Yoga Helps Vets Heal

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by Meredith Montgomery

According to the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, an essential aspect of recovering from trauma is learning ways to calm down, or self-regulate. As suicide, divorce, domestic violence, drug abuse, homelessness and violent behavior continue to plague veterans and members of the military, yoga is being regarded as a promising treatment or adjunctive therapy for addressing symptoms associated with trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Numerous studies indicate that veterans that practice yoga (including postures, breath work, guided visualization and affi rmation) can better cope with PTSD and other emotional challenges, and realize enhanced physical and mental stability.

Former war correspondent Bhava Ram founded Warriors for Healing (W4H). Launched online and through trained teachers this year, “We want to spread the word that yoga science is proven to be extremely effective for coping with PTSD and life-based trauma,” he says. The intention is to help people unlock their inherent power to heal, and to assist in a journey of self-empowerment as they establish new lives.

W4H and its foundation partners provide resources for veterans and their families to implement yoga’s transformational lifestyle practices, including nutrition, philosophy, breath work and postures. Studies from leading institutions including the University of California, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital have shown that these practices can change the organism that is us down to the level of our genomes. “We’re not stuck where we are,” says Ram. “My own history illustrates this, and I’ve seen many others heal from remarkable challenges.”

Bootstrap, an online yoga system specifi c to the challenges of military duty-related stress, has distributed 70,000 yoga sessions to troops and veterans and their families since 2013. Designed to fi ll the many gaps left by traditional treatment strategies, it’s tailored to empower users to manage stressors and stressful episodes in a productive and ongoing way.

Founder Eric Walrabenstein, a former U.S. Army infantry offi cer, notes that the program is curriculum-driven. Beyond breath and body postures, its 10-week structure makes it accessible to those that wouldn’t necessarily step into a studio. “The multimedia program has been clinically proven to derail chronic stress caused by military service in less than one hour per day,” he says.

Bootstrap is presented as a stress-management program that just happens to use yoga techniques. “We did this because many men tend to self-select themselves out of the practice,” he says. “We wanted to avoid that as well as the idea that yoga is primarily about postures, when that’s only a small fraction of what the practice is.”

Visit WarriorsForHealing.org and BootstrapUSA.com.

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