5 Reasons Military Veterans Should Practice Yoga

Alexis Kristan
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We can all agree that yoga is becoming more mainstream. You’d be hard pressed to find a group of people who don’t practice yoga or at least someone who knows someone who does.
 
Professional boxers? Yep. Football players? Yep. CrossFit athletes? Yep. Cancer Patients? Yep. Kids? Yep. Politicians? Yep. Celebrities? Hell yeah.
 
There is, however, one group of individuals rolling out their mats that may surprise you.
 
More active duty military and military veterans are practicing yoga than ever before. In fact, According to the Integrative Restoration Institute, Yoga Nidra was endorsed by the US Army Surgeon General and Defense Centers of Excellence as a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for active duty military members and veterans.
 
Here are 5 reasons why veterans should practice yoga:
 

1. Healthy Alternative to Conventional Drugs and Therapy

Many veterans returning to civilian life find themselves coping with anxiety and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Conventional counseling therapies and anti-anxiety medications may not be the solution for everyone. Since yoga cultivates a calm mind and helps reduce stress and tension both physically and mentally, it is now considered a legitimate holistic alternative to conventional treatments.
 

2. Calms the Nervous System

PTSD and other anxiety-related disorders are often caused by the nervous system “freezing.” Anxiety causes repeated reactions in both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, which can cause everything from nightmares to emotional detachment. The “go with the flow” nature of yoga is a stark contrast to the military’s “take orders” mentality. The release and relaxation that yoga provides can “unfreeze” the nervous system and facilitate a much-needed release.
 

3. Helps with Physical Trauma

In addition to being beneficial to the mental and emotional traumas that veterans may suffer, yoga can also be beneficial to those living with physical injuries. Yoga is often far less intense than most “stress relieving” exercises. Rather than relying on physical exhaustion, yoga focuses on mindfulness. This means that the pace and intensity are low enough that poses can be modified for any body and most injuries.
 

 

4. Strengthens the Mind-Body Connection

Since yoga asks practitioners to focus on the present moment, this encourages a stronger mind and body connection. Feeling as though they are more in control of their body and thoughts helps soldiers regain a sense of empowerment and safety. Yoga should be approached with patience and a certain degree of discipline, which helps to retrain and calm veterans’ minds.
 

5. Creates a Sense of Community

One of the most important things for veterans, and for human beings in general, is to find a group of people or a community who support and understand them. Practicing yoga with other veterans can be a great opportunity to bond and share a calm – and even spiritual – connection. The sense of community that practicing yoga creates is valuable for everyone, especially active duty or veterans who need to feel supported.
 

As more and more of the world begins to recognize and reap the benefits of a regular yoga practice, hopefully you or a veteran in your life can also explore all of it’s healing and community forging attributes.
 

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Alexis Kristan

Lexi is a college student currently studying Psychology at Colorado State University Pueblo. She is passionate about yoga as well as hunting and conservation. Her other interests include: cuddling the family pug, reading classic literature, collecting vinyl records, working cattle at the family ranch, and anything outdoors. You can find her on her blog: welldoneyoga.com

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