In recent years, holistic health and wellbeing have grown in importance and widespread popular appeal. A growing number of people now spend their evening cold-pressing green juices, limbering up for Pilates, dipping veggies in hummus, or skin-brushing in the bath. In all this change, there has been a lot more evidence supporting the benefits of why it helps, and most importantly for us at PTSD UK, how it can help people who are living with PTSD.
While waiting for treatment for PTSD, there are things you can explore that may help to ease your symptoms and as a study by Farah Jindani, Nigel Turner and Sat Bir S. Khalsa found, yoga may be an effective way of reducing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. In particular, they looked at Kundalini yoga, conducting their study on 80 individuals. They found that those who participated in Kundalini yoga experienced a greater change in their ability to sleep, in how they perceived anxiety and stress, and in their resilience to everyday life. Although the findings indicated that more research was needed into yoga to understand the exact mechanisms of why it was helping, it also suggested strongly that those experiencing PTSD should try yoga as a non-medicinal method to ease symptoms in their road to recovery.
Another study conducted by Dr. Farah Jindani found that participants in the Kundalini yoga trauma programme found themselves experiencing a significant improvement in their PTSD symptoms, and also saw positive changes in their sleep patterns, perceived stress, positive mood and anxiety compared to those who didn’t take part in the programme.
Afterwards, the participants also saw improvements in their mental clarity, a higher self-esteem and a greater ability to self-reflect. Further studies by Dr. Julie Staples, Daniel Mintie and Dr. Sat Bir Singh Khalsa also found significant improvements in sleep and PTSD symptoms for those who took part in Kundalini yoga. It has also been found to help people suffering from addictions too.
Kundalini yoga teacher, Billie Atherstone, is a firm believer in the value that her practice can have, both for those experiencing PTSD and also those recovering from childhood trauma. She runs a specialised 10-week course that people can sign up for. As she notes on her website, one of the main symptoms that people who have PTSD experience is feeling frightened or stressed even when they’re not in danger. Their nervous system remains in a heightened sense of activity and can lead to them either feeling hyper-aroused or disassociated.
Through Kundalini yoga, people can safely start to move out of these states of being and can start to find a sense of relative safety. They can then also start to explore how their body is feeling, accept some of the problems they have been dealing with, and finding the ability to be ‘present’ in their body. This is crucial for starting the journey towards recovery. The yoga is performed at the speed and progression that suits each individual, with a pause after each action to ensure people have time to feel what changes each move has brought about. The classes also include meditation and breath-work to enhance relaxation. This is also important in helping to balance out the nervous system.
It isn’t just about slowing the body down though. As 3HO Lifestyle reports, Kundalini yoga can actually have a positive physical impact on the brain as well. For those living with PTSD, they typically have an over-responsive amygdala and a physically smaller hippocampus.
However, research published in the International Journal of Yoga in 2011 found that when people chanted ‘OM’ in an MRI machine, it significantly deactivated the amygdala. Additionally, a separate study published in Psychiatry Research in 2011 found that an 8-week mindfulness meditation programme also helped to increase the size of the hippocampus. Yoga is a great source of mindfulness.
It’s important to note, that while choosing your PTSD recovery path you need to address both the symptoms and the underlying condition. NICE guidance from 2005 and 2011 recommends the use of trauma focused psychological treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in adults, specifically the use of Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) and trauma focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Please remember, these aren’t meant to be medical recommendations, but they’re tactics that have worked for others and might work for you, too. Be sure to work with a professional to find the best methods for you.
IMAGE: Life Style Post by Gabriel Garcia Marengo