Stroke Recovery & Yoga
There is often the misguided belief that whatever an individual is able to recover within a year of their stroke is all they will get back in regard to mobility and cognition (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2014). This belief is false. While plateaus in rehabilitation are to be expected, recovery from stroke is a lifelong process. It is possible to continue to regain mobility, vision, and cognition, though admittedly at a much slower pace after the first year post-stroke, beyond the one-year mark (A Northern Manhattan Study). Survivors can also learn new adaptive techniques and skills that may allow them to gain a greater sense of independence.
The effectiveness of yoga as a complementary therapy to other rehabilitation therapies has been recorded across a variety of chronic disease populations. This is because yoga often combines physical movement with breath-work and meditative techniques. Chair yoga is a safe intervention for stroke survivors and individuals with neurodisability (2021).
Proven Benefits of Yoga for Survivors
The benefits of a consistent yoga practice for survivors and individuals living with neurodisabilities result in range of health benefits (2019, 2019, 2017, 2015, 2015, 2012, 2012). This includes:
- reduce general anxiety
- decrease depressive symptoms
- increase self-reported quality of life
- increase in balance
- greater sensation
- improved mind and body connection
- wider range in mobility
- increase exercise capacity
- improve motor function
- greater self-awareness
- improve memory and concentration
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Proven Benefits of Yoga for Caregivers
The benefits of a consistent yoga practice for caregivers are also vast and touch on several facets of general health (2017, 2013, 2011). This includes:
- decrease in anxiety
- decrease in depressive symptoms
- increase in quality of life
- improve vitality
- expand self-compassion
- improved sleep
- improved memory
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The Impact of Stroke
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries nutrients and oxygen to the brain is either blocked by a clot or ruptures/bursts. Because of this rupture, part of the brain cannot get blood and/or oxygen necessary for function resulting in the death of brain cells. The two most common forms of stroke is an ischemic stroke and a hemorrhagic stroke. A TIA (transient ischemic attack), is caused by a temporary clot (American Heart Association).
In 2019 alone, there were 101.5 million strokes worldwide with 6.6 million of these resulting in death. Ischemic strokes account for over 70% of strokes globally and are more prevalent in countries in parts of North Africa and the Middle East, southern sub-Saharan Africa, high-income North America, and Southeast Asia ( American Heart Association) .
With this staggering number in mind, it is no surprise that stroke is a leading cause of disability and death worldwide (World Health Organization). WSO reports that there are over 80 million individuals globally who are living with this chronic illness. They also report that 1 in 4 people over the age of 25 will have a stroke in their lifetime (World Stroke Organization).
Stroke often impacts individuals in the height of their productive years and can have severe negative physical and cognitive implications on the stroke survivor and their families ( 2016). The type of stroke and location of the stroke impact possible effects of stroke on an individual. This can range from changes in physical and cognitive abilities, career/employment changes, and shifts in family dynamics.
There is no doubt that stroke is a life-altering event for both the survivor and their families.