Effects of Sensory-Enhanced Yoga on Symptoms of Combat Stress in Deployed Military Personnel
By: Carolyn C. Stoller, Jon H. Greuel, Lucy S. Cimini, Mary S. Fowler, Jane A. Koomar
The authors of this study examined the effects of “sensory-enhanced hatha yoga on symptoms of combat stress in deployed military personnel, compared their anxiety and sensory processing with that of stateside civilians, and identified any correlations between the State–Trait Anxiety Inventory scales and the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile quadrants.” Studies have shown that traditional healthcare treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) such as talk therapies have had limited success. Non-conventional healthcare treatments such as yoga incorporates breath work and movement which increases heart rate and reduces symptoms of PTSD. According to a Walter Reed Medical Center study, yoga nidra reduced the severity of insomnia, depression, anxiety, and fear, all symptoms on the PTSD list.
The authors of this study used a randomized control trial to research the effects of sensory-enhanced hatha yoga on combat stress. Participants had to be deployed to Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, or Iraq. Military personnel were contacted by email and flyers to participate in the study. The study consisted of 35 treatment and 35 control participants. According to the authors, “Of the 70 participants, 20 were in the U.S Army and 50 were in the U.S Air Force; 22 were women and 48 were men.” The treatment participants took part in hatha yoga classes for three weeks, seven times a week, a minimum of nine times during the three week period.
Overall, sensory-enhanced hatha yoga was effective in reducing anxiety. Military personnel “showed significantly greater improvements than control participants on 16 of 18 mental health and quality-of-life factors.” Of the 70 participates, 54 percent showed sleep improvements, 37 percent felt more relaxed, 26 percent felt an increase in physical benefits, and 11 percent reported better frustration and anger management. The results of this study supports the use of sensory-enhanced hatha yoga to control and manage combat stress.
The authors of this study provided strong evidence that sensory-enhanced hatha yoga reduced PTSD and combat stress. However, I would have liked to gain a better understanding of the background of the participants such as, how long they were deployed and what military occupation specialty they held while in deployment.
Stoller, C. C., Greuel, J. H., Cimini, L. S., Fowler, M. S., & Koomar, J. A. (2012). Effects of Sensory-Enhanced Yoga on Symptoms of Combat Stress in Deployed Military Personnel. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66(1), 59–68. doi:10.5014/ajot.2012.001230