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Stroke patients gain confidence from group yoga

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Group yoga shown to help stroke patients gain confidence.

Patients who suffer from stroke can benefit from practicing yoga, even months after a stroke happens. The author of a pilot study, published in the journal Stroke, suggests yoga may be more beneficial for stroke patients than traditional exercises because it incorporates a combination of postures, breathing and meditation that have different effects that simple exercise.

Yoga helps stroke patients enjoy new activities

For the study, 47 older adults, three-quarters of whom were men, participated in yoga sessions. The participants were separated into 3 groups: one group participated in yoga sessions twice a week for 8 weeks. Another met twice a week for group yoga in addition to being given relaxation audio recordings to use at least three times a week and the third group received standard medical care.

The participants were more challenging postures each week that the authors say ultimately led to significant improvement in balance and a willingness to try new activities, compared to the start of the study.

The gains made in balance\from were considered more clinically meaningful than what’s been found in other exercise studies.

Participants reported they were more confident about maintaining their balance and began attempting new activities, but continued to remain aware of their risk for falling.

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Lead researcher Arlene Schmid, Ph.D., OTR said in a media release, "For patients, like those in our study, natural recovery and acute rehabilitation therapy typically ends after six or, less frequently, 12 months. We found that yoga exercises significantly extended rehabilitation beyond the first year after stroke.”

It’s important to speak with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, especially if you’ve been sedentary. For the study, participants were taught by a registered yoga therapist.

Schmid, who is also an assistant professor of occupational therapy at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, also explains some occupational and physical therapists are beginning to incorporate yoga into their stroke rehabilitation practice.

The study, published online July 26 in the journal Stroke, shows practicing yoga might be good therapy for stroke patients, even if they don’t begin until 6 months after the event, but larger trials are needed.

Until then, the take-home message for patients who have suffered stroke is to continue exercising. Yoga might be an enjoyable option, depending on individual preference.

Schmid AA, Puymbroeck MV, Altenburger PA, et al.
“Poststroke Balance Improves With Yoga - A Pilot Study”
July 27 2012

Image credit:
CDC Public Health Image Library