Integrative Restoration—Yoga Nidra and Veterans with PTSD
Add this to yoga’s broad list of applications: healing veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Integrative Restoration (iRest)—a specialized type of yoga based on the ancient science of Yoga Nidra—is being successfully used to treat soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital. iRest was developed by yoga expert Richard Miller, PhD, and is currently being used by members of the armed forces as a way of understanding, coping with, and healing the psychological and physical wounds that confront soldiers and veterans on a daily basis. iRest can help patients understand and treat such PTSD symptoms as anger, hypersensitivity, insomnia, trauma, stress, chronic pain, physical injury, over-medication, aversion to crowds (agoraphobia), and chemical dependency. iRest is a form of deep relaxation, self-inquiry and meditation.
Through a ten-step process involving practices of relaxation, breathing and emotional healing, it helps practitioners to reclaim and experience the joy in life, as well as creating a sense of overall well-being. The reason iRest works so well, its proponents claim, is because it focuses on “welcoming” your experiences instead of trying to deny or repress them. “Welcoming may sound [overly] simple or out-of-place, but it actually forms the first step to understanding and resolving the damaging issues and helps identify the symptoms that arise from stress and trauma,” the iRest website says. “Welcoming brings confusing issues into focus so that healing can occur.” In 2006, the U.S. Department of Defense conducted research on the effects of iRest on soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Following the study, they integrated iRest into Walter Reed’s weekly treatment programs, and, shortly after, iRest classes were established at veteran’s facilities in Miami, Kentucky, Ohio, Chicago and Washington, DC.
The iRest website lists dozens of testimonials from people whose lives have been positively affection by the program. Says one veteran in Washington, DC: “In an all-out effort to end my deep depression, I entered the [rehabilitation] program at the DC Medical Center…When I entered a Yoga Therapy session for the first time, I knew that it would be something special. However, I was not aware that it would be something so life changing. After the first session, I was [so] relaxed that it lasted until the next session…I have been able to tolerate my chronic pain and relieve my depression. After years of anxiety and depression, I have been able to go to school, finish my courses and return to work.” A new PBS documentary, Exalted Warrior, explores yoga treatment options for veterans: