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Mind Your Health: Military and mindfulness (Part 1)

Fellowship Story Showcase

Mind Your Health: Military and mindfulness (Part 1)

Picture of Neda Iranpour

Neda Iranpour wrote and produced this "Mind Your Health" series as part of her project for the 2015 California Health Journalism Fellowship, a program at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Journalism.

Other stories in the series include:

San Diego 6
Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Yoga is not the typical image associated with our nation's military. However, health experts at the Naval Hospital Balboa believe it should be a part of service members' routine. According to Helen Metzger, Department Head for Health & Wellness at Naval Hospital Balboa, “it could be prescribed to everyone just as all the different wellness programs could be prescribed as far as exercise or good nutrition.” That's because, Metzger sees case after case of wounded warriors gain strength after being broken.

Navy Corpsman 2nd class Jennifer Starks says yoga helped her reintegrate back into the community because she was isolating herself. Starks who was diagnosed with PTSD after 12 years in the military, including two deployments and spending time on a carrier said, “to come back, there's not really a transition, you're deployed and now you're not. And you're supposed to act normal, act like nothing's happened and it’s not easy.”

The Naval Hospital Balboa offers yoga and those suffering from severe injuries are treated with gentle moves. Master of Arms 2nd Class Emilio Rodriguez said “I didn’t know if I would be able to make it or not” after injuring his neck, back and arms during tactical training in South Carolina. Discs in his lower back collapsed and he lost feelings in his legs. After consistent yoga, Rodriguez can finally stretch and rotate his legs, “(I am) still looking forward to a very a successful tour.”

Several studies are available that support the benefits of mindfulness in the military. In a 2008 Rand Center Military Health study for deployed troops, military members who took 9 weeks of yoga showed signs of reduced stress, improved mental health, and quality of life. And, in a recent study by the Department of Defense and Harvard, veterans and combat troops showed improvement in PTSD symptoms after practicing yoga for 10 weeks.

[This story was originally published by San Diego 6.]