being,” she says and adds that she wants the clinical field to be careful about universally incorporating yoga therapy. “As a researcher, I don’t want to undo the potential benefits of yoga by making the practice unnecessarily standard and systematic.”

Sovereign Health of Texas utilizes yoga as well as other alternative therapies to engage each learning style. We also incorporate art and equine therapy as well as cognitive and dialectical behavior therapies to name a few, along with our residential treatment programs to rehabilitate addictions, mental health and eating disorders. Call our helpline to learn more.

About the author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at news@sovhealth.com.

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