Recently I had the enormous privilege to attend Yoga Warriors teacher training at Active Sol Yoga in Atlanta. Dharma Richards, a Hatha-Raja and Kundalini Yoga instructor, and founder of Yoga Garden in Cary, NC guided our group of 13 compassionate and eager-to-serve yogis through the training with passion, elegance and grace. The Yoga Warrior method, created by Lucy Cimini, is firmly grounded in the science of yoga, and offers a unique trauma-sensitive approach that is designed specifically for veterans, active military personnel, and first responders that are suffering from the psychological, emotional and physical impact of trauma. The mission of Yoga Warriors is “to alleviate symptoms of combat stress (COSR), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and increase the resilience of critical task performers working in high stress environments, including affected caregivers and family members by providing evidence-based yoga and mindfulness practices.”
While it is difficult to determine how many veterans are suffering from PTSD, according to current studies, it is estimated that 20% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan combat troops meet the criteria of PTSD and/or depression and 11% of Vietnam veterans still suffer with symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Less than 50% of veterans actually seek treatment and many, many others go undiagnosed. Symptoms may include anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks, numbing, inability to sleep or sleeping too much, irritability, headaches, chronic pain, exaggerated startle response, lack of concentration and a feeling of detachment. Alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, inability to maintain employment, homelessness and suicide can be the devastating consequences of PTSD left untreated.
Trauma is imprinted in the body and can leave those suffering stuck in a perpetual loop of “fight or flight.” The nurturing environment of a Yoga Warrior session can help them safely dissolve and release these memories in ways that traditional talk therapy may not. By creating a safe, supportive environment and through the use of the cognitive-behavioral technique of repeating positive affirmations while practicing carefully chosen yoga postures and breathing techniques, students are better able to cultivate positive thoughts, attitudes and experiences that promote inner peace, resiliency and greater vitality. Gently guiding students back to their body and breath with non-judgmental awareness brings them back to the present moment and gives them the power to evoke the relaxation response, calming and balancing the autonomic nervous system, and allowing the mind to safely associate the body with pleasant sensations. Yoga Warrior students report reduced anxiety, anger, pain and stress, ability to recognize and safely release emotions, increased ability to self-regulate, reduction of intrusive thoughts, improvement in sleep quality, decreased hyper vigilance, and increased self-acceptance and self-esteem.
While yoga does not replace traditional therapy methods as a treatment for PTSD, it can be a powerful and necessary complimentary practice. According to Bessel van der Kolk , trauma expert and professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, “Yoga is part of the overall healing process. Learning to tolerate and be curious about dreaded physical sensations gives people a sense of mastery. The visceral experience of mastery, involving emotions and sensations, provides new resources of energy, and the capacity to take effective action. Somatic experiencing, with an intuitive knowledge that there is a natural flow in and out of emotions, opens up an appetite for even deeper experiencing.”
* To learn more about the Yoga Warrior Method or to schedule private or group sessions please contact Michelle.