Yoga Improves Balance for Stroke Survivors

It is often said that yoga can help bring balance to your life.  A new study shows promise that yoga can also quite literally improve your balance.  At first glance this may not appear to be as valuable as some of the other beneficial side effects of yoga, yet for those at greater risk for injury from falling, it is a substantial one.

Falls and injuries due to falls are one of the most frequent complications for stroke survivors.  For those who have suffered a stroke, the risk of falling can quadruple, and the risk of breaking a hip after a fall is greatly increased.  In addition to the increased risk of injury, stroke patients often have a fear of falling, especially if they have already had a fall.  This psychological component is a significant problem as well, as it may lead to reluctance to move around.  Increased immobility then further deteriorates muscle tone and stamina.

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In a recent study, twenty participants who had suffered a stroke and already completed their prescribed rehabilitation were lead in twice weekly one-hour yoga classes for eight weeks.  The series started with everyone seated, then gradually added in standing poses.  By the end of the study everyone was performing poses on the floor.   Improvement was measured with the Berg Balance Scale and the Fullerton Advance Balance Scale.  A 17% improvement was seen on items measured by the Berg scale and a 34% improvement was seen on the Fullerton scale.  Arlene A. Schmid, the lead researcher in the study, found it “equally exciting” that there was a “measurable gain in confidence the study participants had in their balance.”

Schmid presented the results of this pilot study at a meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine.  Even though it is considered a preliminary study, and the research has not yet undergone the peer review process, the promising results have generated a lot of interest.

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Has yoga improved your balance?  What is your favorite balancing pose?

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