Since 2006, Walter Reed Medical Center has been treating soldiers diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) using a healing practice employed in ancient India: yoga. Consisting of a series of physical postures, breathing techniques, and relaxation strategies, yoga is seen as instrumental in helping to calm down the autonomic nervous system, or “fight or flight” brain, that has been overly stimulated by traumas due to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. PTSD symptoms include upsetting memories, flashbacks, nightmares, and intense feelings and sensations when reminded of the trauma. “Yoga is a different way of getting in and trying to address these symptoms,” said one soldier with PTSD who benefitted from yoga treatment. “Yoga can teach soldiers very concrete relaxation strategies. It’s grounded in many of the same principles that therapy is grounded in.
For further information about yoga and PTSD, see Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.