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Last week Keesha Ewers introduced the idea of alternative methods for treating PTSD. Today, we read how the popular art of yoga and meditation can help in overcoming symptoms of posttraumatic stress.
Daily practices that include yoga, focused breathing or pranayama, and dailymeditation are important for changing the way the brain responds to past stress. SPECT (Single photon emission computed tomography) imaging studies show an increased activity in the left basal ganglion in patients suffering from PTSD. Left-sided basal ganglion findings are often seen in people who are chronically irritable or angry. Mood stabilizers, such as Lithium, Tegretol, or Depakote, are often given to people in Western medicine and are sometimes necessary in severe cases until the overactive left basal ganglion has had a chance to calm down and alternative ways of stress modulation can be taught, such as meditation, pranayama, and yoga. It is important to avoid negative lifestyle practices like substance abuse, social isolation, over-work, and self-destructive behaviors.
Yoga postures, or asanas that are good for stress management are the shoulder stand, plow pose, spinal twist and locust pose. The lion pose is also effective for relieving stress. Breathe away stress by practicing pranayama. Prana is the bridge between body, mind, and consciousness; thus prana and the mind are deeply connected. The physical manifestation of prana is breath. Every thought changes the rhythm of the breath, and every breath changes the rhythm of thinking. If you are disturbed, anxious, or fearful, the breath is irregular and interrupted. Again, pranayama is best taught by a qualified teacher, but a simple breathing exercise is 3-part yogic breathing or dirga pranayama, which is good for focusing the attention on the present moment and calming and grounding the mind.
This exercise is often done while seated in a comfortable, cross-legged position, but it is also nice to do while lying on the back, particularly at the beginning of your practice. When you are lying down, you can really feel the breath moving through your body as it makes contact with the floor.
1. Come to lie down on the back with the eyes closed, relaxing the face and the body.
2. Begin by observing the natural inhalation and exhalation of your breath without changing anything. If you find yourself distracted by the activity in your mind, try not to engage in the thoughts. Just notice them and then let them go, bringing your attention back to the inhalation and the exhalation.
3. Then begin to inhale deeply through the nose.
4. On each inhale, fill the belly up with your breath. Expand the belly with air like a balloon.
5. On each exhale, expel all the air out from the belly through your nose. Draw the navel back towards your spine to make sure that the belly is empty of air.
6. Repeat this deep belly breathing for about five breaths.
7. On the next inhale, fill the belly up with air as described above. Then when the belly is full, draw in a little more breath and let that air expand into the rib cage causing the ribs to widen apart.
8. On the exhale, let the air go first from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together, and them from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine.
9. Repeat this deep breathing into the belly and rib cage for about five breaths.
10. On the next inhale, fill the belly and rib cage with air as described above. Then draw in just a little more air and let it fill the upper chest, all the way up to the collarbone, causing the area around the heart (called the heart center in yoga) to expand and rise.
11. On the exhale, let the breath go first from the upper chest, allowing the heart center to sink back down, then from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together. Finally, let the air go from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine.
12. You are practicing three-part breath! Continue at your own pace, eventually coming to let the three parts of the breath happen smoothly without pausing.
13. Continue for about 10 breaths.
Meditation is best learned from a good teacher. Mantra, or a repeated sacred sound, is a good way to calm and focus the mind, preventing it from going back into the past. Yantra, or gazing at a sacred symbol, will also help the mind stay in the present. Go to www.ajayan.com or www.fernlifecenter.com for meditation instruction. Alternatively, an easy meditation can be done by sitting comfortably, facing east, and observing the inflow and outflow of your breath; every time the mind wanders just return to your observation of your breath and how it feels in your nostrils.
An alternative to sitting with the eyes closed meditation is biofeedback. I frequently use the Heart Math techniques with my patients to help them see how their thoughts are affecting the body. Using the EM-Wave personal stress reliever (biofeedback tool) is an efficient way to get immediate feedback as you utilize the evidence based tools outlined in the book, The Heart Math Solution by Doc Childre. All of the wonderful research done by the Heart Math Institute has scientifically validated the understanding of the brain and consciousness that Ayurveda has practiced for centuries through yoga, pranayama, and meditation.
Next week, more alternative techniques.
Keesha Ewers, ARNP, Masters of Ayu. Sc., and host of Healthy YOU! Radio program (www.healthyyouradio.com) has been in the medical field for over 24 years. After being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis-an incurable disease according to Western medicine-she began exploring alternative modalities, which led her to Ayurvedic medicine and a complete cure.
Keesha is a Certified Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) with a specialty in primary care and family practice (FNP). She has a Master’s degree in Ayurveda, extensive functional medicine education, and has traveled the world studying indigenous ways of healing. She is an herbalist, Reikki Master, trained Shaman, Angel Therapist, certified medium (Doreen Virtue), and yoga teacher.
Join Keesha and her guests live every Wednesday morning at 1 pm Pacific time on KKNW 1150 AM on Healthy YOU! Radio or listen to archived shows direct from the website: www.healthyyouradio.com.
The opinions in this post are solely those of the author. To contribute to ‘Professional Perspective’ contact Michele.
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