Case Studies

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Multiple studies now conclude that Yoga can effectively treat trauma, which according to Dr. Robert Marbut, the worlds foremost expert on homelessness, is the root cause of homelessness.

There is a growing body of research documenting yoga’s psychological benefits. Several recent studies suggest that yoga may help strengthen social attachments, reduce stress and relieve anxiety, depression and insomnia. Researchers are also starting to claim some success in using yoga and yoga-based treatments to help active-duty military and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The evidence is showing that yoga really helps change people at every level,” says Stanford University health psychologist and yoga instructor Kelly McGonigal, PhD. – American Psychological Association

Sat Bir Khalsa, PhD, a neuroscientist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who studies yoga’s effects on depression and insomnia published a comprehensive review of yoga’s use as a therapeutic intervention in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology (Vol. 48, No. 3). The results show that yoga targets unmanaged stress, a main component of chronic disorders such as anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes and insomnia. It does this, he says, by reducing the stress response, which includes the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The practice enhances resilience and improves mind-body awareness, which can help people adjust their behaviors based on the feelings they’re experiencing in their bodies, according to Khalsa.

Yoga is more a effective solution in survivors of trauma than many psychotherapy techniques… empowers them to take effective action

Psychologists are also examining the use of yoga with survivors of trauma and finding it may even be more effective than some psychotherapy techniques. In a pilot study at the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Mass., women with PTSD who took part in eight sessions of a 75-minute Hatha yoga class experienced significantly reduced PTSD symptoms compared with those participating in a dialectical behavior therapy group. The center recently received a grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to conduct a randomized, single-blind, controlled study to further examine whether, as compared with a 10-week health class, yoga improves the frequency and severity of PTSD symptoms and other somatic complaints as well as social and occupational impairments among female trauma survivors.

“When people experience trauma, they may experience not only a sense of emotional disregulation, but also a feeling of being physically immobilized,” says Ritu Sharma, PhD, project coordinator of the center’s yoga program, who only began practicing yoga when she started leading the program. “Body-oriented techniques such as yoga help them increase awareness of sensations in the body, stay more focused on the present moment and hopefully empower them to take effective actions.”


“Yoga reduces depression, anxiety and improves mood.”

University of California, Los Angeles, psychologist David Shapiro, PhD, found that participants who practiced Iyengar yoga three times a week for eight weeks reported significant reductions in depression, anxiety and neurotic symptoms, as well as mood improvements at the end of each class (Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Vol. 4, No. 4). Many of the participants achieved remission and also showed physiological changes, such as heart rate variability, indicative of a greater capacity for emotional regulation, Shapiro says.

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