Thanks to new research findings, yoga — one of many complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices offered at VA — continues to gain support as a value-added treatment option for Veterans.

Veterans Health Administration (VHA) clinicians and staff now have access to even more information on yoga and its effect on certain conditions—including low back pain and some types of mental illness—thanks to a process known as evidence mapping. This high-level methodology evaluates published literature and seeks to describe the depth and breadth of a body of knowledge.

An integrated team comprised of members of VHA’s Office of Patient Centered Care (OPCC&CT), in conjunction with the VA Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) division’s Evidence-Based Synthesis Program (ESP), recently presented its evidence map findings on Yoga for High Impact Conditions Affecting Veterans.

This newest evidence map for yoga focuses on four health conditions, including: low back pain; prevention of falls; mental Illness (depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder); and insomnia.

For the purpose of this particular evidence map, yoga is broadly defined, with the study taking an inclusive definition to yoga that includes spiritual, physical, and mental health practices.

Other CAM practices such as meditation and acupuncture have found strong footing in VA. According to a 2011 survey, nearly nine out of 10 VA facilities offered at least one CAM therapy.

VA plays an important role by conducting rigorous research to show what works and what doesn’t, and then applying those findings into Veterans’ care.

In December 2014, the findings from several groups of VA researchers appeared online in the journal Medical Care, as part of a supplement sponsored by VA’s Office of Patient-Centered Care and Cultural Transformation. The topics reported on were diverse and included: mindfulness-based stress reduction, chiropractic, vitamins and supplements, and more.

Another study, led by a team at VA’s War-Related Illness and Injury Study Center at the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center, pulled data from the larger National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans. The results showed that about 15 percent of OEF-OIF Veterans had used at least one CAM treatment in the past year. (The Veterans were asked only about their use of CAM for a specific health problem.)

More research on CAM is now underway in VA, thanks in part to a joint effort involving VA and the National Institutes of Health. The agencies are providing $21.7 million over five years for 13 new projects focused on non-drug approaches to treating PTSD, drug abuse, and sleep issues. Read about the new projects here.

The following maps provide an overview of the evidence that exists to date, and point to what types of further studies are needed. The findings help set the course for future research, and aid VA policymakers in determining which therapies have a strong enough evidence base to be incorporated into Veterans’ care.

VHA clinicians and staff interested in learning more about the Integrative Health Evidence Maps are encouraged to review them here ( and to get involved by joining the monthly Integrative Health conference calls (

Additional Resources:

Yoga Wellness Program Toolkit

Evidence Map of Yoga







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Published on Apr. 23, 2015

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  1. Dr. Michael Varnay May 4, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Complementary and alternative interventions like yoga are a fantastic adjunct two other mainstream treatments to help combat conditions like mental illness, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Encouraging veterans to participate! The mind-body connection is a very important facet to nurture!

  2. VFW Post 1 May 2, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    We have a yoga program for veterans as well. Every Tuesday night at 7PM at our post, yoga is free to veterans and their family members. Anyone interested in attending can visit our website at and should also follow us on our Facebook page for updates.

    VFW Post 1 is located at 841 Sante Fe Drive, Denver, CO 80204 and was established in 1899.

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