Yoga Helps Improve Balance of Stroke Survivors Even After Many Years, New Study Reveals

Amy Taylor November 12, 2019

 Life after stroke is difficult for many survivors as it come with a wide range of physical and emotional challenges. Some stroke survivors experience loss of mobility and balance which can either be temporary or permanent. There are various therapies however, that are available for those who are looking to improve their condition. In a new study, it was found that practising yoga even long after the stroke may help improve balance among stroke survivors.

The study was led by Arlene Schmid, PhD, a rehabilitation research scientist at the Roudebush Veterans Administration-Medical Centre and Indiana University in Indianapolis. She and her team of researchers recruited 47 stroke survivors who had the stroke attack six months ago. 75% of them were male veterans, including those who have participated in the World War II.

The participants were divided into two groups. Ten of them did not receive any therapy while the other 37 went through a specialised yoga program developed by the research team. Although at first, the participants were hesitant to try the therapy, they were soon encouraged after seeing the positive effects of yoga on their disabilities.

The yoga group practised different bodywork techniques including standing, seating, and floor-based exercises such as the mountain and pigeon pose. The program lasted for eight weeks.

Effects of Yoga in Stroke Survivors

After the therapy, the researchers assessed its effects on the participants and observed significant improvement, particularly in their balance. Other than this, yoga therapy also increased their confidence levels and reduced their fear if falling. In the study, researchers cited that nearly three-quarters of all stroke survivors suffer from falls. This can be very fatal as it can lead to bone breakage. Furthermore, stroke can also lead to depression.

More and more therapists are incorporating yoga as part of their clinical practise. However, Schmid says there’s still a need for a lot of discussion to formalise the practise. She also calls for additional studies to confirm the effectiveness of yoga.

According to Roger Bonomo, neurologist and director of the Stroke Centre at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, the availability of yoga is limited. ‘It is interesting and worth pursuing on an individual, case-by-case basis," he said.

The study tells us one thing – it’s never too late for people to improve their condition even if many years have passed since they had stroke. With yoga and other alternative therapies such as Pilates, and tai chi can help the brain recover from stroke, said Andrea Serdar, PT, NCS.