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Yoga helps stroke victims

Isha Prasad was only 16 years old when suddenly a blood vessel snapped in her brain triggering a massive stroke and robbing her of her ability to walk, talk and hold up her head. In a story of remarkable recovery, Isha, now 18, is like a normal girl her age—able to walk, talk and hold her head high. And for the past six months, she has been doing yoga therapy as part of her rehabilitation. "It makes you feel good, like, happy, not tired," Isha said. More than a million people in India are felled by a stroke every year. And two thirds of them end up with some lasting disability or the other.

In The United States about 30 percent of people hospitalized for stroke are younger than 65 years old according to the American Stroke Association. The figures for India are unlikely to be very different.

Although medical treatments and rehabilitations are effective in helping survivors regain their abilities, alternative therapies like acupuncture, canine therapy, color therapy or yoga therapy are also used widely. Valerie Greene, who founded Bcenter in 2012 as a nonprofit organization for stroke survivors and their families, desired to introduce yoga to her stroke support group.

"It is challenging to find someone to work with stroke patients specifically," Greene said. But recently she found Michelle Brusseau who like had used yoga to improve her stroke symptoms and got her to show stroke survivors and caregivers at Winter Park Civic Center, in Winter Park, Fla., the benefits of yoga therapy. Ella Duke, a yoga therapist, helped Brusseau demonstrate movements that help with muscle strength, breathing, balance and even voice.

Although conclusive evidence is awaited, preliminary pilot studies have clearly shown that yoga therapy can help stroke survivors improve their mental health and quality of life. The studies indicate that yoga therapy could complement traditional rehabilitation. To qualify for intervention in stroke cases, yoga therapists go through additional hours of training and learn about anatomy, physiology and various disabilities and conditions. Groups like the Yoga Alliance and the International Association of Yoga Therapists have set curricula for becoming a yoga therapist.

Bcenter's Greene, who suffered a stroke 20 years ago when she was 31, said exposing survivors and their families to these non-invasive modalities is her mission. The stroke paralyzed her left side, took away her speech and hearing in her right ear.

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