Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Practicing yoga to stimulate the mind, body, spirit

Dr. Bhagwan Bahroo, staff psychiatrist, demonstrates a deep-breathing posture as he leads a weekly yoga class for Psychiatry Continuity Service Program participants at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. (DoD photo by Leigh Culbert) Dr. Bhagwan Bahroo, staff psychiatrist, demonstrates a deep-breathing posture as he leads a weekly yoga class for Psychiatry Continuity Service Program participants at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. (DoD photo by Leigh Culbert)

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness

Two programs that incorporate yoga at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, demonstrate the ability of the ancient practice to help heal the mind and body.

“The word ‘yoga’ in Sanskrit means to yoke together, and the idea is to bind together our mind, body, and spirit, and not just to bind, but to create a balance among the three aspects,” explained Dr. Bhagwan Bahroo, a psychiatrist in the Psychiatry Continuity Service program at Walter Reed. “Having personally realized the significance of yoga, I wish to share the many benefits with our service members.”

Bahroo grew up practicing yoga in India and re-connected with it 10 years ago when asked to integrate the practice into Walter Reed’s behavioral health program. Today he teaches a one-hour class for up to 12 participants once a week using basic poses and various breathing techniques, finishing each session with Laughter Yoga, an ancient practice now seeing a resurgence worldwide, according to Bahroo. “A good yoga session not only improves muscle tone, adds strength, and improves flexibility of the joints, but also helps bring peace of mind, reduces anxiety, and improves mood,” he explained, noting that laughter is contagious and lightens the heart and mind.

Programs at Walter Reed incorporate the ancient practice of yoga to promote healing. (DoD photo by Sara Morris)
Programs at Walter Reed incorporate the ancient practice of yoga to promote healing. (DoD photo by Sara Morris)

Given the nature of yoga, not all patients are willing participants. “You wouldn’t believe the excuses I get from patients,” Bahroo chuckled. Over the years, he has adapted his approach, now inviting patients to observe and then to join as they feel ready. “Eight out of 10 come to the mat eventually. If they have any type of pain, I’m able to show them how to modify poses for maximum benefit.”

Bahroo described one patient who began adamantly opposed to joining his yoga class, and reluctantly joined after wary observation. “Upon finishing his 5-week program he said, ‘I wish I had known about yoga earlier in my life.’ This is why I teach yoga and why I’d love to bring it to a wider population in our hospital if I could.”

Another patient population benefiting from yoga practice includes service members undergoing treatment for traumatic brain injury at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, also in Bethesda next to Walter Reed. The center’s integrative approach includes tailored treatment plans that focus on mind, body, and spirit. Allison Winters, wellness coordinator, is a certified yoga instructor and dance/movement therapist who invites patients to participate at their own comfort level. Feedback after completion of the program has been positive.

“‘More yoga’ is what I’ve been hearing, so now we offer yoga as part of the structured intensive-outpatient and outpatient programs,” she said. “We have added three optional classes each week, all of which are always well-attended.”

Winters focuses on gentle and restorative postures. She teaches a maximum of six patients per class and is able to tune in to their individual issues. “I love being able to teach yoga here. With our patients, my teaching is much more individualized and I am able to connect better with them.”

Winters is convinced that yoga provides a critical mind-body connection for her patients. She believes that part of their healing is a discovery process as they experience the rhythmic and repetitive practice of yoga, incorporated with breathing. They gain flexibility as they tune in to their breath.

“I want their yoga practice to be a tool to use post-rehabilitation to manage stress and transitions when they return to work and home, and also to provide a means of working toward performance goals and returning to readiness,” Winters said, adding that she likes to teach a classic sun salutation sequence because it provides a familiar basis for future practice, and includes an adaptable set of poses that anyone can do anywhere.

“With its focus on breath and movement, the sun salutation can be modified for any level of practitioner,” said Winters, who acknowledges that yoga practice isn’t the only means of making a mind-body connection. She teaches her patients how they can incorporate moving intentionally with their breath in any activity they enjoy. While yoga is commonly associated with relaxation, Winters said different types of yoga can offer an array of benefits.

“Yoga has been around for over 5,000 years,” she said. “There is wisdom to the practice of bringing mindful attention to our breath and bodies, and anyone, regardless of age or physical fitness, can do it in its many forms, whether retiring from service or preparing for the next deployment.”

You also may be interested in...

Healthcare Burdens Attributable to Various Mental Disorders, U.S. Armed Forces 2016

Infographic
5/25/2017
Did you know…? In 2016, mood disorders and substance abuse accounted for 25.9% of all hospital days. Together, four mental disorders – mood, substance abuse disorders, adjustment, and anxiety – and two maternal conditions – pregnancy complications and delivery – accounted for 53.6% of all hospital bed days. And 12.4% of all hospital bed days were attributable to injuries and poisonings. Here are the mental disorders that affected U.S. Armed Forces in 2016: Pie Chart titled Bed days for mental disorders in 2016: •	Mood Disorder (46,920 bed days) – the orange pie slice. •	Substance Abuse Disorders (44,746 bed days) – the blue pie slice. •	Adjustment Disorder (30,017 bed days) – the purple pie slice. •	Anxiety Disorder (20,458 bed days) – the gray pie slice. •	Psychotic Disorder (6,532 bed days) – the light blue pie slice. •	All other mental disorders (3,233 bed days) – the violet pie slice. •	Personality disorder (2,393 bed days) – the forest green pie slice. •	Somatoform (552 bed days) – the lime green pie slice. •	Tobacco dependence (2 bed days) – the white pie slice. Bar graph shows percentage and cumulative percentage distribution, burden “conditions” that accounted for the most hospital bed days, active component, U.S. Armed Forces 2016.  % of total bed days (bars) for mood disorder, substance abuse disorders, adjustment disorder, pregnancy complications; delivery; anxiety disorder; head/neck injuries, all other digestive diseases, other complications NOS; other back problems, all other signs and symptoms; leg injuries, all other maternal conditions; all other neurologic conditions; all other musculoskeletal diseases; all other skin diseases;  back and abdomen; appendicitis; all other infectious and parasitic diseases; all other cardiovascular diseases; all other mental disorders; all other respiratory diseases; arm/shoulder injuries; poisoning, drugs; foot/ankle injuries; other gastroenteritis and colitis; personality disorder; lower respiratory infections; all other genitourinary diseases; all other malignant neoplasms; cerebrovascular disease.  See more details on this bar graph in the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report (MSMR) April 2017 Vol. 24 No. 4 report, page 4. This annual summary for 2016 was based on the use of ICD-10 codes exclusively. Read more on this analysis at Health.mil/MSMR. #LetsTalkAboutIt Background of graphic is a soldier sitting on the floor in a dark room.

This infographic documents the mental disorders that affected U.S. Armed Forces in 2016.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch

Signs of Mental Health Distress

Infographic
3/3/2017
Signs of Mental Health Distress

This graphic shows signs of mental health distress.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness

Ways to Maintain Good Mental Health

Infographic
3/3/2017
Follow these tips to maintain good mental health.

Follow these tips to maintain good mental health.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness

Interagency Task Force on Military and Veterans Mental Health

Report
11/17/2016

This report provides an update on interdepartmental actions during 2015 and 2016 to fulfill the ITF recommendations, and outline continuing efforts to further improve mental health treatment and programs for Veterans, Service members, and their families.

Recommended Content:

DoD/VA Sharing Initiatives

Depression 101

Infographic
5/2/2016
Infographic about Depression symptoms and treatment

Infographic explaining the different types of depression, their symptoms and treatment options

Breathing techniques

Photo
2/26/2016
Airmen and Soldiers practice breathing and relaxation during their off duty time in a deployed location. Stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health, including your heart health, but there are breathing techniques to buffer yourself from it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Airmen and Soldiers practice breathing and relaxation during their off duty time in a deployed location. Stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health, including your heart health, but there are breathing techniques to buffer yourself from it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Psychological Fitness

6 Easy Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress

Infographic
11/30/2015
holiday graphic listing 6 tips to reduce stress

Infographic listing 6 tips for reducing holiday stress.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Psychological Fitness

DoD Instruction 6490.10: Continuity of Behavioral Health Care for Transferring and Transitioning Service Members

Policy

In accordance with the authority in Reference (a), this Instruction establishes policy for the Military Departments, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes guidelines for establishment of Military Department policy and procedures to ensure continuity of behavioral health (BH) care at the losing and gaining installations when Service members transition from one health care provider (HCP) to another when transferring to a new duty station or transitioning out of the Service.

  • Identification #: DoD Instruction 6490.10
  • Date: 10/28/2015
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: N/A

Suicide Prevention 2015

Video
9/17/2015
thumbnail image of the Suicide Prevention video

The Department of Defense takes suicide very seriously. Each Service is actively working to reduce the number of suicides. Watch this video to find out how you can help.

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention | Psychological Fitness | September Toolkit

DCOE Annual Report 2014

Report
7/16/2015

Annual Report for the Defense Center of Excellence - 2014

Recommended Content:

Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy | Traumatic Brain Injury | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Suicide Prevention | DoD/VA Sharing Initiatives | Deployment Health

TBI Awareness: Memorial Box

Video
3/27/2015
Image of a memorial box.

US Army Sgt Fox explains how his memorial box has helped him heal and remember meaningful events and people in his life.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

Dr. Heechin Chae on The Mystery of the Brain

Video
3/23/2015
Dr. Heechin Chae on The Mystery of the Brain

Traumatic brain injury expert, Dr. Heechin Chae speaks on the mystery of the brain.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Traumatic Brain Injury

DoD Instruction 6490.15: Integration of Behavioral Health Personnel (BHP) Services Into Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) Primary Care and Other Primary Care Service Settings

Policy

This instruction establishes policy, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes procedures for attainment of inter-Service standards for developing, initiating, and maintaining adult behavioral health services in primary care.

  • Identification #: DoD Instruction 6490.15
  • Date: 11/20/2014
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: N/A

Interagency Task Force on Military and Veterans Mental Health

Report
10/24/2014

On August 31, 2012, President Obama signed Executive Order 13625 directing the Departments of Defense (DoD), Veterans Affairs (VA), and Health and Human Services (HHS), in coordination with other federal agencies, to take steps to ensure that Veterans, Service members and their Families receive the mental health and substance use services and support they need.

Recommended Content:

DoD/VA Sharing Initiatives

DoD Instruction 6490.05: Maintenance of Psychological Health in Military Operations

Policy

This instruction establishes policy and assigns responsibilities in accordance with References (c), (d), and (e) for developing combat and operational stress control (COSC) programs within the Military Departments, the Combatant Commands, and joint Service operations.

  • Identification #: DoD Instruction 6490.05
  • Date: 10/2/2013
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: N/A
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 61 - 75 Page 5 of 7

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.