You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Kevlar for the Mind: MMA, yoga may offer benefits as PTSD treatment

Aug. 14, 2013 - 03:41PM   |  
  • Filed Under

The military spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on mental health research and care. Although advances in medications and talk therapies for often disabling and chronic psychiatric conditions are a sound investment, other less expensive and non-traditional alternatives can provide substantial dividends.

Mixed Martial Arts, generally referred to simply as MMA, may be one of them. A full-contact sport incorporating various forms of wrestling and striking, MMA has become one of the hottest sports today. It has also found an accepting home within the military ranks ó understandable considering the highly competitive and aggressive nature of the sport. Anecdotal reports from both veterans and MMA athletes highlight the sportís positive benefits for a variety of psychological conditions, including post-traumatic stress and depression. But itís unclear exactly why the sport is successful in alleviating the emotional distress associated with combat.

Some believe itís related to increases in self-esteem, self-worth and social connectedness. Others attribute it to the opportunity to experience an emotional catharsis through physical means. Regardless of why it works, the potential for helping countless veterans seems real. On the other side of the spectrum, yoga has been shown to help troops recover from a variety of psychological problems, particularly PTSD.

Yoga is the ancient practice that combines controlled breathing, meditation, and different bodily postures for the purpose of inducing a sense of spiritual, mental, and physical well-being.

Itís believed that yoga combats psychological distress by bringing a personís flight-or-flight response back into balance. That response is the delicate system in the body that prepares you to either fight or run when faced with a threat, which can become disrupted in those with PTSD.

Yoga also helps those suffering from PTSD fend off the distressing thoughts associated with the trauma. Disturbing memories are among the hallmark symptoms of PTSD. Through meditation and relaxation, a person with PTSD can redirect his thoughts and prevent the negative emotions from occurring.

The same may be true for nightmares, another common symptom of the disorder. Practicing meditation and other relaxation exercises before bed may keep these nighttime intruders away. Itís important to fund research and clinical practice in traditional methods, such as medication and talk therapy.

However, investing in new and innovative ways of treating the psychological problems faced by so many veterans is crucial.

Non-traditional methods like Mixed Martial Arts and yoga should be given their due attention.

Bret A. Moore is a board-certified clinical psychologist who served two tours in Iraq. Email Names and identifying details will be kept confidential. This column is for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey specific psychological or medical guidance. Readers should see a mental health professional or physician for mental health problems.

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In OFFduty

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.

This Week's Air Force Times

This Week's Air Force Times

CrossFit vs. unit PT
Troops will do the training plans in a $2.5 million study

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook