Not your sisters’ yoga

Researchers at Indiana University and the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis have been studying the feasibility of using yoga as part of rehabilitation following a stroke. The results are promising.

Veterans receiving assistance with yoga poses

Poses are modified

Arlene Schmid, lead investigator of the VA-funded study, says the yoga will look unlike anything practitioners see in studios or other classes. The positions are adapted to the point that it should be taught by a yoga therapist, one who has had additional training in anatomy and physiology and how to work with people with disabilities.

The men and women in the study, for example, performed poses initially while seated in chairs and then progressed to seated and standing poses. Eventually, they all performed poses on the floor.

“Everything was modified because we wanted them to be successful on day one,” Schmid told me, when discussing earlier findings involving improvements to balance. “Everyone could be successful at some level.”

Schmid, a rehabilitation research scientist at the Roudebush VA Medical Center and assistant professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at IUPUI, discussed some of her findings last week at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting in San Francisco.

Tracy Dierks, an associate professor of physical therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, also discussed findings from the study here. They reported that after the eight-week program, study participants demonstrated improved balance and flexibility, a stronger and faster gait, and increased strength and endurance.

“The gait findings from our study have the potential to greatly impact clinical practice for gait recovery,” Dierks said. “The yoga intervention was designed to improve balance, not gait; we did not focus on improving gait at all. Yet we saw major improvements in most clinical gait measurements. But one often overlooked deficit remained: the inability to sustain gait speed for endurance.”

Nationwide, 5 million Americans are living with the consequences of stroke, which can alter patients’ lifestyles through decreased independence in activities of daily living, limited mobility and reduced participation in society.

“Clinicians need methods to manage and improve these post-stroke physical impairments,” Schmid said.

Read more about their reports at the 2012 ACSM meeting here. Read about their report at the 2011 ACSM meeting here.

Tags: , ,