Women in the yoga group improved in terms of “the frequency of intrusive thoughts and the severity of jangled nerves” compared with the group-therapy women.
Van der Kolk sought to explain yoga’s mitigation of PTSD by noting that it creates greater self-awareness, including awareness of a person’s own body and its metabolic processes. “The memory of the trauma [that produced the PTSD] is imprinted on the human organism,” van der Kolk commented. “I don’t think you can overcome it unless you learn to have a friendly relationship with your body.”
In another study, a number of disabled Australian Vietnam veterans with moderate to severe PTSD were randomly split into two groups. Researchers put one group through a five-day course that taught them “breathing techniques, yoga asanas [positions], education about stress reduction and guided meditation.” The control group did not undertake the course.
After six weeks, the yoga group’s PTSD scores had eased from moderate-to-severe to mild-to-moderate. The control group’s scores, meanwhile, didn’t budge.
As if to underscore the relevance of this research, the U.S. Army recently decided to spend $4 million on research to find ways to help veterans with PTSD. The research is designed to look into such things as “spiritual ministry, transcendental meditation, [and] yoga” as well as “bioenergies such as Qi gong, Reiki, [and] distant healing.”