Breathing is the first and last thing we do in life, but most of us take the breath for granted – unless we are scared, angry or winded.
Some veterans throughout the country are using their breath to overcome wartime trauma. For many, the breath gives back what years of medication alone have not been able to resolve. They are practicing an exercise called Sudarshan Kriya Yoga, also known as SKY, which releases trauma from the body and mind through a series of breathing exercises that also puts people into states of meditation.
A study conducted at Stanford University and published in August in the Journal of Trauma Stress showed that the exercises work. Emma Seppälä, a researcher at Stanford who led the study, says the breathing program, which is part of a project called “Welcome Home Troops,” had an acute impact on the veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who participated.
“We found that there were signs of reductions in anxiety and [post-traumatic stress disorder] immediately after the one-week program,” Seppälä says, adding that those improvements were seen both one month and one year later, even in veterans who did not continue to do the daily breathing practices at home.