Rays of Hope: Yoga for PTSD and Mindfulness for Better Adult Health

Two recently published research papers make a compelling case for the efficacy of Yoga for healing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and mindfulness for helping overcome childhood adversity. Leading trauma researcher Bessel van der Kolk concludes "Yoga significantly reduced PTSD symptomatology." And Whitaker concludes "Across a range of exposures to ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), greater dispositional mindfulness was associated with fewer health conditions, better health behavior, and better HRQOL (Health Related Quality Of Life)."

Trauma is endemic in our society, happening to so many of us and to those around us. For example, Niroga serves in alternative high schools where 98% of the youth met diagnostic criteria for PTSD! As researchers and clinicians are looking for optimal solutions to healing trauma, dynamic mindfulness (yoga poses, breath regulation and meditation) is being validated by neuroscience, trauma research and somatic psychology.

Comparing two groups of women with treatment-resistant PTSD, with one receiving yoga and the other receiving supportive health education, Bessel van der Kolk found that while initial improvement was noted in both groups, the improvements were maintained in the yoga group while the control group relapsed after its initial improvement.

Whitaker has demonstrated that greater levels of mindfulness were associated with indicators of better health in adults, mitigating the effects of their childhood adversity and demonstrating the power and potential of neuroplasticity, the capacity of our brains to be rewired in healthy ways through the regular practice of mindfulness.

These two studies are powerful indicators of the transformative impact of dynamic mindfulness practices.  We are seeing complementary data in our research of our programs in schools.