Newspaper article News Sentinel

Veterans with PTSD Turn to Yoga, Meditation

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Veterans with PTSD Turn to Yoga, Meditation

Article excerpt

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Returning soldiers find 'space of calm'

MIAMI - One week into his second tour of duty, U.S. Marines Sgt. Hugo Patrocinio was wounded by a suicide bomber who drove a dump truck stocked with 1,000 pounds of explosives into a house in Anbar, on the outskirts of Fallujah. He had been attacked before, hurt before, but this time Patrocinio was just 20 feet from the explosion. He would eventually recover from the wounds - the shrapnel in his foot and leg, the severe concussion - but the psychological injuries lingered. His nights were soon crowded with reruns of the bombing that injured 10 other platoon members. Often, he didn't sleep at all, tormented by searing memories of friends killed in the war. He was angry, prone to headaches and mood swings, one of thousands of soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, one of the masked casualties of war.

In the 18 months of Patrocinio's spiral, he eventually turned to yoga after learning about it during group therapy as a way to quiet the inner noise. He found the discipline, the poses, the breathing - and especially, the stillness - worked to restore what had been taken that July in 2006.

"I didn't understand yoga, but I knew it was helping somehow. I was in a horrible place, a fog," says Patrocinio, 29, who was awarded a Purple Heart for his military service. "There is no magic pill that can erase your past or what you have seen, but the practice helps me to cope. Now I am not afraid to go to sleep."

Patrocinio is part of a wave of returning veterans - with thousands more expected as the United States continues its military pullouts from two decade-long wars - who are embracing yoga as a calming therapy. For many, it is a companion medical treatment, to ease the symptoms of post-traumatic stress on the mind and body. …

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