A study of patients who had suffered a stroke more than six months earlier showed that those who attended yoga classes twice a week showed significant improvement in their balance after an eight week course.
They also had improved scores for independence and quality of life and were less afraid of falling.
The people were divided into three groups. One group did yoga twice a week for eight weeks. They second “yoga-plus” group also did yoga twice a week but in addition had a relaxation recording to use at least three times a week.
The final group did no rehabilitation.
A registered yoga therapist took the classes and modified postures to suit individuals. The classes grew more challenging each week.
Dr Alene Schmid who led the research at Roudebush Veterans Administration Medical Centre in Indiana explained that stroke victims’ brains can still improve after six months but acute rehabilitation therapy typically ends after this time.
“The study demonstrated that with some assistance even chronic stroke patients with significant paralysis on one side can manage to do modified yoga poses”.
The oldest patient in the study was in his 90s.
Yoga may be more therapeutic than traditional exercise because the combinations of postures, breathing and meditation may produce different effects than simple exercise, the researchers said.
Researchers also noticed improvements in the mindset of patients about their disability.
The participants talked about walking through a grocery store instead of using an assistive scooter, being able to take a shower and feeling inspired to visit friends.
“It has to do with the confidence of being more mobile,” Schmid said. Although they took time to unfold, “these were very meaningful changes in life for people.”
The study is published in the American heart Association Journal Stroke.