yoga for stroke recoveryBy Faye Martins

How can Yoga help stroke recovery? The fact that a human can survive and potentially recover from a stroke is a testament to the intricate design of the brain. A stroke essentially kills an area of the brain, thus causing the typical symptoms of a stroke. Depending on the location, the brain can make adjustments and compensations, basically rewiring the other areas of the brain to perform the duties of the damaged section of the brain. This is an amazing feat.

Rewiring of the brain is essential for stroke recovery, and anything that promotes this rewiring is beneficial for stroke victims. Yoga creates new neural pathways in all individuals who perform it, and this can be very helpful for those who are recovering from a stroke.

Studies have shown that stroke victims helped to rewire their brains by simply visualizing themselves performing movements that their bodies were physically unable to do at the time, and these new neural pathways laid the foundation for greater physical recovery later on. Simply teaching yoga to victims brings them to a path of stroke recovery. The theory and method of yoga techniques will allow them to vividly envision themselves performing each technique, which will prove beneficial in light of a progressive string of successes.

When the individual is ready to do so, yoga training may be practiced with the individual laying down at first. Corpse pose, Mountain Pose and others are good beginning poses when combined with breath awareness. Later on when the individual is capable of maintaining a sitting position, yoga modified for a chair or starting from a seated position may be started. Various hip stretches, twists, gentle backbends and forward bends may be performed from a seated position with great benefit for those who have suffered from a stroke. The discipline of the practice should be at the same level as normal standing yoga with emphasis put on proper form and breath awareness throughout the session. Special attention should be given to areas of the body experiencing paralysis with the goal being to perform the pose to the best ability of the individual. Mental state is critical to making this effective, and students should be encouraged to visualize their problem areas performing the poses correctly even if this is not yet the case.

When standing is possible, many poses may be performed with the assistance of a chair for balance and stability such as Warrior I Pose, Warrior II Pose, Horse Rider Pose and Extended Side Angle Pose. This will help those who have suffered a stroke regain their previous levels of muscle strength in addition to flexibility and increased range of movement in areas of paralysis.

Yoga practice promotes continued healing for victims of stroke, improving their physical and mental state in addition to helping to protect against additional strokes by curbing blood pressure and reducing arterial stiffness. It is the perfect complementary therapy for stroke recovery.  Instructors who wish to help those who suffer from strokes should seek out specialized yoga teacher training in chair yoga, yoga therapy, and a restorative style.

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