Yogic Breathing May Reduce Symptoms of PTSD, Study Finds

A man breathes with eyes closedPosttraumatic stress (PTSD), which often results in depression, intrusive memories, anxiety, and fear after a traumatic event, poses serious public health concerns. About 20% of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq have PTSD. Victims of rape, domestic violence, child abuse, and natural disasters can also develop PTSD, with 7–8% of the U.S. population developing PTSD at some point. Treatment can be complicated and expensive and doesn’t always work. According to a new study, though, yogic breathing might help alleviate symptoms of PTSD.

Yogic Breathing for PTSD

A type of yoga called Sudarshan Kriya Yoga utilizes controlled breathing that could directly affect the behavior of the nervous system. Since one of the symptoms of PTSD is hyperarousal, this type of yoga seems like a natural fit to treat symptoms.

To study its effectiveness, researchers devised a small study of 21 participants, all of whom were soldiers. One group of soldiers received training in yogic breathing for a week. At the end of a week, those who underwent training had lower rates of anxiety and respiration in response to a startling noise and fewer symptoms of PTSD than the other group.

Because the study was so small, its results are preliminary. If subsequent research finds the same results, though, doctors could one day prescribe yoga as a treatment for PTSD. 

Other Strategies for Coping

Every day, 22 veterans take their own lives. People struggling with PTSD need help now and may be unable to wait for new treatments. Therapy and medication have demonstrated effectiveness at reducing the symptoms of PTSD. Many therapists use prolonged exposure therapy or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR), and clinical studies have shown that these treatments can be effective. Meditation and mindfulness can also help, particularly among PTSD sufferers who struggle with hyperarousal and anxiety. 

Veterans in crisis who are struggling with PTSD can get assistance by calling the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. People struggling with PTSD due to a history of rape or sexual abuse can contact the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network by phone at 1-800-656-HOPE or via the organization’s online hotline here. 

References:

  1. How common is PTSD? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/how-common-is-ptsd.asp
  2. Meditation as a part of PTSD treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.recoveryranch.com/articles/trauma-and-ptsd-articles/meditation-as-a-part-of-ptsd-treatment/
  3. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (2014, April 15). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/basics/treatment/con-2002254
  4. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder may be relieved by yogic breathing. (2014, September 16). Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/282470.php

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  • BethAnne

    BethAnne

    September 22nd, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    In general I find yoga and that whoel experience to be a very cleansing and relaxing activity so to learn that this type of breathing and mindset can greatly reduce PTSD stress and symptoms is not surprise to me. I can walk into yoga one person and feeling downright rotten and then I leave and feel renewed. It is amazing what this time for yourself and the breathing techniques which can be incorporated can make such a wonderful difference to you, and this is just in an hour. I imagine that is this is something that you commit to and practice daily and even hourly, it could make a huge impact on you.

  • Shatoria

    Shatoria

    September 22nd, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    I definitely agree with the mindful breathing techniques as well as meditation for helping with PTSD and any kind of traumatic event or stressor in your life that you may be dealing with.

  • meredith

    meredith

    September 23rd, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    It is nice to hear about something that works for a change rather than there being only depressing news about things that people have tried that have not worked. I am also happy to hear that this could be beneficial for soldiers, some of whom have witnessed terrible things in their tours, and who need something which is comforting to allow them get back to some sense of normalcy. I hope that this is not something that is just seen as experimental and which could actually have long term treatment benefits for them.

  • Celine V.

    Celine V.

    September 24th, 2014 at 7:19 AM

    Great article. Deep breathing is so important for well-being and to help with many conditions affecting the body and the mind.That is what we are focusing on with our product: engage everyone to practice deep breathing for better health by playing games on their phone using their breath, and only their breath.

  • Carson

    Carson

    September 24th, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    What would be nice was if there were classes that were offered which are specifically targeted for stress relief among trauma survivors. They may feel that they can get a little something more out of the class that would be geared toward their specific issues and concerns, as well as it could give them more of a feeling of freedom to share with others and to open up about their personal experiences when they know that everyone in there is there for the same sort of reasons that they are.

  • penelope

    penelope

    September 24th, 2014 at 5:03 PM

    Carson, take a look at TRE (Trauma Releasing Exercises) it’s not psychotherapy but it is very successful at releasing the physical imprint of trauma and settling the nervous system out of hyper or hypo arousal.

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