As the veteran suicide rate remains at a steady, and for many, inconceivable number, more support is being extended to adjunct and alternative modes of therapy for those challenged by both physical and socio-emotional issues, including PTS(D).
Over the past several years, the practice of yoga has become a strategy many have deployed with promising effects. In its capacity to regulate breathing, to cultivate present moment awareness, and to shift one’s focus to self-nurturing and self-sustainability, yoga has given many veterans a new outlet through which to process the adverse effects of their military experience.
At its core, yoga includes a sequence of mindful physical movement coupled with breathwork. The aim is to link mind with body and to establish a connection between the two. This can be extremely useful in how one perceives, processes, and works through injury, pain, and chronic conditions.
Establishing a link to the body through breathing can transform one’s mindset from trying to “ignore” or dismiss their physical challenges into proactively working through them as they learn to better honor themselves. In this way, yoga is about that which can transform rather than that which limits the individual.
Other practices within the context of yoga can include meditation and guided rest. Developing a protocol to include these elements is akin to cultivating a “tool box” of healing modalities to foster a sense of empowerment and ownership that is unique in its ability to allow others to feel more proactive in their journey towards self-care. For veterans, this can be transformative.
Countless stories have been shared among the veteran community about how the practices of yoga have helped them breath easier, sleep more soundly, walk more steadily, and, in many cases, saved their lives. This is perhaps the most profound effect yoga has had.
To think that an ancient practice is now able to transform a veteran’s thoughts of despair and hopelessness into that of proactive self-care and vitality is remarkable.
“Yoga was life-changing for me,” said former Army medic John Mory. “I was holding down a lot of emotions and events from my combat experiences. (After turning to yoga), I felt compelled to spread the word among my fellow veterans. Although not a cure, I honestly believe yoga is definitely part of the solution to veteran suicide.”
Upon failing to find solutions from mainstream doctors, former U.S. Army Reserve and the first female National Guard Air Assault Company Commander Sarah Moore turned to yoga to address her ongoing challenges.
“I’ve been practicing yoga for over 10 years now, and it has controlled my back pain and has the extra bonus of helping me with my anxiety,” Moore described. “Taking away the ‘stigma’ of getting help and learning natural ways to address anxiety, PTS(D), and pain is much needed in this community.”
Moore, who now teaches yoga classes says, “The feedback I got from my fellow service members was amazing. They said they were sleeping better, dealing with deployment in a more positive mind frame, and some even said their pain decreased.”
A future where veterans are offered more choices and autonomy in how they receive and utilize the many care options extended to them, including yoga, could re-shape their existence into one of hope, gratitude, resilience, and fortitude. The same qualities that veterans and military members extend through their service and duties to our nation.