Studies have shown that yoga therapy is effective for veterans struggling with PTSD when it is tailored to emphasize nervous system regulation, mindfulness and acceptance. Veterans Yoga Project teaches self-regulations skills, equipping veterans with the inner tools and resources they need to feel empowered and in control.
“Being able to consciously shift from a hyperarousal/vigilant state to a calm, rational state gave me the strength to handle my day.” —Kyle, U.S. Marine Corps
The organization’s Mindful Resilience/Mindful Yoga Therapy program consists of five tools: breath, meditation, mindful movement, guided rest and gratitude—adapted and applied to maximize their proven effectiveness to regulate the nervous system, ultimately undoing the dysfunctions underlying the symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
In order for any type of healing to take place (physically, psychologically or otherwise), the nervous system must first be re-balanced. There are two main branches of the body’s autonomic nervous system (ANS): the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). When the SNS is overactive, such as in the case of people suffering from post-traumatic stress symptoms, the body is a continual state of “fight or flight.” When the PNS dominates the autonomic nervous system, the body is in a state commonly referred to as “rest and restore.”
While the SNS works hard to keep everything operating at a high level of arousal (for survival purposes), the PNS promotes relaxation, regulation and restoration, repairing the bodily wear and tear caused by the SNS when we’re stressed. What’s more, the parasympathetic nervous system is also the part of the ANS that also allows us to be present in a relaxed state with an open attitude of compassion and acceptance, as well as our ability to communicate and connect to others.
By turning their attention inward and becoming more familiar with their inner environment (which can be scary enough for those of us without PTSD), veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress begin to build a safe space within where they can take refuge when needed. Through the practice of mindfulness and meditation, they learn to stay with uncomfortable feelings, thoughts and emotions without analyzing or reacting. And with the nervous system down-regulated, they can begin to get the sleep, rest and relaxation they so desperately need—creating a strong foundation for recovery and ultimately resilience.
“Veterans Yoga Project did one more thing for me. It gave me a full night sleep. That may not seem like much to most people, but for someone who had not slept more than an hour or two at a time for over five years, it was huge.” —Tom, Marine Corps Veteran
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