Yoga Study Nugget Break:
A stroke, as defined, is the rapidly developing loss of brain function(s) due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia (lack of blood flow) caused by blockage (thrombosis, arterial embolism), or a hemorrhage (leakage of blood). This causes the affected area of the brain to lose its function. Post effects of a stroke range from inability to move limbs or other areas on one side of the body including loss of eyesight, difficulty comprehending or inability to speak.
Many older people who’ve suffered from a stroke have trouble with balance and continuing with their daily routine without fear or risk of falling or injuring themselves.
“Statistics concerning strokes and falls are grim, with studies showing that strokes can quadruple the risk of falling and greatly increase the risk of breaking a hip after a fall. An estimated 80 percent of people who have strokes will also have some degree of impaired balance.”
Alas, there is some good news! A recent study conducted at Indiana University found that a group of veterans had better balance and endurance after participating in an 8-week course of hour-long yoga classes taken twice a week. The group – 19 men and 1 woman, average age 66 – practiced modified yoga postures, many starting in chairs, moving to seated and standing postures, all graduating to floor exercises by the study’s end.
Results showed that balance, measured by technical gadgets called the Berg Balance Scale and Fullerton Advance Balance Scale, improved by 17 percent and 34 percent respectively by the end of the program, bringing the average above the fall risk zone. Even better, the participants enjoyed it! They were so happy with the improvements that many asked for take-home versions so they can continue the practice.
“They enjoyed it so much partly because they weren’t getting any other treatment. They had already completed their rehabilitation but felt there still was room for improvement,” said lead researcher Arlene A. Schmid, rehabilitation research scientist at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, in the era of shiny happy young yogis, the baby boom generation often left out of the equation. But more studies like this one are bringing yoga to boomers, giving them not only balance, but confidence and hope.
Funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, QUERI, the study shed light on the growing trend of traditional therapists taking on yoga as supplemental practice prescribed to their patients. When you’re talking about prehab or rehab, targeting exercises are invaluable, but more medical practitioners are realizing that yoga offers so much more than that.
More mind-blowing talks on the brain? A must-see is neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor’s recount of her amazing story on “how it feels to have a stroke.”