By Mrs. Katherine I. Rosario (Army Medicine)April 5, 2013
Twice a week in a quiet, dimly lit room at Lyster Army Health Clinic, Soldiers and retirees gracefully transition from eagle pose to warrior pose during their hour yoga session.
Yoga was recently added as a new treatment for patients seen in the Behavioral Health Clinic to give them another way to relax. The one-hour sessions, Monday and Thursday hold up to 12 people and is led by a certified yoga instructor.
"Yoga is a great way to bring about mind and body awareness and when dealing with behavioral health issues is such a key ingredient," said Belinda Jellison, licensed professional counselor at Lyster.
Yoga aims to teach veterans to take control of their fight-or-flight response and teaches them about body alignment and breathing to aid in calming anxiety.
Yoga can help patients with post-deployment stress issues by helping them calm their mind and focus on balance and breathing.
Experts believe about 11 to 20 percent of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars experience PTSD, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Yoga instructor Christin James takes into consideration modifications for each pose to make Soldiers feel comfortable and to help those healing from an injury.
"I wanted to help people with traumatic brain injuries and PTSD and felt that I could influence people with yoga and the calming effects that go along with it," James said. "I wanted to help them find a calm and serene way to deal with their injuries."
The yoga practiced at Lyster is not considered strict and there is no meditation, breathing or chanting involved, she said.
"You don't need to be a yoga guru to attend this class. It's a safe environment that can help relax you and put you on the right path for the rest of day or week," James said.
Karen Vanloon, a veteran, takes the class each week as a stress reliever.
"The instructor explains all the moves and can help modify them for you," she said. "It's very relaxing. I wish I'd done this while on active duty."
Patients interested in joining the yoga class can speak with their behavioral health provider or call the clinic for more information.