It's nice to read that people are using/looking at Yin to compliment their recovery from PTSD.
Just a little about my journey with Yin.
I am a ex-serving member of the Australian military (10 years), having served several years in Iraq and Afghanistan in a combat role. On my last deployment I had suffered moderate damage to both shoulders and ankle in a blast injury. Nothing severe, but the subsequent surgeries and chronic pain forced me to hang up the boots when I returned home.
Most of the methods of pain management was heavy opioid based medications and physiotherapy. Shut the book, case closed, next. These tools were helpful to mask the pain but doesn't solve the problem of how am I going to deal with the rest of my life.
I went from being a professional athlete, to a sound military career, in a heavily physically active lifestyle, to being told I wouldn't be able to do the vast majority of activities again. This was a pretty heavy blow to hear for anyone who's life surrounded by physical activity.
At the time I didn't realise all the mental stress I had been accumulating, primarily due to the fact I was constantly focused on leading my team and the task at hand. I remember one particular instance when I saw a younger soldier freeze and I told him; "If you don't move now, you will become a casualty yourself. You have time to think about this later." Well when I was recovering from my surgeries and I couldn't use my physical outlets of sport and recreation, I had time to think. A lot of time to think about everything. And it all caught up with me. At the time I wasn't willing to accept a diagnosis of PTSD and the other mental health issues that go hand in hand with this, anger, depression, anxiety, separation disorder etc.
I was a focused individual who executed my goals with precision and discipline. But here I was, dealing with these symptoms and once again, here is a stamp, you have your condition and see you later. It took me a long time to accept this, as I believe that most members who are put in these environments for extensive periods of time, will have some form of mental health as a cause and affect. Even though I had no romanticised view of the nature of serving overseas and what my job entailed (I signed up remember), but I didn't think it would consume my thoughts to that degree once I stopped. What's worse is that my whole personality was changing into someone I wasn't and didn't like the path I was on, so I did something about it.
Determined to get back into my old life and be functioning to an acceptable level, I started looking at alternatives to pain management to get the range of movement back in my shoulders. At this point I couldn't put a t-shirt on without agony. I read books, spoke to different trainers and specialists but most came back to opioid pain meds. To get through the day I was on roughly a box of Endone. You wouldn't know I was in agony as I just cracked on with my day. Last thing people want to hear is someone moaning around like a zombie all day.
I got to a point where I was getting frustrated as my options were getting smaller and I walked past a yoga studio and saw an intro deal, swallowed my pride and ego and went in. I signed up and the next day I was practicing Vinyassa Yoga. I hated it, I mean I was more angry going out then I was in, as my body could not physically do most of the poses. But I said to myself, just cause I can't do it today doesn't mean I can't do it tomorrow and went back. After a few weeks practice, I went to class and got the times mixed up and arrived at a Yin class by mistake. Looking around the room there was an odd mix of people in the room and I thought, I shouldn't be here this is for old people and the ego was very loud saying leave. But I decided to stay. I stayed and felt better then any Vinyassa class. I continued to go to the Yin classes and eventually stopped going to the Yang practices. This was an extremely hard time and even walked out of three classes. On the third the teacher confronted me and said "Do you know how rude you are for leaving? Why are you leaving?". I then told her I was suffering from Physical and mental trauma and you keep telling me to let go, relax, let go etc. I was like a little kid screaming, NO! I won't! I need to be this tight and I need to be the man in the uniform and I need to be this way as this is what men do! I still laugh at this to this day. But I went back.
My time practicing Yin was the most instrumental thing to my recovery and still is to this day. I was in a place where taking my own life was an option as dealing with my chronic pain was at a point so consuming that I didn't know what else to do. Looking at the quality of life etc. But Yin shifted my focus. I was waiting for a class and Bernie's book; "The complete guide to Yin Yoga" was on the seat next to me, open and highlighted. It had the three Tattvas of the practice on it. I asked the teacher, is this what this is about it can't be that easy? I'm never going to be able to do what I see everyone else doing, I just don't have that range of motion anymore. He told me to shut my eyes, take it inward and if you're feeling it your doing it. That was when the penny dropped. From that moment I stopped focusing on what it looked like and focused on what it felt like. I increased my practice to every day and eventually two times per day.
I went into yoga with the goal of physical pain management, but what I got was the mental release and that was and is the biggest contributor to my recovery. I have been practicing for approximately four and a half years now and there is rarely a day when I don't practice, regardless of where I am in the world.
From not being able to put on a shirt without pain, to being told I will never swim freestyle again, I have overcome this through a combination of practices and aids, from physical training to psychology, physiotherapy and Chiro. But the most effective tool that I have is my Yin practice. I now can swim 5kms freestyle in one sitting, and I am competing and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Something a few years ago I would have never have thought possible. Don't get me wrong the chronic pain is still there and I feel like I've been hit by a truck most days, but my quality of life has improved to gargantuan proportions. I'm still flexible as a bag of concrete, but am grateful of what I can do and the release that comes with that.
In no way am I saying it is the complete solution to the problem, however it has worked for me. I am now well over 200 days clean from pain medications and plan to stay that way. I hear a lot of teachers say to me that I am doing too much Yin and should incorporate more Yang styles. Well that may be so, but my life and mind are Yang, with getting plenty of weight training and physical activity, I use the Yin to counter the physical and psychological aspects of my life.
My plan is to take Yin to the Veteran community in Australia, to show people that there is an alternative to physical and mental pain management and also a general compliment to their lives. Everyone can benefit from the practice of Yin Yoga, especially people with PTSD. But like any treatment or activity, the person needs to be at a point where they are willing to try it and to do it regularly.
I have travelled to different parts of the globe to explore options that will help me add to tools to my kit. I have been incorporating different techniques and styles to compliment my practice and recovery as I grow, from; Yoga Nidra, Meditation, Trigger point massage, Mindfulness, being in the water, Acupuncture, psychology support, physiotherapy and Chiropractic treatment. But the top of the pyramid for me has been Yin Yoga.
My apologies for the length of this saga of a tale. But I am extremely passionate about this topic and how much of a difference it has made on my life.