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Military Populations and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


Project History and Description

Nearly 16 percent of returning troops develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In response, the Department of Defense (DOD) is seeking effective methods of treating PTSD in war veterans and active duty military personnel. In 2008, IEL researcher Dr. Sat Bir Khalsa received a grant from the DOD to study the effects of Kripalu Yoga on military personnel with PTSD.


Project Summary

The IEL has collaborated with trauma and yoga experts to develop a comprehensive yoga program specifically designed to relieve symptoms of trauma. During the 10-week study, veterans will attend two 90-minute Kripalu Yoga classes each week and practice at home every day for 15 minutes. The primary goals are to reduce PTSD severity and symptoms and decrease nervous system arousal.

There are pre-, mid-, post-, and long-term follow-up treatment measures that include questionnaires and interviews that measure PTSD symptoms, subjective well-being, and mood; electrocardiogram readings to monitor heart-rate variability; and 24-hour urine samples to assay the presence of stress hormones. Three months following the study, subjects will complete a long-term follow-up. There are currently 13 veterans actively participating in the study. In order to strengthen recruitment efforts, veteran organizations within the greater Boston area have been contacted to solicit partnership with recruitment. We are pleased to report that many organizations have formally agreed to help with recruitment, including the OIF/OEF Veterans of Massachusetts; Massachusetts Department of Veteran Services; Boston, Brockton, and Lowell Veteran Centers; and the Women Veteran’s Network.


Research Highlights

This study is currently ongoing; we hope to post results soon.


Future Goals

We are currently recruiting another cohort of veterans. Recruitment will continue until we have amassed a total of 26 subjects. Data will be available for review in fall 2010.


Personal Stories and Testimonials

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a complex and debilitating disorder involving dysregulation of the mind, body, and the mind-body interface. Given that yoga is a mind-body practice known to have benefit for all of these elements, and has had significant therapeutic benefit in a number of related disorders, it is likely that yoga will be a useful addition to existing PTSD treatments.
—Sat Bir Khalsa, PhD


Meet the Principal Investigator

Sat Bir S. KhalsaSat Bir S. Khalsa, PhD, is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in the department of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. His projects have focused on the therapeutic applications of yoga in a number of settings, including public schools, and for several conditions, including insomnia, performance anxiety, and PTSD. Dr. Khalsa is one of the most active, skillful, and experienced researchers in the yoga world today.


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