Yoga Shows Promise for Treating PTSD - Yoga Practice Blog

Yoga Shows Promise for Treating PTSD

yoga for PTSDBy Sanjeev Patel, CYT 500, and Kimaya Singh

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a type of anxiety that occurs after a traumatic event involving the threat of death or severe injury. Yoga shows promise for treating PTSD now and into the future. Scientific studies from leading universities have recently demonstrated that the ancient art of yoga may have a measurable effect on mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Living in a home, neighborhood, or country where daily violence is common affects one’s mental and emotional health.


Reactions to PTSD

Not only does PTSD create immediate problems, such as flashbacks and outbursts of anger, and it changes how the body reacts to stress. Exposure to trauma alters the brain’s neurotransmitters – chemicals that carry information back and forth between the nerves.

As a result, symptoms of this disorder can be long-lasting and debilitating. Without immediate diagnosis and treatment, PTSD becomes even more complicated and often contributes to other conditions, such as alcoholism, depression, or drug abuse. Proper medication and counseling are invaluable; however, brain retraining can be lifelong.

Having a sound support system, getting adequate exercise, and practicing self-care are essential for anyone suffering from PTSD. Still, the ancient practice of yoga is emerging as one of its most promising and innovative treatments.

Yoga Shows Promise for Treating PTSD

From battered spouses to traumatized veterans, sufferers of PTSD are turning to yoga for help, and they are finding that it works in several ways:

1. Increases levels of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on the body

2. Leads to an increased awareness of the bodily sensations, emotions, and reactions

3. Helps to release tension and reduce negative beliefs or memories

4. Teaches proper breathing techniques

5. Builds confidence and enhances a general sense of well-being and self-control

6. Teaches patience and a sense of being present at the moment

7. Improves general health and helps to manage chronic illnesses

8. Aids in weight loss and improves physical fitness

9. Teaches balance and coordination, both physically and emotionally

10. Acts as a form of meditation

In 2008, The Washington Post reported that the cost of PTSD and depression caused by combat stress in recent wars could run as high as $6 million in two years. At the time, we didn’t realize the standard treatment cost would skyrocket beyond experts’ estimates. Yoga for post-traumatic stress disorder not only has the potential to eliminate many of the symptoms of PTSD, but it also shows promise in offering sufferers a future filled with peace and joy.


Yoga Shows Promise for Treating PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects millions worldwide, and traditional treatments can often be ineffective or have undesirable side effects. However, recent research has shown that yoga can offer a promising alternative for those suffering from PTSD. Not only is yoga accessible to all ages and abilities, but it also provides a holistic approach to healing the mind and body. In this blog post, we’ll explore how different types of yoga can benefit individuals with PTSD and examine the scientific evidence behind its effectiveness as a treatment option.

About PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop following exposure to a traumatic event. Trauma can be defined as any experience in which an individual feels threatened, helpless, or overwhelmed by circumstances beyond their control. Trauma that can lead to PTSD includes physical assault, sexual abuse, combat exposure, natural disasters, and accidents.

Symptoms of PTSD vary from person to person but typically fall into four categories: intrusive thoughts or memories related to the traumatic event, avoidance of people or places associated with the trauma, adverse changes in mood or thinking patterns since the event occurred, and increased arousal such as hypervigilance and difficulty sleeping.

The effects of PTSD on individuals’ daily lives cannot be overstated; it can have debilitating consequences for mental health and overall well-being. People with this condition often struggle with relationships at home and work due to emotional regulation difficulties. Additionally, some may face challenges maintaining employment due to anxiety symptoms triggered by specific workplace triggers stemming from past traumatic experiences. Understanding PTSD is essential in finding effective treatments for managing its symptoms.


PTSD Symptoms

Symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person and may not appear immediately after the trauma. Some common symptoms of PTSD include intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and nightmares related to the traumatic experience. People with PTSD may also avoid people, places, or situations that trigger traumatic memories. They may have difficulty sleeping or concentrating and feel irritable or easily startled.

PTSD can also cause negative changes in mood and thought patterns, such as feeling guilty, ashamed, or hopeless. Some individuals with PTSD may struggle with substance abuse issues as they try to cope with their symptoms.

It’s important to note that not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD. However, for those who develop this condition, it can significantly impact their daily life and overall well-being if left untreated.

The Financial Cost of PTSD

PTSD is not only a mental health issue but also a financial burden. The cost of treating PTSD can be significant for both individuals and society. According to the National Center for PTSD, the economic costs of PTSD are estimated to be around $42.3 billion each year.

Individuals with PTSD may experience difficulties maintaining employment, leading to a loss of income and increased reliance on government assistance programs such as disability benefits or welfare. They may also require long-term medical care and rehabilitation services, which can add up quickly.

In addition, indirect costs are associated with PTSD, such as decreased productivity at work due to symptoms like flashbacks and anxiety attacks, increased healthcare utilization from comorbid conditions like depression or substance abuse disorder, legal fees related to disability claims, or litigation against perpetrators of trauma.

The financial impact is not limited to those suffering from PTSD alone; it also affects families. Family members may need to take time off or reduce their working hours to provide caregiving support, further exacerbating the existing financial strain on households.

The financial cost of untreated or inadequately treated PTSD is enormous; however, early intervention through therapies such as yoga has shown promising results in reducing these expenses while improving the quality of life for those affected by this debilitating condition.


Types of Yoga for PTSD

Various types of yoga are beneficial for individuals suffering from PTSD. One of the most popular forms is Hatha Yoga, which focuses on physical postures and breathing exercises. This type of yoga can help regulate the body’s response to stress and anxiety.

Another effective form of yoga for PTSD is Kundalini Yoga, which incorporates meditation, chanting, and breathing techniques. This practice may help alleviate symptoms such as depression, anger, and insomnia.

Restorative Yoga is also an excellent option for individuals with PTSD, as it involves gentle stretching poses held for several minutes while using props such as blankets or bolsters. This type of yoga promotes deep relaxation and helps reduce feelings of tension in the body.

Yin Yoga involves holding passive stretches for extended periods while focusing on breathwork. This practice can improve flexibility while calming both the mind and body.

It’s important to note that finding a style of yoga that works best for each individual may take some experimentation. However, incorporating any form of yoga into one’s routine has shown promise in helping manage symptoms associated with PTSD.

Research on Yoga and PTSD

Research on Yoga and PTSD has shown positive results, bringing new hope to those who suffer from this condition. Studies have found that practicing yoga can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress associated with PTSD.

One study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that veterans who participated in an eight-week trauma-sensitive yoga program significantly improved their PTSD symptoms compared to those who did not practice yoga. The participants reported reduced feelings of hyperarousal, avoidance behavior, intrusive thoughts, and re-experiencing events.

Another study conducted by the Department of Defense suggested that incorporating yoga into traditional treatments for military personnel with PTSD may be helpful because it improves sleep quality while also reducing symptoms related to anxiety and depression.

These findings support the potential benefits of using yoga as a complementary treatment for individuals suffering from PTSD. With continued research efforts focused on understanding how these practices work at a neurological level, we can continue to gain more insights into how best to integrate them as part of effective therapeutic interventions.


How Does Yoga Help PTSD?

Yoga is a mind-body therapy that can help individuals with PTSD manage their symptoms. Studies have shown that yoga can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress levels, which are all common symptoms of PTSD.

One way yoga helps those with PTSD is by promoting relaxation through deep breathing techniques. Breathing exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing or alternate nostril breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and calm the body’s response to stress.

Additionally, the physical postures practiced in yoga can help release tension held in the body due to trauma. These poses also improve flexibility and balance while increasing bodily awareness.

Furthermore, practicing mindfulness during yoga sessions allows individuals to remain present-focused rather than being lost in thoughts related to past traumas. This practice encourages greater self-awareness and acceptance of one’s emotions without judgment.

Incorporating regular yoga practice into an individual’s treatment plan for PTSD may contribute positively toward symptom management.

Standard Treatments for PTSD

There are several standard treatments available for PTSD, which can be very effective in helping individuals manage their symptoms. One of the most common forms of treatment is psychotherapy, which involves talking to a mental health professional about your experiences and feelings.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is also commonly used to treat PTSD. This therapy focuses on changing negative thought patterns that can contribute to anxiety and depression.

In addition to therapy, medication can be prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist to help manage symptoms such as depression and anxiety. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are often used in conjunction with other forms of treatment.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is another effective form of therapy in treating PTSD. This therapy aims to change how traumatic memories are stored in the brain, reducing their intensity and impact over time.

It’s important to note that each person’s experience with PTSD is unique, so there may not be one “right” approach for everyone. A combination of techniques may need to be tried before finding what works best for an individual’s needs.


How Does Meditation Help PTSD?

Meditation is a mindfulness-based practice that can help with PTSD symptoms. It involves focusing the mind on the present moment and letting go of negative thoughts and emotions. Meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress levels in people living with PTSD.

When someone experiences trauma, they often feel disconnected from their body and emotions. This can lead to feelings of detachment, numbness, or emotional overwhelm. Through meditation practices such as deep breathing exercises or body scans, individuals can become more aware of their physical sensations and emotional states.

A Closer Look

One study found that veterans who practiced mindfulness meditation for eight weeks saw significant reductions in PTSD symptoms compared to those who did not meditate. The participants reported feeling less anxious, less depressed, and more resilient after completing the program.

Meditation also helps improve sleep patterns, particularly for those experiencing trauma-related nightmares or insomnia due to flashbacks. Practicing traditional meditation techniques before bedtime makes it easier for individuals with PTSD to calm their minds at night.

Meditation provides a safe space for individuals to connect with themselves non-judgmentally, promoting self-healing through improved self-awareness and internal balance.


Can Yoga Nidra Help PTSD?

Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep or conscious relaxation, is a powerful technique that can help individuals suffering from PTSD. It involves lying in a comfortable position and following the guidance of a teacher who leads you through various stages of relaxation.

During Yoga Nidra, you enter into a state of deep relaxation where your body and mind are fully relaxed but remain awake. This releases tension and stress stored in the body, which is especially beneficial for those with PTSD.

Research has shown that Yoga Nidra can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and insomnia – all common symptoms experienced by people with PTSD. The practice has increased calmness and well-being while reducing anger and agitation.

In addition to providing physical benefits such as better sleep quality, reduced muscle tension, and improved digestion, Yoga Nidra helps individuals connect more deeply with themselves emotionally. One can develop self-awareness by cultivating mindful awareness during this practice, increasing resilience.

Yoga Nidra offers a safe space for individuals struggling with PTSD to begin healing physically and emotionally.

The Toll of PTSD on Families

PTSD doesn’t just affect the individual who experienced the trauma. It can have a significant impact on their family members as well. Family members may feel helpless, confused, and frustrated when supporting their loved ones with PTSD. They may also experience emotional distress due to the changes in the behavior and mood of their loved ones.

Children of parents with PTSD may be particularly vulnerable as they are still developing emotionally and psychologically. Studies have shown that children of parents with PTSD are at a higher risk for behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, and even physical health issues.

Spouses or partners of individuals with PTSD may also face challenges maintaining intimacy and communication within the relationship. The symptoms of PTSD, such as hypervigilance or avoidance behaviors, can lead to strained relationships.

Families must seek support from mental health professionals specializing in treating trauma-related disorders like PTSD. Counseling sessions can help improve family members’ communication and provide tools for coping as a unit.

It is crucial to understand that PTSD doesn’t only affect an individual but has far-reaching effects on their families too. Seeking professional help can aid both the individual suffering from PTSD and their loved ones in dealing with this traumatic disorder effectively.


The Emotional Cost of PTSD

The emotional cost of PTSD can be just as devastating as the physical symptoms. Those who suffer from PTSD often experience a range of emotions that are difficult to manage and control. These include feelings of anxiety, fear, anger, guilt, shame, and depression.

One common symptom is hypervigilance or constantly feeling on edge and alert for danger. This can lead to sleep disturbances, exacerbating irritability and difficulty concentrating.

PTSD sufferers may also withdraw socially due to their heightened sense of vulnerability or mistrust in others. This can create feelings of loneliness and isolation, further contributing to depression.

Unfortunately, the emotional toll is not limited to those with PTSD alone – it also affects their loved ones. Family members may feel helpless watching their loved one suffer through flashbacks or nightmares while struggling with everyday tasks.

It’s essential for anyone experiencing these symptoms or witnessing them in someone else to seek professional help and support networks that can guide coping mechanisms for managing these complex emotions associated with PTSD.

Food for Thought

PTSD is a debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While standard treatments such as medication and talk therapy can be influential, many individuals with PTSD may benefit from incorporating yoga into their recovery plan. Research has shown that various types of yoga, including mindfulness-based practices like Yoga Nidra, can help alleviate symptoms of PTSD and improve overall well-being.

Yoga offers numerous physical and mental benefits that can help individuals cope with the emotional toll of PTSD. By cultivating mindfulness, regulating breathing patterns, and promoting relaxation, yoga provides a holistic approach to healing that addresses both the mind and body.



While more research is needed to fully understand how yoga works as a complementary treatment for PTSD, there are plenty of reasons to explore this path if you or someone you know is struggling. Whether attending group classes at your local studio or practicing independently at home using online resources, there are many ways to incorporate yoga into your daily routine.

By taking an integrative approach to treating PTSD that includes practices like yoga and meditation alongside traditional therapies like medication and counseling, we can work towards improving outcomes for those affected by this challenging condition. So why not give it a try? You might find that the promise of healing through these ancient practices also becomes a reality in your life.

Sanjeev Patel is a certified Yoga teacher and an exclusive author for Aura Wellness Center.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Related Research

Stein M. B., Kennedy C. (2001). Major depressive and post-traumatic stress disorder comorbidity in female victims of intimate partner violence. Journal of Affective Disorders, 66, 133–138.

Blore J. D., Sim M. R., Forbes A. B., Creamer M. C., Kelsall H. L. (2015). Depression in Gulf War veterans: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychological Medicine, 45, 1565–1580.

Rosenberg T. (2012, 9 26). For veterans, a surge of new treatments for trauma. The New York Times.

Kirkwood G., Rampes H., Tuffrey V., Richardson J., Pilkington K. (2005). Yoga for anxiety: A systematic review of the research evidence. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 39, 884–891.

Cramer H., Lauche R., Langhorst J., Dobos G. (2013). Yoga for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Depression and Anxiety, 30, 1068–1083.

Pilkington K., Kirkwood G., Rampes H., Richardson J. (2005). Yoga for depression: The research evidence. Journal of Affective Disorders, 89, 13–24.

Related Studies

Tang B., Liu X., Liu Y., Xue C., Zhang L. (2014). A meta-analysis of risk factors for depression in adults and children after natural disasters. BMC Public Health, 14, 623.

Krisanaprakornkit T., Sriraj W., Piyavhatkul N., Laopaiboon M. (2009). Meditation therapy for anxiety disorders. [Systematic review]. Cochrane Library, 2009, 1–26.

Torrey W. C., Drake R. E., Dixon L., Burns B. J., Flynn L., Rush A. J. … Klatzker D. (2001). Implementing evidence-based practices for persons with severe mental illnesses. Psychiatric Services, 52, 45–50.

Clarke T. C., Black L. I., Stussman B. J., Barnes P. M., Nahin R. L. (2015). Trends in the use of complementary health approaches among adults: United States, 2002–2012. National Health Statistics Reports, 79, 1–16

Vallejo Z., Amaro H. (2009). Adaptation of mindfulness-based stress reduction program for addiction relapse prevention. The Humanistic Psychologist, 37, 192–206.

More Research

Banyard V. L., Williams L. M., Siegel J. A. (2001). The long-term mental health consequences of child sexual abuse: An exploratory study of the impact of multiple traumas in a sample of women. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 14, 697–715.

Krupnick J. I., Green B. L., Stockton P., Goodman L., Corcoran C., Petty R. (2004). Mental health effects of adolescent trauma exposure in a female college sample: Exploring differential outcomes based on experiences of unique trauma types and dimensions. Psychiatry, 67, 264–279.

Büssing A., Michalsen A., Khalsa S. B. S., Telles S., Sherman K. J. (2012). Effects of yoga on mental and physical health: A short summary of reviews. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/165410

McCauley J., Kern D. E., Kolodner K., Dill L., Schroeder A. F., DeChant H. K. … Derogatis L. R. (1995). The “battering syndrome”: Prevalence and clinical characteristics of domestic violence in primary care internal medicine practices. Annals of Internal Medicine, 123, 737–746.

Campbell J. C. (2002). Health consequences of intimate partner violence. Lancet, 359, 1331–1336.

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