Emotion regulation (ER) is a key process underlying posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), yet, little is known about how ER changes with PTSD treatment. Understanding these effects may shed light on treatment processes. Methods. We recently completed a randomised controlled trial demonstrating that a breathing-based yoga practice (Sudarshan kriya yoga; SKY) was not clinically inferior to cognitive processing therapy (CPT) across symptoms of PTSD, depression, or negative affect. Here, in secondary exploratory analyses (intent-to-treat N=85; per protocol N=59), we examined whether self-reported ER (Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale; DERS) and physiological ER (heart rate variability; HRV) improved with treatment for clinically significant PTSD symptoms among US Veterans. Results. DERS-Total and all six subscales improved with small-to-moderate effect sizes ( d = .24-.66) following CPT or SKY, with no differences between treatment groups. Following SKY (but not CPT), HR max–min (average difference between maximum and minimum beats per minute), normalised HF-HRV (high frequency power), and LF/HF (low-to-high frequency) ratio improved (moved towards a healthier profile; d = .32-.55). Conclusions. To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate that a breathing-based yoga (SKY) improved both voluntary/intentional and automatic/physiological ER. In contrast, trauma-focused therapy (CPT) only reliably improved self-reported ER. Findings have implications for PTSD treatment and interventions for emotional disorders more broadly. Trial registration: Secondary analyses of ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02366403.
NOTE: This study used the CamNtech Actiwave Cardio which was discontinued in Jan 2019 – The direct replacement is Actiheart 5 which offers superior performance.