Stroke patients regain balance with yoga

By Shayna Brouker • Published: September 1st, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Five-thousand years before gym rats sweated out stress on stationary bikes or pumped iron to sculpt their bodies into works of art, people in India twisted their limbs and centered their minds with a practice called yoga.

Yoga means “to join or yoke together” in Sanskrit, and today, anyone can benefit from this ritual of joining mind and body together. September is National Yoga Month, so find your center, breathe deeply and strike a pose.

Yoga can benefit everyone, including kids, breast cancer patients and even stroke survivors.

A new study from the University of Indiana and Purdue University found that practicing yoga twice a week improved balance in 20 stroke survivors by more than one-third. Not only that, the participants, with an average age of 66, became more physically active in their communities and enjoyed a major boost in self-confidence. Not surprising, considering how hard it is to master tree pose without falling over!

The yogis went to an hourlong class twice a week, which was adapted to their needs and limitations and included chairs for support. By the end of the study, all had progressed to doing the poses on their own. The researchers hope the stroke survivors’ newfound balance will help prevent future falls.

Though it was a small study and more research is needed, past studies have also shown the benefits breast cancer patients experienced after doing yoga for 10 weeks. Of these women, almost all said their quality of life improved, they felt better physically. They also felt happier and less tired.

Besides improving flexibility, yoga can help control weight, lower blood pressure and improve a person’s mood. And each style, from hatha (ha-tuh) to vinyasa (vi-nyaah-sa), can be tailored to individual needs.

It just goes to show that you don’t have to be a shavasana-seasoned (shah-VAH-sah-nah) yogi to reap the benefits of this ancient art.