Yoga May Help Stroke Survivors Improve Balance

Stroke survivors may be able to improve their balance through group yoga classes, according to new research published in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers looked at the potential benefits of practicing yoga for eight weeks among a small group of people who had strokes more than six months earlier, according to a news release from the AHA. In order to participate, each person had to be able to stand independently. The oldest participant was 90 years old.

Each week, the classes grew more challenging. The stroke victims learned modified yoga poses, relaxation and meditation techniques.

At the end of the pilot study, researchers found that those who completed the yoga classes significantly improved their balance, the news release states.

“For people with chronic stroke, something like yoga in a group environment is cost effective and appears to improve motor function and balance,” said lead researcher Arlene Schmid, an occupational therapist.

After a person has a stroke, they can endure balance problems, which put them at greater risk for falls and more injury, the release states. But after doing yoga for the study, participants said they felt more independent and less afraid they were going to fall.

“For chronic stroke patients, even if they remain disabled, natural recovery and acute rehabilitation therapy typically ends after six months, or maybe a year,” said Schmid, a rehabilitation research scientist at Roudebush Veterans Administration-Medical Center and Indiana University.

But improvements can take longer.

“…We know for a fact that the brain still can change,” she said. “The problem is the healthcare system is not necessarily willing to pay for that change. The study demonstrated that with some assistance, even chronic stroke patients with significant paralysis on one side can manage to do modified yoga poses.”

Researchers noted that the study’s conclusions are limited due to its small size and lack of diversity. Further study is needed.

Source: American Heart Association news release

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