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 post-traumatic stress disorder, and am on my way out of the Army and into 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 “Research has been done on yoga for several conditions that involve pain. Studies of yoga for low-back pain and neck pain have had promising results, and yoga is among the options that the American College of Physicians recommends for first-line treatment of chronic low-back pain.”
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 a form of exercise, has been shown to promote subjective well-being and mood as well as adds to the desire to stop smoke [sic]”.
Whole treatment modalities owe their existence to yoga: Sonia Kumar of the University of Sydney notes that “In the 1970s a psychiatrist, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, demonstrated reproducible treatment for intractable back pain with a combination of yoga and meditation. Dr. Kabat-Zinn then went on to develop 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.