The U.S. military is using yoga as a tool to help soldiers manage stress and veterans confront the many challenges waiting for them when they return home from war zones.
The new Mind Fitness Training program being tested in the military has integrated yoga, breathing classes and meditation alongside other more traditional training regimes to keep soldiers calm and mentally fit and to reduce depression and use of alcohol and drugs.
Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs researchers have found that yoga's stretching, breathing techniques and meditation can help calm the part of the brain that the stresses of war kicks into a state of hyper-arousal.
Four years ago, a small group of Marine reservists training for deployment to Iraq participated in the M-Fit pilot program, taking an eight-week mindfulness course and meditating for an average of 12 minutes a day.
A study of those Marines subsequently published in the research journal Emotions found that they slept better, had improved athletic performance and scored higher on emotional and cognitive evaluations than Marines who did not participate in the program, which centers on training the mind to focus on the current moment and to be aware of one’s physical state.
There's a growing consensus among military doctors, researchers, and veterans themselves, that conventional treatments aren't always enough to help vets navigate the consequences of PTSD -- from unemployment and domestic violence to substance abuse, anxiety, and suicide.
The suicide rate of active service members has skyrocketed in the last few years. In 2012, the U.S. military averaged one suicide every single day, with service members were — shockingly — more likely to commit suicide than be killed on the battlefield.
Yoga promotes relaxation, mental calm, productivity and restraint from substances.
“What a coincidence–so does faith! Unfortunately, the military seems intent on driving religion out and replacing it with wacky substitutes,” Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, a right-wing Christian think tank that has been classified as a hate group, said on his morning radio program. “They’ve added atheist chaplains, Wiccan worship centers, and now, meditation classes. But none of them are as effective or as constructive as a personal relationship with God. Unfortunately, though, it’s mind over what matters–and that’s faith.”
New programs like the Mind Fitness Training program are, in part, a non-religious response to these soaring suicide rates and the recognition that, for active service members, mental health and wellbeing is just as important as physical training.
So far, service members appear to appreciate the program. Unfortunately, Perkins is devoted to espousing his twisted religious doctrine, even if it threatens the health and safety of U.S. service members. How …. godly of him.