Research and Media
Kintla Yoga Therapy® is trauma-informed, evidence-based, heart-centered and choice-driven, rooted in ancient yogic traditions that incorporate teacher or therapist qualities such as empathy, compassion, and attuned responsiveness.
Kintla’s experiences and belief in the power of trauma-informed yoga to help survivors attain post-traumatic growth is now a reality!
Her strong interest in seeing her hypotheses tested led her to Michigan State University psychology researchers and former Marine scout sniper, Logan Stark.
The eight-week study (and follow-up assessment) has provided perhaps the first physiological evidence that yoga improves brain function of people with PTSD. The effects of yoga were shown to be very broad and widespread compared to other traditional psychotherapy.
Additionally, Kintla was recently interviewed as an expert in the field regarding a Columbia University study on what steps need to be taken and why to effectively reintegrate human trafficking survivors into US society.
Finally, Kintla recently gave a talk at the Harvard Medical School where she unveiled the latest research findings on Kintla Yoga Therapy. Significant improvements were found in five domains of functioning (cognitive, psychological, emotional, relational, and physical health and wellbeing) in individuals with varied traumatic stress histories with just 8 weeks of Kintla Yoga Therapy private sessions!
Michigan State University
MSU Today Magazine
Published: Oct. 31, 2014
Contact(s): Andy Henion, Jason Moser, Logan Stark, Kintla Ernst
This summer, former Marine scout sniper Logan Stark believed he was dealing pretty well with post-traumatic stress disorder. The Michigan State University senior had made a hit documentary about his fallen comrades in Afghanistan, cycled in the six-day Ride 2 Recovery challenge and written cathartic articles for such publications as the New York Times and On Patrol.
But then Stark participated in a nine-week experiment on whether yoga can benefit veterans with PTSD and said his mental and emotional recovery “was taken to another level.”
Not only that, but the study by MSU psychology researchers provided perhaps the first physiological evidence that yoga improves brain function of people with PTSD. Each week, following Stark’s yoga and meditation sessions with instructor Kintla Ernst [Striker], the researchers would outfit Stark with an electrode cap and measure his brain activity while he performed computer tasks.
“Logan’s brain efficiency jumped through the roof after two months of yoga,” said Jason Moser, assistant professor of psychology. “His memory improved, he was much less distracted and he was able to bounce back from mistakes with ease.”
Yoga, a 5000-year-old spiritual practice aimed at achieving inner balance and harmony, is growing in popularity. Yoga participation in the United States jumped from 15.8 million in 2008 to 20.4 million in 2012, a 29% increase, according to a national survey. Previous research has shown yoga can help decrease anxiety, depression, and stress.
Ernst [Striker], of Kintla Yoga LLC in East Lansing, specializes in working with trauma survivors, and said she was interested in helping facilitate a study on the healing powers of yoga in people with PTSD.
She reached out to Moser, who previously worked with veterans at the Veterans Affairs National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Boston, and then recruited Stark after reading about his war experiences from 2010.
Stark’s former unit, the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, suffered 25 casualties in Afghanistan. His film, “For the 25”, which has been viewed more than a half-million times on YouTube, documents the brutalities of war and the reality of living with PTSD.
Watching friends die in battle can lead to grief, survivor’s guilt and depression. Stark said a natural human response is to mentally and emotionally distance oneself from those issues, creating a “disconnect” between mind and body.
Ernst [Striker] said yoga can help trauma survivors “reconnect” to the here and now. While her sessions include traditional yoga postures, they are specially designed to empower healing. Rather than “just standing back and teaching”, Ernst [Striker] offers the student choices, uses compassionate language and actively shares in the experience with the student.
“If you’re more aware of what’s going on around you, when a trigger comes up you can breathe deeply, come into the present and more skillfully handle what arises,” Ernst [Striker] said. “It’s about learning to be present in a safe space and discovering the magic of reconnecting body, mind, and breath.”
Stark, 27, of Greenville, had never practiced yoga and purposely did not research the discipline so he could go into the study with an open mind. It didn’t take long to become a believer; the two-hour sessions, he said, were highly effective in improving his flexibility, endurance, mindfulness, focus and patience.
“Every time I finished a session, I would walk away feeling so much better,” said Stark, who graduates in December with a bachelor’s degree in professional writing. “It’s almost like it becomes one of those things the body needs, like sleep.”
His brain function improved as well.
Once a week, Moser and psychology doctoral student Jeff Lin would run Stark though at least two hours of computer-based exercises, including a task that involved solving math problems while remembering a random sequence of letters. On this task, Stark improved significantly, going from a pre-yoga score of 22 (which reflects low ability to juggle multiple things in the mind) to a post-study score of 50 (which is within the range of high ability).
In addition, Stark’s reaction time improved dramatically on a timed task that measured distractibility (the task involved identifying certain shapes while ignoring “distractor” shapes). Stark’s improvement was remarkable, Moser said, since past research suggests simply doing the task over and over does not improve performance.
“One could make an argument that yoga reduced Logan’s anxiety and increased his focus so the distractors captured less of his attention and he could perform more optimally,” Moser said.
Stark also improved on tasks that measured his reactions to mistakes and loud noises. And while much more research needs to be done on a possible connection between yoga and PTSD, Moser said he’s encouraged by the results.
“It’s a one-person study, that’s the caveat. However the depth of change we’re seeing across all fronts is truly remarkable.”
MSU Alumni Magazine
Published: Spring, 2015
The MSU Alumni Magazine talked last month with Logan Stark, a December graduate, and Jason Moser, assistant professor of psychology who studied Stark’s response to yoga.
Former Marine Corps sniper Logan Stark is experiencing newfound peace and purpose. He said he’s fallen in love again with the Upper Peninsula, where he grew up, and has decided to put down roots of his own there. He’s also joined forces with his brother and a friend in a video production house they opened in Detroit.
It’s all worlds away from the combat he saw in Afghanistan. And the PTSD that haunted him until recently.
Stark earned a professional writing degree at MSU in December. In his final semester, he discovered yoga’s calming effects as a participant in a psychological study. “It opened my eyes to this whole other opportunity to well-being that I didn’t even know existed”, he said.
He’s also sold on yoga’s other benefits. “Yoga actually made me more intelligent. My brain started functioning at a more efficient level,” said Stark, who has continued to practice yoga and expects to keep it up for a very long time.
Already a well-published writer, whose war stories have appeared in major U.S. newspapers and military magazines, Stark was whip-smart to begin with.
A recent follow-up assessment by Jason Moser and his team showed that the gains affecting Stark’s brain after he began yoga appear to beholding.
“We really saw very large changes across all our measures, including Stark’s perception of well-being, his cognitive functioning and his brain activity. This is really the first study to characterize the effects of an intervention with such a multifaceted assessment. The effects of yoga were very broad and widespread compared to other traditional psychotherapy,” Moser said.
Results of the study will appear in a future issue of the Journal of Traumatic Stress, Moser said. “We hope to continue this line of work in larger samples. That is where we’ll be able to make more solid claims about the efficacy of yoga for PTSD across the mind and body.”
Stark, his brother, Steven, and Troy Anderson’s video company, InfyerProductions, are finishing up a 15-minute documentary about Detroit’s Delray enclave, whose poor and voiceless residents are being displaced by construction of a new international bridge.
More than ever before, Stark wants to concentrate on some of Life’s intangibles. “We’re wrapped up in jobs, technology or work, and we don’t really focus on what’s important—like living and finding out who we are and how to live a good life,” he said. [Emphasis added.]
MSU Study Indicates Yoga May Help Combat Vets
By APRIL VAN BUREN • OCT 27, 2014
Yoga’s popularity has skyrocketed in America in recent years. Once thought of as mostly a spiritual practice, it has grown into a multi-billion dollar exercise industry. It’s also gotten the attention of mental health experts who are increasingly interested in yoga’s potential to help treat depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
Jason Moser, Assistant Professor in MSU’s Department of Psychology, is one of those experts. This summer, he set out to see if yoga could help veterans manage their PTSD symptoms.
Current State talks with him about his findings, along with Logan Stark, a former Marine and MSU senior who worked with Jason, and his yoga instructor Kintla Ernst [Striker]
“Kintla has been a great resource and colleague. She is extremely knowledgeable, skilled, and wonderful to work with. She is naturally curious about her practice and the science that could contribute to better understanding of how yoga and related practices work and how they produce the salutary benefits many people are now coming around to acknowledging and accepting.”Jason S. Moser, PhD
“[Kintla] opened my eyes to this whole other opportunity for well-being that I didn’t even know existed.”Logan Stark