yoga instructor By Faye Martins

For those of you who are enhancing your yoga teacher training or for students who have had a stroke there are special precautions to be aware of.  A student who has recovered from a stroke needs special care in a yoga session.  While yogic exercise is an excellent form of therapy, nothing should be taken for granted when considering precautions.  There are some asanas that should not be practiced.  Additionally, approval from a physician is strongly recommended before engaging in asana practice.   

People suffering from a stroke find their lives have changed in an instant. Movement becomes compromised, thoughts and memory are affected, speech is impeded and balance is merely a memory. Yoga has proven to be a viable form of therapy for stroke survivors. Asanas improve balance and agility, while the breathing and meditative techniques provide healthy ways to relieve the frustration, anger and stress associated with having a stroke. Patients must be sure to work with a trained yoga instructor or physical therapist to ensure they take all the necessary precautions.

Start Slowly

Yoga for stroke survivors should start out slowly with simple poses that aren’t too challenging for the patient. Each patient will have different needs that should be specifically addressed by the therapist or yoga instructor. As the student progresses more difficult poses can be added. Patients can first focus on simple floor stretches, meditation and breathing exercises. Survivors must also realize that results probably won’t occur overnight. Over time and practice, patients will notice gradual improvements in balance, strength, agility and attitude.


Students who have had a stroke should avoid inversions, which cause the blood to flow to the brain. Inversions can result in dizziness or fainting. In patients who already have a disrupted equilibrium, these poses should be avoided. Common inversions include downward dog, forward bend and plow pose.

Neck Twists

Patients should also take caution when twisting the neck. It is best to leave the neck in a neutral position to avoid injury or cutting off the blood supply to the brain. When poses require a twist of the neck, patients can leave the head facing forward or in another comfortable position.


Since a stroke results in loss of balance, it is extremely important for patients to exercise caution when attempting asanas. Any pose can be modified to accommodate a lack of balance by using bolsters, pillows, a wall or a chair for additional support. 

Overdoing It

Yoga therapy will most likely feel great and produce results. Patients must be careful not to get excited and overdo it. Pushing too far too soon can result in injury or strain of the muscles or joints. A slow and steady pace is the best method for achieving and maintaining an able body.

Notes for Yoga Instructors

Depending on where you work with your clients, you may have to improvise.  Student mobility determines where and how you teach.  Some students will be able to get around well, while others may not move around much at all.  Working with students in hospital beds and wheel chairs is going to make you realize that Yoga can be practiced anywhere and anytime.  Independent research and specialized yoga instructor training is of prime importance.

© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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