The practice of yoga has always been recognised for its calming properties.

Now it has been shown to help active army personnel and veterans cope with the potentially debilitating mental health condition post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And even more encouraging is the fact that it may even help prevent it in the first place, say researchers.

Recent studies carried out in the US Air Force showed that the popular exercise routine reduced stress in active soldiers and helped them sleep better at night.

The soldiers, stationed in Iraq, were taught Hatha yogic poses by a nonprofit Boston-based yoga organisation. Others were vets who had fought against the Taliban in Afghanistan. One of the former army personnel taking part said yoga had helped her take better control of her PTSD.

Susan Lynch explained: “I got on my mat that first day, and something happened. I felt a sense of peace that I had not felt since before deploying.

“I [felt that I] could be in charge of this PTSD that was in charge of me for so many years.”

Studies show that around one fifth of soldiers who return from active service abroad could potentially be suffering from PTSD. The research was conducted on 70 US volunteers in October 2009 (although the results have only now been published). The outcome revealed that of those who participated in the programme 54% said their sleep had improved, 37% were more calm or relaxed, 26% felt more physically fit and 11% felt they managed their anger better than before.

Air Force Major Jon Greuel, who led the study, said he saw results in his men through repeated practice to the extent they learned to curb their anxiety levels substantially. They did this through yoga exercises and breathing techniques.

Several yoga organisations in the US offer anxiety management classes free for vets. One organisation, for instance, provides a free 10 week programme of Asana and Nidra yoga coaching as well as meditation. Another offers four free yoga classes in a choice of 500 studios throughout the States. Both organisations are run by former army and navy veterans.

New form of yoga introduced in Britain

Meanwhile, a new yoga trend has hit British shores (quite literally).

Stand up Paddleboard (SUP) yoga first made its appearance in Cornwall earlier this year, where it is currently being taught by a qualified yoga instructor. Advocates of the new exercise routine say that, like other forms of yoga, the practice requires stamina, focus and balance. However, because the yoga is performed on the paddleboard in the ocean it is, of course, entirely dependent on tides and prevailing weather conditions.

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