Saturday, October 04, 2014

Breathing, Meditation, and Helping PTSD

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Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, working in Richard Davidson's lab, have found that Sudarshan Kriya Yoga can help reduce the symptoms of PTSD and allow them to better manage the condition.

The original article is paywalled at the Journal of Traumatic Stress, so here is a summary from the British Psychological Society, followed the abstract of the research article.

Breathing, Meditation, and Helping PTSD

BPS News | 18/09/2014
Servicemen and women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) could benefit from trying breathing-based meditation, a new study suggests.

Research by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, found that a practice known as Sudarshan Kriya Yoga can help sufferers better manage the condition.

This, it stated, is because this form of breathing directly affects the autonomic nervous system, which means it can have an effect on symptoms of PTSD such as hyperarousal - when a person constantly feels on guard and jumpy.

Richard Davidson, one of the authors of the study, is keen for additional research to be carried out, so physicians could eventually be able to prescribe treatment based on an individual's "cognitive and emotional style".

"Right now, a large fraction of individuals who are given any one type of therapy are not improving on that therapy," he observed.

Mr Davidson said this means the only way to improve the situation is to determine "which kinds of people will benefit most from different types of treatments"

Our breathing is radically affected by how we are feeling, e.g. short breaths with anger, long sighs with sadness etc, obviously affecting our oxygen supplies to the body and so maybe exacerbating our feelings even more. I would have thought that any regular deep breathing technique would be useful in such situations. However, the breathing technique in this study has previously been found to help with different physical ailments as well as mental health, even DNA and gene expression. It is therefore no surprise that it was found to benefit symptoms of PTSD. As the authors suggest, however, different approaches or even breathing techniques may be more helpful for different individuals. (The sudarshan kriya technique is widely used in India and worldwide through the endeavours of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his organisation, The Art of Living).


Chartered Psychologist Dr Kate Sparks comments:
"Our breathing is radically affected by how we are feeling - for example, short breaths with anger, long sighs with sadness - obviously affecting our oxygen supplies to the body and so maybe exacerbating our feelings even more.

"I would have thought that any regular deep breathing technique would be useful in such situations. However, the breathing technique in this study has previously been found to help with different physical ailments as well as mental health, even DNA and gene expression. It is therefore no surprise that it was found to benefit symptoms of PTSD.

"As the authors suggest, however, different approaches or even breathing techniques may be more helpful for different individuals. The sudarshan kriya technique is widely used in India and worldwide through the endeavours of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his organisation, The Art of Living."
* * * * *

Full Citation:
Emma M. Seppälä, EM, Nitschke, JB, Tudorascu, DL, Hayes, A, Goldstein, MR, Nguyen, DTH, Perlman, D, and Davidson, RJ. (2014, Aug 26). Breathing-Based Meditation Decreases Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in U.S. Military Veterans: A Randomized Controlled Longitudinal Study. Journal of Traumatic Stress; 27(4): 397–405. DOI: 10.1002/jts.21936

Breathing-Based Meditation Decreases Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in U.S. Military Veterans: A Randomized Controlled Longitudinal Study


Emma M. Seppälä1, Jack B. Nitschke, Dana L. Tudorascu, Andrea Hayes, Michael R. Goldstein, Dong T. H. Nguyen, David Perlman, and Richard J. Davidson

Abstract

Given the limited success of conventional treatments for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), investigations of alternative approaches are warranted. We examined the effects of a breathing-based meditation intervention, Sudarshan Kriya yoga, on PTSD outcome variables in U.S. male veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan war. We randomly assigned 21 veterans to an active (n = 11) or waitlist control (n = 10) group. Laboratory measures of eye-blink startle and respiration rate were obtained before and after the intervention, as were self-report symptom measures; the latter were also obtained 1 month and 1 year later. The active group showed reductions in PTSD scores, d = 1.16, 95% CI [0.20, 2.04], anxiety symptoms, and respiration rate, but the control group did not. Reductions in startle correlated with reductions in hyperarousal symptoms immediately postintervention (r = .93, p < .001) and at 1-year follow-up (r = .77, p = .025). This longitudinal intervention study suggests there may be clinical utility for Sudarshan Kriya yoga for PTSD.
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