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Therapeutic Trauma-informed Yoga and PTSD
Yoga-based interventions have been used to address a wide range of clinical issues, including depression, anxiety, eating disorder, and pain-related disabilities (Büssing, Ostermann, Lüdtke, & Michalsen, 2012; Cramer, Lauche, Langhorst, & Dobos, 2013; Rain, Fyfe-Johnson, Breuner, & Brown, 2010; Streeter et al., 2010). In recent years, research on yogic interventions has targeted groups with high levels of stress and trauma, such as military and prisoner populations (Ambhore & Joshi, 2009; Bilderbeck, Farias, Brazil, Jakobowitz, & Wikholm, 2013; Harner, Hanlon, & Garfinkel, 2010; Stoller, Greuel, Cimini, Fowler, & Koomar, 2012).
With regard to trauma, yogic interventions were found to decrease symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in deployed military personnel (Stoller et al., 2012). Along with the decrease in symptoms, researchers also found a decrease in both state and trait anxiety, as measured by the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), and an increase in quality of life and ability to function in everyday activities (Stoller et al., 2012).
Shanthi Project Research Outcomes
From its inception, Shanthi Project has been measuring pre- and post-yoga and mindfulness outcomes. We consistently see a statistically significant decrease in stress, anxiety, impulsivity and anxiety, and increase in self-control, energy, and overall feeling of well-being in our juvenile offender and prison inmate populations. Between 2012 and 2014, according to Northampton County Corrections, recidivism was drastically reduced among the 110 male and female inmates who attended therapeutic yoga classes while serving time in Northampton County Prison’s Drug & Alcohol Rehab program. The overall recidivism rate for the unit was 51 percent, while the recidivism rate for those participating in yoga was 19 percent. These results are not surprising. Most incarcerated individuals have experienced emotional and physical trauma throughout their lives, and not only does yoga help trauma survivors better cope with life’s stresses, studies show that yoga actually reverses the effects that trauma has on the brain.
Children and Trauma
The National Council for Behavioral Health calls adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) the “hidden epidemic.” The social, medical, and economic consequences of ACEs, including poor academic performance and early high school dropout, as well as contact with the Juvenile Justice Court system, are well established. Trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness practices help to rebalance the nervous system and enhance brain functioning to ease symptoms of post-traumatic stress and the daily stressors of life. This results in better concentration, decision-making, and self-control. The number of children with neurobehavioral deficits (e.g., fetal toxin syndrome, developmental delays caused by trauma, autism spectrum, ADD/ADHD) continues to increase.
Mindfulness-based strategies are accessible to the great majority of adults and students, including most special needs children. A direct impact of this evidence-based program is demonstrated in a decrease in school disciplinary actions, increase in academic performance, and increase in overall well being in family, school, and social situations.