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Science Finally Catches Up to Yoga ... 5,000 Years Later

post traumatic growth trauma trauma informed veteran veteran yoga vetoga vetoganation yoga Aug 24, 2021

Benefits of Yoga on Mental Health

Yoga has been around for over 5,000 years.

While long time practitioners of yoga have been aware of the mental health benefits of yoga, only recently has the scientific community identified and quantified these benefits.

For many years the treatment of choice for trauma based mental health disorders has been various types of talk therapy and exposure therapy. Talk therapy involves verbally processing traumatic memories and events with a trained professional.

 Exposure therapy involves talk therapy, but also includes a behavioral based component in which the client is “exposed” to the source of anxiety in a safe and controlled manner. The idea is that with extended periods of safe exposure the source of the anxiety will become less troublesome, and the individual will experience a decrease in symptoms of arousal (ie. Fight or flight).

 Recent studies have identified the benefits of yoga in regulating the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is comprised of the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous systems (PNS). The SNS controls the “fight, flight or freeze” mechanism of our brain and body.

 When the SNS is activated, our body is prepared to keep us alive. The PNS controls rest and digestion. In the case of certain types of mental health disorders, the autonomic nervous system is dysregulated or out of balance.

Without adequate internal resources to cope with current stressors, the nervous system becomes overwhelmed and stuck in the past. This can cause unprocessed memories and experiences to become stored in the brain and recycled when a similar experience is encountered.

These recycled memories are often experienced as an intrusive thought, a flashback, or a nightmare. The body may experience the recycled memory with increased heart rate, sweating, nausea, flushed cheeks, etc. A dysregulated nervous system struggles to tell the difference between an actual threat and threat that is being relived in the brain.

Yoga is a powerful tool to help regulate the nervous system and trains our mind and body to find a healthy balance in the present moment and beyond.

Regular yoga practice can result in a reduction of blood pressure and heart rate. Yoga teaches self-regulation with both energizing and calming practices. Much emphasis in yoga is placed on the breath and on body awareness. Individuals practicing yoga are encouraged to listen to their bodies and not push past their limits or comfort levels. This is often a new experience for an individual that has been stuck in “fight or flight” for long periods of time.

The benefits of yoga are numerous. Even 2-3 minutes a day of yoga can help to rebalance the nervous system!

 There are many yoga practices for all skill levels from beginner to advanced.

 So, roll out your yoga mat today to begin experiencing the benefits of being in balance!

 By Dr. Erica Adkins, VETOGA Instructor