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Yoga Stress Relief for Soldiers

US, May 17, 2012 (HuffPost): Faced with the highest army suicide rates in at least 30 years, U.S. military officials are examining ways to help treat psychologically wounded soldiers. A small 2012 study published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy found yoga reduced symptoms of combat stress and PTSD. The study was conducted among U.S. active duty military personnel deployed in Iraq.

U.S. researchers administered nine sessions of the “Yoga Warrior method” to 35 U.S. air force and army personnel for three weeks, and this group was compared to another group of 35 personnel who did not receive any therapy. Tests assessing emotional responses and daily journals were obtained from the participants.

 

The Yoga Warrior method, developed by yoga and occupational therapists, includes hatha yoga and sensory-based occupational therapy techniques.

 

The researchers found the yoga group had significantly greater improvement in mental health and quality of life than the control group. Furthermore, the yoga participants reported sleep improvement, increased feelings of calm, and reduced anger. “The results support using sensory-enhanced hatha yoga for proactive combat stress management,” the study authors conclude.

A very small pilot study conducted at Walter Reed Army Medical Center reports that yoga nidra relieved PTSD symptoms in soldiers returning home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Integrative Restoration (iREST) program was created by Dr. Richard Miller, a clinical psychologist and co-founder of the International Association of Yoga Therapists and the Institute for Spirituality and Psychology. Yoga nidra, also known as yogic sleep, is a meditative practice that brings calmness and deep relaxation.

The researchers found that PTSD symptoms including anxiety decreased and feelings of being in control increased among the participants.

“As a result of these findings, Walter Reed Health Deployment Clinical Center has integrated Yoga Nidra protocol (now called ‘Integrative Restoration, or iRest) into its treatment program for soldiers rotating through the Clinical Center,” the study authors write. “Soldiers receive 12 iRest sessions during their three-week rotation through the clinic.”

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