Teaching Yoga to War Veterans

yoga instructor training for ptsdBy Faye Martins

Yoga has been many things in popular culture, from a spiritual endeavor to a smooth and graceful form of exercise. One thing yoga has not ever been is a military pursuit, but despite that the armed forces around the world have embraced yoga as an effective way to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Though there was some initial resistance, the success of yoga can’t be denied by anyone, least of all those who’ve used it successfully.

How Does Yoga Help PTSD?


There was a great deal of skepticism from US veterans, from Vietnam to Afghanistan, about the use of yoga as an effective treatment. However, once all of the new age accouterments were stripped away (the Sanskrit names, the candles, the incense, etc.), what was left behind was an exercise regimen that is open to everyone regardless of their physical capacities, which can help them gain control of their muscles, their breathing and most importantly their mental state. The focus and control of pure yoga is very effective at delivering those kinds of mental and emotional results.

Constantly Changing and Evolving

Yoga training has proven to be so effective in practice that the armed forces are doing more than recommending it; in some circumstances it has become mandatory. The yoga practiced by veterans is different from standard yoga one finds in a classroom. For instance, personal contact is a standard part of many yoga classes. However, for many veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, personal space is very important, so these classes work around that.


The veterans themselves have a lot of say in developing the program and making sure that it meets their requirements. For instance, many veterans pointed out that the teacher walking through the ranks and watching from behind made them feel self-conscious, and it was distracting from the purpose of learning and focusing. Comments like that have become the basis for improving the system and making sure that it is seen as an effective form of treatment are always incorporated.

Expanding The Program

Military forces have actually taken to expanding the teaching of yoga as an effective treatment for PTSD. With so many soldiers in need of help upon returning, there are a lot of men and women who are gaining the benefits of becoming part of this program. With training for yoga instructors at all time highs, and the expansion of class sizes, yoga seems to be a reliable solution for PTSD that will continue for quite some time.

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