Therapeutic Yoga and Veterans

Photo via the Wounded Warriors Project
Photo via the Wounded Warriors Project


The words “Department of Defense” and “yoga” aren’t often uttered in the same breath, let alone in a long, conscious, exhale.

But preliminary results from a small study funded by the U.S. Defense Department, and led by a Harvard Medical School assistant professor, found that veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder showed improvement in their symptoms after ten weeks of yoga classes, including meditation and breathing, done twice a week, and fifteen minutes of daily practice at home.

– from



A study was conducted with veterans who have chronic low back pain. Vets participated in a gentle yoga program.

Baseline and follow-up data were available for 33 participants. Participants were VA patients with a mean age of 55 years. They were 21% female, 70% white, 52% married, 68% college graduates, and 44% were retired. Significant improvements were found for pain, depression, energy/fatigue, and the Short Form-12 Mental Health Scale. The number of yoga sessions attended and the frequency of home practice were associated with improved outcomes. Participants appeared highly satisfied with the yoga instructor and moderately satisfied with the ease of participation and health benefits of the yoga program.

Conclusions: Preliminary data suggest that a yoga intervention for VA patients with chronic back pain may improve the health of veterans. However, the limitations of a pre–post study design make conclusions tentative. A larger randomized, controlled trial of the yoga program is planned.

– Source Erik J. Groessl, Kimberly R. Weingart, Kirstin Aschbacher, Laureen Pada, and Sunita Baxi. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. November 2008, 14(9): 1123-1129. doi:10.1089/acm.2008.0020.


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