In Miami, a yoga centre hosts a monthly “Warrior Wednesday” forum where veterans can practice yoga and relaxation techniques as part of its Mission United veterans support group. The group covers a range of topics including assistance with transitioning back into civilian society. The most recent session focused on the principle of mindfulness, encouraging the veterans to focus on the present moment through their yoga practice.
The classes follow a trend of mindfulness practices being adopted by veterans around the world. Locally, in Brisbane free yoga classes are offered out of the Everton Hills PCYC by former soldier Charles Stevenson. Stevenson served in the Australian Army for 15 years, and developed PTSD in 2009 after being deployed to the Middle East. He began practising yoga to assist with his PTSD, and became a qualified instructor in November last year.
He now offers free classes for both veterans and emergency service workers, in an effort to help share the benefits of regular yoga practice. “It doesn’t change the fact that I have PTSD,” Stevenson says, “It just helps me to cope with my symptoms and my family know the symptoms now.”
These experiences further demonstrate the growing area of research of using yoga as a complementary practice to psychotherapy. In 2006, the US Department of Defense implemented a nine-week yoga-based restoration program called “iRest” for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD.
At the end of the program, the veterans reported a reduction in insomnia, depression, anxiety and fear and an improved sense of control over their lives. “The evidence is showing that yoga really helps change people at every level”, says Stanford University health psychologist and yoga instructor Kelly McGonigal, PhD.