The number of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) is alarmingly high and growing on a daily basis. Alongside traditional methods of supporting veterans with PTS, an increasing number of veterans are exploring alternative methods for healing the mental and emotional scars of war. A variety of non-traditional methods and techniques from Yoga to Mindfulness Meditation are currently being used within veteran medical centers across the United States and are helping veterans cope with life after combat.
For many veterans the impact of war has taken a tremendous toll on their body, mind and spirit. Research has suggested that up to 30 percent of the nearly 3 million United States troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking or receiving care for PTS, depression or anxiety. The implications of PTS, often referred to as the invisible wound, is also easily manifested into homelessness, drug use, spousal abuse and suicide. According to the United States military, more active duty soldiers die from suicide than from combat. In 2012, 349 members of the armed forces were reported to have taken their own lives. A new study of veteran suicides from 1999 to 2010 estimates the number of suicides to be as high as 22 a day.
Mind-body practices that include yoga postures, breathing and mindful meditation techniques are assisting veterans to regulate and manage tensions, emotions as well as the symptoms of PTS. Retreats and yoga classes run through not-for-profit organisations have also sprung up nationwide. Programs such as Yoga Warriors (www.yogawarriors.com) offer classes for veterans and service personnel in more than 29 states. These classes are designed specifically to assist soldiers in coping with PTS and have attracted a new generation of veterans looking for a non-pharmaceutical approach to help them cope.
The benefits of the Yoga and Meditation techniques being used by the veterans participating in these classes has been life changing. Students have found a greater sense of calmness and grounding, less incidents of stress, anxiety and depression as well as an overall better sense of connection between their mind and body. These veterans have also found comfort in the fact that they are not alone in their struggles and the bond they share with other members participating in these programs.