Research: Yoga Decreases Anxiety and Improves Sleep in Military Personnel in India

The stress and trauma of being in the military is gaining more attention with each passing day. As a part of their job, military personnel experience stress, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and traumas. In the United States, work is being done to help repair the damage of prolonged stress and trauma for military personnel; many VA Health Centers include yoga and meditation as a part of their treatment offerings. However, there seems to be a great lack of prophylactic yoga. Imagine what would happen if our military, border patrol, police offices, fire fighters, etc., had yoga training BEFORE they started working in the field. This study looks at the potential impact of yoga on military personnel in India.

“Most of the young men that make up the Border Security Force (BSF) in India are from rural areas who are trained and then posted to the borders. They experience social isolation, desolate landscapes, severe anxiety, and poor sleep,” according to researcher Shirley Telles, MBBS, Ph.D. This study looked at the benefits of yoga on self-rated sleep, anxiety, and performance in a vigilance test in a nine-day residential program.

Image of the participants practicing yoga provided by Shirley Telles, MBBS, Ph.D

The 722 young men, with an average age of 30 years, all part of the BSF, participated in this study. They experienced 240 minutes of yoga each day, in the morning and the afternoon, plus lectures on stress reduction and coping with stress based on the Yoga Sūtras of Patanjali. The yoga practice included prayer, chanting, warm ups and loosening practices, 50 minutes of yoga postures, 35 minutes of yoga breathing, and relaxation.

Results

Participants showed a significant increase in scores in the vigilance test, a 20% decrease in anxiety, and improved self-rated sleep. Results showed an increase in the amount of sleep at night, a decrease in the amount of time it took to fall asleep, a reduction in sleeping during the day and waking up in the night. One of the big limitations, according to the researchers, to this study was the lack of a control group. This made it hard to say if the yoga was responsible for the decreases or if it was the change in environment.

This study points to the changes that happen over a relatively short period of time. It is not certain that the yoga was responsible for the changes in this study. The growing body of evidence for the benefits of yoga on decreasing anxiety, increasing sleep, and improving focus supports yoga as a complementary treatment. For those that work full-time, 240 minutes of yoga (four hours) is a lot to fit into a daily schedule. 5 to 10 minutes several times a day is feasible. Remember to practice, it is good for you!

Read the abstract
Read the full study

About the Author

Rose Kress

Rose Kress ERYT-500, C-IATY, YACEP, Director of the LifeForce Yoga Healing Institute, which trains yoga and health professionals internationally. She is the author of two CDs, edits the research newsletter, and directs the training programs for LifeForce Yoga.

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