Love A Veteran? Learn How The Power Of Breath Is Healing Post-War Trauma


By Kristine Crane/US News

Vet Breath Healing-compressed

Breathing is the first and last thing we do in life, but most of us take the breath for granted – unless we are scared, angry or winded. Some veterans throughout the country are using their breath to overcome wartime trauma. For many, the breath gives back what years of medication alone have not been able to resolve. They are practicing an exercise called Sudarshan Kriya Yoga, also known as SKY, which releases trauma from the body and mind through a series of breathing exercises that also puts people into states of meditation.  A study conducted at Stanford University and published in August in the Journal of Trauma Stress showed that the exercises work. Emma Seppälä, a researcher at Stanford who led the study, says the breathing program, which is part of a project called “Welcome Home Troops,” had an acute impact on the veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who participated. “We found that there were signs of reductions in anxiety and [post-traumatic stress disorder] immediately after the one-week program,” Seppälä says, adding that those improvements were seen both one month and one year later, even in veterans who did not continue to do the daily breathing practices at home.

Deep In the Trenches – of Healing

Robert Carter, a manager for the tactical combat casualty care research program at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research in San Antonio, Texas, says the course helped him overcome insomnia and hyper-vigilance related to his eight-month deployment in Afghanistan, where rocket-repelled grenades – “flying bombs essentially” – were daily occurrences. “I had an immediate calming of the mind,” Carter says, adding, “I slept like a baby.” The breathing exercises also helped him become more aware of his own body, he adds. “In the end, I felt a lot of lightness, less tension.” Carter continued doing the breathing exercises on his own, and within months, his attention span improved. After one year of regularly practicing the breathing exercises, he also was cured of Crohn’s disease. “These conditions are stress-related,” he says. “I did something that clearly reduced my stress levels and contributed to the healing process.” His blood pressure and cholesterol also stabilized.

John Osborne, ​national director of the Welcome Home Troops Project, which is part of a nonprofit organization called the International Association for Human Values, says the breathing practices based on ancient Vedic tradition ​allow the body to let go of trauma and remain present. That trauma often involves what Osborne calls “moral injury” – when serving veterans were told to perform tasks they​ didn’t want to do. “One guy was locked in a fetal position after the Kriya session​. Turns out he had been a convoy driver who ran over a 5-year-old kid,” Osborne says. “By the end of the course, what happens to them has not changed. But their relationship to it has.” Osborne adds that even if people are unable to forgive themselves, they can at least be in the present moment and move on with their lives. Seppälä says she consistently hears comments like, “I feel like I’m alive again.” “This is the person they were before the war,” she says.

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6 Reader Comments

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  1.' Julia Mactaggart says:

    I believe this

  2.' Sarah Lembka Hunt says:

    I think this could be helpful to many including me.

  3.' Ceehny Adejmnor says:

    Peter Mondejar

  4.' Louis Làgrange says:

    Vader het Sy asem in Adam geblaas om in hom en sy nasate te soon. Christus het sy snsem oor Sy uitverkore Apostels geblaas om Sy Saad in hulle tot n wedergeboorte op te wek. As ons Sy uitverkorenes in die amp van Volksleraar kies en die leede van Sy Liggaam uit hulle sif volgens die maat van geloofssekerheid (faith) wat God gee, sal daar hemelse gesag heers. Hulle sal Sy Gees Adem.

  5.' bharath says:

    Sudharshan Kriya is breathing exercise invented by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who is also the founder of Art of Living

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