Everyone has bad days. When things aren’t going my way, I make time to go to the studio to practice. Despite challenges that cause me to feel overwhelmed or upset, when I focus my mind and move my body through yoga, I often feel grounded again. However, what if something happens that is more serious than a bad day? Can yoga still help?
When people face challenges that are deeply upsetting or dangerous – such as abuse, assault, military combat or natural disasters – they may experience trauma. Not everyone who experiences trauma has a lasting effect from it. However, it can be harmful to one’s mental health. Many people have problems with anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other mental health issues related to a traumatic event. It’s not just a few people who are affected: one study found that 94% of people who were getting mental health treatments at an urban clinic had experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime (Switzer et al., 1999).
Can yoga help to support your mental health if you have experienced trauma? Researchers Macy, Jones, Graham, and Roach looked at reviews of 185 different studies on yoga and trauma (2016). They found that the consensus of research on the topic at this time is that yoga can provide some benefit for people dealing with anxiety, depression, PTSD and the effects of trauma. Yoga can be flexible, low-risk and affordable. It makes a great addition to other treatments, like therapy and medication, for the psychological distress that trauma can cause.
However, the research has limitations. With so many styles of yoga out there (e.g. flow, power, alignment, restorative, etc.), it is hard to compare the results of studies using different styles. Many studies on the effects of yoga are more basic – they may use smaller groups of people, last a short time, or not have a control group (people who don’t do yoga as a group to compare to). I hope that future studies can address these problems; that way, people can get the information they need to choose to do the yoga that is most helpful for their situation.
For more information about the above mentioned study click here.
Mental Health Spotlight provided by Katie Pizziketti in collaboration with the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities.
The Temple University Collaborative receives funding from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number #90RT5021-02-00). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This article does not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.