Yoga for Post traumatic stress disorder

What is Post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very frightening, stressful or distressing events.

PTSD may develop immediately after traumatic experience or can occur weeks, months or even year.


The types of events that can cause PTSD include:

• Military combat

• Natural disasters, such as severe floods, earthquakes or tsunamis

• Serious road accidents

• Terrorist attacks, mugging or robbery

• Witnessing violent deaths

• Violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault

PTSD can develop in any situation where a person feels extreme fear, horror or helplessness


What are the symptoms of PTSD?

• Nightmares

• Flashbacks

• Isolation

• Irritability and guilt

• Concentrating difficult

• Insomnia

 Why approaching through yoga gives good results?

Trauma is traditionally regarded as a psychological and medical disorder of the mind and treatment prescribed was conventional talk therapy and medication. Today we hear about a new term psychoneuroimmunology(The study of the effect of the mind on health and resistance to disease). This study shows the connection between mind and its influence on body very clearly. So if we only treat mind symptoms through talks and chemicals (medicine) we may not get best results.

It is seen that many individuals had no significant decrease in their symptoms and reported medication having no effect on their overloaded nervous systems. Developments in neuroscience and leading edge research now confirm what ancient wisdom and healing systems have always known, there is direct communication between the body and mind, each affecting the other. Dealing with the mind alone is not adequately addressing the deep relationship between the two and the true, physiological roots of the trauma.

Yoga teaches us that there are things we can do to change our emotional center of brain, our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and to quiet the brain. This will make our reactions towards demanding situation milder. Hence we become more mindful, learning to become a careful observer and noticing whatever thoughts, feelings, body sensations and impulses emerge. This becomes an important component in healing PTSD.


What concept does yoga follows?

Yoga teaches us to stay in present and help us to “let go” the pain held in mind related to the trauma. Yoga teaches the lesson that “nothing in life is constant except change”. Everything is in a state of flux and no matter how intense the sensation is, it too will pass. This way the person becomes open to their present experience instead of shutting down and resisting it, they become transparent to it, allowing the body to feel what it needs to feel and fully release it.

Traumatized people have great difficulty in self-regulating, have high levels of sympathetic nervous system activation. This occurred due to prolonged mental stress. Yoga helps gain control over their bodies once more. Asana emphasis on present moment awareness re-establishes a sense of time in the individual. This is done by doing an asana and observing the muscles worked on in final pose. Meditation and relaxation can reduce sympathetic activation and promote parasympathetic system to take up, which reduce blood pressure, muscle tension, improve hormonal activity and decrease the physical symptoms and emotional distress. All these changes make them comfortable to move in group.  This is important as many trauma survivors feel cut off from the rest of the world and disconnected.

What practices should be done in yoga therapy for PTSD?

The first step in our handling the situation is to unwind the locked up emotions. This can be done by yogic counselling. This is important to prevent the effect of the experience being pushed into their subconscious mind which results in chronic PTSD

Next, design the program which has simple body movements and asanas with synchronized breathing, pranayama and meditation to promote healing, health and confidence.

Some kriyas like vaman dhauti is very helpful in unwinding their emotions. The intellectuals used the concepts of karmayoga to go on with their future without PTSD.

The job of a yoga therapist is to see that they come out of this state as soon as possible so that it would not leave long term damage to the system. The immediate   effect of yoga experienced by most people with PTSD is a peaceful sleep on the very first night followed by relief from body aches and pains.




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