The number of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is alarmingly high and seems to be growing on a daily basis. Alongside traditional methods of supporting Veterans with PTSD, an increasing number of Veteran treatment facilities are exploring Yoga practices as a complimentary method for healing the mental and emotional scars of war as well as assisting Veterans cope with life after combat.
For many Veterans the impact of war has taken a tremendous toll on their body, mind and spirit. Research has suggested that up to 30 percent of the nearly 3 million United States troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking or receiving care for PTSD, depression or anxiety. Often referred to as the invisible wound, PTSD has widespread implications across almost all areas of a persons life and can easily manifest itself into homelessness, drug use, spousal abuse and sometimes even suicide. According to the United States military, more active duty soldiers die from suicide than from combat. In 2012, 349 members of the armed forces were reported to have taken their own lives. A new study of Veteran suicides from 1999 to 2010 estimates the number of suicides to be as high as 22 a day.
Mind-body practices that include Mindful Movement/ Yoga postures, Breath, Guided Relaxation, Meditation and Gratitude are assisting Veterans to better regulate and manage hyper-vigilance, emotions and sleep. These practices have also proved to be an effective compliment to traditional psychological treatment in supporting the healing of Veterans with PTSD.
In conjunction with programs run in Veteran medical centers, several not-for-profit organisations such as Connected Warriors (www.connectedwarriors.org), Veterans Yoga Project (www.veteransyogaproject.org), Warriors At Ease (www.warriorsatease.org), Mindful Yoga Therapy (www.mindfulyogatherapy.org) and many others also offer free Yoga classes within the local community orientated specifically towards supporting Veterans, service personnel and their families.
For the Veterans participating in these Yoga programs, their experiences have often been life-changing. Participants have benefited from a greater sense of calm and well-being, less re-activity as well as better sleep to name just a few. One of the most important benefits these programs provide, that is often over-looked, are also the connections created between the Veterans participating and the realization that they are not alone in their struggles.