Does Yoga Help?
It’s 4am on a Friday morning in 2016, and I’m a US Army Soldier at the Warrior Transition Unit. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD and I’m leaving the Army for medical retirement. The Army may be done with me, but I can’t get the Army out of my head; the memories that plagued me continue to resurface. My therapist suggested yoga. I laughed, at first – how could yoga help with anything? – but reluctantly decided to give it a try. It’s been a month, and now I’m hooked.
“Come to samastitihi, the pose of stillness…”
It’s two years later, and I’m in the hospital. I’ve gathered a small group of mobile folks around me, and we’re standing in a circle, hands at heart center, having just finished a short ten-minute flow. It feels good to move, to welcome blood to my hands, my feet, my heart; as I look at the relaxed faces around me, I feel something within me start to unfreeze.
Yoga and Science
There’s a scientific link between yoga and wellness, both mental and physical. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports that Yoga has been studied for various pain-related conditions. Studies on yoga for low-back pain and neck pain show promising results, and it is recommended as a first-line treatment for chronic low-back pain by the American College of Physicians.
Likewise, some studies have demonstrated a link between healing from substance use and yoga, though further research is needed. “Despite various pharmacological measures for management of drug dependence, relapse is commonly encountered in clinical practice. In fact, drug dependence has been called a ‘chronic medical illness,” one study, published in the Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice, writes. “Yoga, as exercise, boosts well-being, mood, and can increase the motivation to quit smoking.”
Whole treatment modalities owe their existence to yoga: Sonia Kumar of the University of Sydney notes that In the 1970s, psychiatrist Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn showed that a mix of yoga and meditation could effectively treat stubborn back pain. He later created MBSR, mindfulness-based stress reduction. Powerful stuff, indeed.
Where To Find It
While Covid-19 has made it difficult to practice in a studio, you don’t have to leave your home to reap the benefits yoga has to offer! Various apps, such as Gaia, Peloton, and Asana Rebel Flow offer yoga practices of various lengths and different levels, designed for everyone from the complete newcomer to the advanced practitioner. Many local yoga studios are now also offering virtual classes, some for a reduced price or for free. Other yogis offer free live-streaming via Instagram or Facebook. Alle Kamala, @nonbinaryogi, offers yoga, meditation, and distance reiki services via Instagram.