Tag Archives: PTSD

How Trauma Affects Your Body & Mind

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“If you have experienced a trauma it can be like having stared directly at the sun. Even after you look away the glare seems everywhere and prevents you from seeing things clearly. It can keep you from even opening your eyes at all for a while…”

Rosenbloom & William, 1999, p.6

The Headington Institute in Los Angeles offers this Self-Study Unit to help people understand the physical effects of trauma in the body.  This unit covers a wide range of topics and is for humanitarian workers. However, anyone interested or experiencing trauma can read this and gain more understanding.


When you experience a dangerous or traumatic event, a series of approximately 1,500 biochemical reactions are triggered within your body. These reactions are designed to help you handle a threat by preparing you either to fight or run away. The general pattern is as follows:

  • Your recognition of threat and danger stimulates all your various stress-response pathways.  Adrenaline  and several endocrine hormones are released into your bloodstream.

  • Increased glucocorticoids stimulate the hippocampus (which is responsible for converting sensory experience into enduring memory). This allows the hippocampus to create vivid memories of the event.

  • Some other effects of increased adrenaline and other endocrine hormones in combination include:

    • Increased cortisol production. Cortisol is a steroid that counters pain and inflammation and keeps blood-sugar at a certain level.

    • Increased blood sugar. This blood sugar is used to feed your brain and muscles.

    • Increased heart rate. Blood is pumped more quickly around your body.

    • Changes in blood-flow. Arterial blood pressure increases. Blood is diverted away from your hands, feet and stomach, and towards your brain and major muscle groups. This helps the brain assess the threat and prepares the muscles for action.

    • Increased platelet levels. More platelets in your bloodstream help your blood to clot better and faster if you are physically injured.

    • Increased endorphin levels. Endorphins help to dull any pain you might experience. This helps you ignore pain long enough to act in ways that might help you survive.

LA Times: Healing Sgt Warren

“He isn’t sure he will return for another session with Schulte. Then he thinks: What’s the alternative? Pills, pot, blackout drinking. A lifetime of hiding in his darkened apartment?”

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 9.17.28 AMAn engrossing, but difficult story well done by Christopher Goffard in the LA Times about the on-going healing process of Sgt Jonathan Warren. Though the process of exposure therapy under the guidance of a skilled therapist at the VA, Warren recounts his experience. What takes place seems akin to reframing –like a film under scrutiny, where forgotten details come to light to create a new understanding. Different therapies work for different people. This is his story, and his experience as he heals.

Read: Healing Sgt. Warren

Watch the video

Marine Corps Times: Yoga, MMA combined, “Kevlar” for The Brain

Chemical: Kevlar

Our comment;  We’d love more information, and since the author is a board certified psychologist who served 2 tours in Iraq, perhaps he’ll be able to get some studies funded, and discover why these two modalities when combined seem to work. What’s the routine? How long? What’s the longterm outcome? We’re hopeful more research will be done!

From the Marine Corps Times  

“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.”

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Read:  for the Mind: MMA, Yoga May Offer Benefits As PTSD Treatment  by Bret A. Moore

Innovative Yoga Teacher Training Puts Them In A Soldier’s Shoes

Sign up now for the Oct. 19 class in Auburn NH
Sign up now for the Oct. 19 class in Auburn NH

Fire a weapon, crawl through an obstacle course, work with veterans with combat injuries. Experience a tiny bit of the world a combat veteran has gone through. This is open to all certified yoga teachers who aren’t afraid of a challenge, and want to gain a hands-on experience in a safe environment  for a one-day workshop in New Hampshire.  

Sign Up now for the October 19 course in Auburn NH.

The Combat Connection presents Yoga For Vets 101 a one day/12 hour intensive training course for yoga teachers with no military experience who want to teach combat vets,in a clinical or studio environment.  Becky Blais and Paul Zipes, both military veterans and certified yoga teachers  will teach this one day/12 hour course designed to immerse all certified yoga  teachers in a safe, supportive and high intensity environment.”

This is an experiential boot camp for certified yoga teachers that will give them a hands-on experience into the world of a combat veteran. What does a weapon feel like?  What have they heard? Learn a proven methodology of what works for veterans Boost your confidence and skill set by receiving information on military protocol, and terminology.  Learn the 3 most common injuries of combat veterans, and what’s hands “off” and hands “on” when teaching. Paul and Becky have thoughtfully put this workshop together…. don’t miss it!

Free: Learn best practices for teaching yoga to veterans

539115_10201242325953755_1118876789_nConnected Warriors has turned out to be the sprinting leader in helping certified yoga teachers gain the skill set to learn the best practices for teaching yoga for veterans.  Thanks to an energetic and visionary group of founding veterans,  board of directors and supporters, they fundraise enough to be able to offer this  1-day course and related support FREE to certified yoga teachers. Now they’re coming west to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. 

Led by a team of Vietnam veterans, along with founder Judy Weaver, Connected Warriors has inspired many teachers to throw open their doors in their communities to offer free classes for veterans. The following is their upcoming schedule for free teacher trainings: 



Oct. 11th,”SAY OM YOGA” Austin, Texas, www.sayomsouthaustin.com  6:15pm-10:15pm


Oct. 12th, “DIVINE CENTER of YOGA” Southlake, Texas. www.divinecenterofyoga.com 5-9PM


Oct. 13th, “YOGA CROSSROADS” Placitas, New Mexico, www.Yogacrossroads.com 1-5:30PM


Oct. 15th, “THE YOGA CONNECTION” Tucson, Arizona, www.yogaconnection.org 1:30-3:30PM


Oct. 17th, “YOGA OCEANSIDE”, Oceanside, Ca. Haunanichong@gmail.com 12:30-4:30PM


Oct. 18th, “FOUR SEASONS YOGA” San Diego, Ca. Haunanichong@gmail.com 1:30-5:30PM


Oct. 19th, “TWO HEARTS YOGA”, Sherman Oaks, Ca. info@yogawithmischa.com 1-5:00PM


Oct. 23rd, “YOGA TREE POTERO”, San Francisco Ca. judy@connectedwarriors.org 1:30-5:30P


RANDY HAMLIN,                                



Please watch this video to learn more about this terrific project. Taught by JUDY WEAVER, National Director of Education and follow Connected Warriors Yoga on Facebook!

WarVet Leans on the Dalai Lama: On Laughing With Others

“Only affection produces authentic friends.” –The Dalai Lama

We sat outside a barn in Oregon, the sound of sheep and goats in the background, happy to see on another. I’d traveled north to Oregon in need of a change of scenery, and also to touch base with friends. I felt blessed that he’d chosen to drive a few hours to visit with me.

20130625-212109.jpgThis friend was an old friend/new friend. I call him that because this was the first time he and I had ever met. While he had met my husband, he and I had only carried on a conversation for 4 years over through blogs, emails and phone calls. We had mutual acquaintances, made through the experience of war. This long awaited meeting was special.

I’d followed him through is many missions overseas to rough and dangerous territory. He was a good man, pressed to do dangerous risky work, among people who needed and wanted him there, and others who only wanted to kill him. His point of view always gave me a deeper perspective in trying to understand the bigger picture of things in Afghanistan. Gradually, his role came to an end, and he returned home. But here, something ominous awaited him in the form of PTSD. We knew he was in trouble because he admitted as much to us via emails and phone calls.

To say many of us were worried is an understatement. But we all loved and believed in him, and hoped a change would come about.

It did. And what it took was a move, and being in a place that didn’t resemble the arid landscape of Afghanistan, where nature and beauty came together and most of all –where he was needed and could find a new a new purpose. He’s finding a balance of things. We talked about his life as it is now, and he told me that prayer works a lot, as does reading the Dalai Lama.  He described something that the Dalai Lama said, about the difference between laughing with people and at them.

1337256000000.cachedMy friend said this wasn’t an easy thing for him to do –he used to be a deadly mimic. But all the while, in doing so, it was a way for him to deflect what he was really feeling, and also to ignore the feelings and humanity of the other person. So while it’s not easy, it’s what he’s practicing now as he makes his way through civilian life.

 You have to take care of others, of their well-being, by helping them and serving them, to have even more friends and make more smiles blossom. -The Dalai Lama

We talked about how it wasn’t that different from the years when he was in command of so many young men and women. There was  discipline, and he served them well by extending patience and order. He is still very much a warrior with the people skills acquired through service, now burnished with the wisdom of the Dalai Lama. He still has PTSD, he still struggles with sleep, but rather than edging into a pit of despair, he has resources now to help him cope.

We ended our meeting as the late afternoon set in. He left to continue on this fruitful path, one that teaches him compassion through the ability to laugh with others.

Read: “Why I Laugh”  by the Dalai Lama

How Yoga Helps Vets – A Response from a 23yr Air Force Veteran & Yogi

Dear Mystery Veteran,

My name is MSgt Chris Eder…and I’m just shy of 23 years active duty service to THE United States of America as a Combat Correspondent in the Air Force.  Since 9/11, I have found myself in some interesting places.  Sometimes by myself, sometimes with people I had never met, and sometimes with people who I love(d) as a brother or a sister.  I want to make it perfectly clear that anything I say is not meant to “one-up you,” try to be better than you, or try to compare to you.  Rather, I want to provide perspective and insight as we both wear combat boots and serve as warriors & protectors of the USA!

I know exactly how it feels not to sleep.  For many years, I just told people I was a “morning” person.  That was maybe less than half true…as I really do enjoy being up before anyone else.  Hot showers, fresh coffee, etc.  But the truth was…I couldn’t sleep.  I used to spend as many hours as possible working.  People thought it was because I was a hard worker.  OK…they were right!  However, as I have learned over the years…working hard is also an unhealthy coping mechanism.  Avoidance!  It is hard to tell something is wrong when you continue to out-perform everyone!

Al Rasheed 1In 2003, I found myself traveling throughout Iraq by any means possible.  I was equipped with a 9mm, no ammunition, a flak vest I think my dad wore in Vietnam, and my camera gear. For a short period of time, I called the Al Rasheed Hotel home.  That is until Oct 26, 2003 when insurgents attacked it with 68mm and 88mm rockets.  Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was in the hotel that night. Check the story out, Sec Wolfowitz is wearing my flak vest! Things got worse after my second deployment to Baghdad during the “Surge of Operations.”  Damn…the insurgents had our location dialed in!  20+ attacks a day seemed “normal” for so long.

So…why yoga?  Hell…why not?  What is the worst thing that can happen?  I started yoga back in 1999 because of a pinched sciatic nerve and a diagnosis of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.  I instantly was hooked! During my 2007 deployment to Iraq, I was actually teaching 5-6 classes a week.  Anyone…and I mean anyone… can do yoga.  I introduce to you Lieutenant Colonel Tom Bryant.

Lieutenant Colonel Bryant, US Army is my friend/mentor and hands down the best person to ever come from Alabama. LTC Bryant is the last person I thought would try yoga.  He is a typical Southern conservative, “Roll Tide!”-preaching, family loving, church going, hunting/fishing military kind of guy.  He would often poke fun of me when we worked together about how I taught and practiced yoga.  Tom recently sent me a Facebook message:

“Are you sitting down? You should.

Last night I did yoga. And since I’m deployed, you know I wasn’t drunk or high. It lasted 20 minutes, was cal

yoga-meme-300x187led relaxation yoga or something like that. Really just seemed like a lot of stretching to me, but this Japanese guy with a ponytail on the video kept talking about “seeing your breathing” and “step mindfully downward on your heels” and a bunch of other platitudinal crap I didn’t understand. But the stretching stuff was cool.”

Even this staunch yoga antagonist found yoga to be at the very least, “cool!”  There is a good chance what you think Yoga is…is not at all what it really is.  Yoga can be whatever you want it to be…killer workout, awesome stretch, or a time to reset and restore your batteries.  For me, I *try* to start every day with 15-30 minutes of meditation and yoga.  I also end each day with some grounding breath work to help clear and prepare my mind for sleep.  Trust me…I know it sounds fruity, crazy, or even esoteric…but IT WORKS!  I’ve been practicing yoga since 1999 and teaching since 2007.  I often wonder where I would be today without yoga.  I see my brothers and sisters-in-arms who share *our* nightmares, panic attacks, alertness, relationship issues, memory problems…the list can go on forever.  I know just how tough my life is…and wonder how much tougher and often debilitating it would be without yoga in my life.

Lastly, I’d like for you to stop breathing for 20 minutes. What…you can’t?  You think you might die.  I agree!  So…public math here…if I can increase both the quality and quantity of your breath…would that not increase the quality and quantity of your life?  Check out this free sample from Suzanne Manafort: 


Two Upcoming Veterans Retreats in California

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By Dyan Ferguson, Founder, Honoring The Path of The Warrior, and US Army veteran

Honoring the Path of the Warrior is pleased to announce our two upcoming retreats:

  1.  The Women Veterans Retreat at Tassajara Mountain Retreat Center from June 17th – June 21st 2013 and
  2.  The Whitewater Rafting trip open to both men and women from July 30th to August 2nd.

Both of these events combine nature and engaging physical activities with meditation, Sensory Awareness and mindfulness practices.  The intent is to provide Veterans with connection, community and tools that support them in using their strengths and experiences to find a meaningful and productive path in civilian life.

US Navy veteran Scott Gunning made this video about a White Water Rafting retreat by Honoring The Path of The Warrior.
US Army veteran Steve Lewis talks about his experience: “You get a bond, and you have fun….” Here’s what others have said about these events:

I really can’t put into words what this trip meant for me, but I can say that this was easily one of the most meaningful and special experiences in my life.  I got more out of this 4 day trip than I did in the entire 5 months that I was in the […] PTSD program.”

“I just want to take the time to say thank you both from my complete and whole heart for what you two have given me this weekend. I’m speechless cause the gift you both gave me was HOPE. And I really can’t remember the last time I truly had it. The act of pulling a trigger from a man made weapon on another human being has shattered my person. You both have given me the hope and energy I need to some how find a way to try to put my shattered soul back together.”

All events are nondenominational and are completely free of charge to veterans.  We do, however, welcome contributions from veterans and members of the broader community so that other veterans may attend future events.  Please support us as you are able:  Honoring The Path. 

Why Yoga?

{VIRIN}People often ask me why I “do” yoga.  This is usually followed by: jokes about guys doing yoga, questions about levitation, and references to contortion.  Once the laughter settles, I’ll answer in one of several ways.  If the question  comes from a guy or group of guys who are joking about “guys doing yoga,”  I say something about how horrible it is to be the only guy in a room full of women.  That usually gets their attention.  If the question comes from an overly-muscled person who questions the “manliness” of yoga, I usually respond in the form of an asana.  Usually eka pada koundinyasana that transitions into a variation of Mayurasana.

When the question comes from someone who really wants to know “why I do yoga,” I will sit down and tell them about my yoga journey.

Invisible and Unnoticed


SFC Petry“Troops with visible injuries receive accolades, but those with unseen wounds are ignored.” – SFC Leroy Petry

SFC Leroy Petry, Medal of Honor recipient made this comment at the Warrior Resiliency Conference in Washington DC March 3 2012.  I was in the audience.  He also said servicemembers with internal injuries and psychological damage suffer the most, not necessarily those with external wounds.  Adding that when he walks into a room, his robotic hand clearly identifies him as an injured Warrior…however, when an injured Warrior has an invisible wound…they go unnoticed. Petry is referring to PTSD…an invisible wound!

These Warriors often go unnoticed forever.  Too many of them go unnoticed and without help.  An often lethal combination. I am not a doctor, nor can I say for sure that the Marine in the video that went viral recently has the said “invisible” wound.  I can say, that as someone with PTSD, and who has researched PTSD… uncontrolled fits of rage like that captured in this video is one of many horrible side-effects of PTSD.

I by no way condone the actions of the Marine in this video clip.  I use this clip not to bring discredit upon him, nor the Marine Corps.  Rather, to illustrate a point about this horrible side-effect of war!  Once again, I am not a doctor and have no proof the Marine has PTSD.

I want to share with a conversation I had with a fellow servicemember and co-worker.  We saw this video posted on Facebook.  My co-worker instantly noticed how inappropriate his conduct was and how it shines a bad light on all Marines.  I offered the possibility that maybe he had PTSD.  Quickly, my co-worker came back with how sick and tired he was about people throwing around PTSD…almost as if it was a “get out of jail free pass.”  He continued that it seems “everyone has PTSD.”  The kicker for me was when he said, “just because he has PTSD doesn’t give him the right to act like this.  He should know better!  He needs to control it.”

Really?  Control it?  You mean like turn it on and off like a light switch?  That’s like telling a person with autism to stop acting autistic and be normal…or telling a person with Alzheimer’s to stop faking that they can’t remember things.

When SFC Petry walks into a room with a silvery-purple hand, few people would ask him to dribble a basketball with his prosthetic.  For the record…he probably could.  We see this false hand and instantly make assumptions based on shared and accepted etiquette.  Therein lies the problem!  The Marine in the video, the co-worker who sits next to you, or the person you saw last week acting like a complete “ass”  at the restaurant potentially all have something in common.  They don’t have a high-tech hand, leg, or arm identifying them as “wounded.”

I wish it was possible to turn off my PTSD.  I often times wish I was invisible and unnoticed.  Sadly, that is not the case.  Having PTSD is not a carte blanche for me or any other Warrior with this “invisible” wound to act inappropriately. It is more a reason instead of an excuse.

It is difficult for those who suffer from this unwanted alignment to thwart or hold back emotional outbursts.  I asked my current “happy Doctor,” Dr. Sheela Reddy about what she thought about these “outbursts.”

“People do not have the empathy for someone who is having a “moment” .. and they don’t see the “guilt” felt afterward.  193_Sheela_101108If it were a switch you could turn off you would because the person engaging in the behavior that’s hurtful is also in pain but people only see the anger or “bad behavior” and not the pain within.”

So…the next time you see someone acting poorly…I ask you to pause…just for a moment.  Thanks.