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Sudarshan Kriya Yoga can Help War Veterans Cope with PTSD Symptoms

Sep 12, 2014 07:01 AM EDT

A breathing-based meditation practice called Sudarshan Kriya Yoga can help war veterans cope with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, a new study has found.

According to a 2012 report by RAND Corp, more than 20 percent of war veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. Common symptoms of the mental disorder include intrusive memories, anxiety, and changes in personality. Also, individuals suffering from PTSD can become "jumpy" or get easily startled - a behavior known as hyperarousal.

The scientists believe that hyperarousal is the core problem behind PTSD. The body's autonomic nervous system controls breathing and heart rate and regulates one's ability to respond to environmental stimuli. After years of serving in war zones, veterans become wary of seemingly harmless things when they come back home.

The researchers focused on Sudarshan Kriya Yoga in the study because this ancient breathing technique is known to affect autonomic nervous system. Related studies have shown that the technique is effective in lowering PTSD in tsunami survivors.

The study included 21 soldiers; of which 11 were taught the yogic technique, while 10 weren't given any training.

The subjects then underwent several tests that assessed eye-blink startle magnitude and respiration rates in response to noise. Eye-blink and breathing are controlled by autonomic nervous system. These two measurements reflect how well a person controls emotions.

"This was a preliminary attempt to begin to gather some information on whether this practice of yogic breathing actually reduces symptoms of PTSD," said Richard J. Davidson, founder of CIHM and one of the authors of the study, according to a news release. "Secondly, we wanted to find out whether the reduction in symptoms was associated with biological measures that may be important in hyperarousal."

The researchers found that people who used yogic breathing technique had reduction in anxiety levels, respiration rates and had fewer symptoms of PTSD.

The study is published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress and is supported by Disabled Veterans of America Charitable Service Trust and others. 

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