Controlled Breathing Benefits Autonomic Nervous System

A 2012 report stated that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was a problem for over 20% of veterans who had been at war in Afghanistan or Iraq. Symptoms—including being on guard, feeling jumpy, or being easily startled—may be caused by hyperarousal, thought by scientists to be “at the core” of PTSD. Although standard treatments such as psychotherapy and antidepressants have helped some, studies show controlled breathing is an effective, nonpharmaceutical alternative.

The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied Sudarshan Yoga, which focuses on breathing. Although already known to balance the autonomic nervous system and PTSD in survivors of tsunamis, it hadn’t been tested in a randomized, controlled, longitudinal study. Of the 21 soldiers studied, those who were trained in yogic breathing showed fewer symptoms of PTSD. The authors hope to further the study and encourage doctors to use this treatment as part of a “toolbox of psychological assessments.”

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