The benefits of yoga for stroke recovery are huge.
Today we’re diving into 5 of these benefits, and we bet most of them will surprise you!
You’ll also learn how a yoga teacher used yoga to speed up her recovery from stroke. It’s pretty cool!
But first, we need to quickly define what yoga is because most people have the wrong impression.
Yoga Is About More than Just Cool-Looking Poses
If you think that you can’t do yoga because you’re not bendy or can’t balance, please reconsider.
Yoga is about so much more than cool-looking poses. In fact, poses are only a small part of yoga.
Yoga involves a combination of poses, meditation, breathing, and relaxation techniques.
It’s about fostering your mind/body connection, and it’s really beneficial for stroke recovery.
Here are 5 reasons why:
1. Yoga Helps Rewire the Brain
Yoga is therapeutic for stroke recovery because of the intense focus and attention required.
Each movement is (ideally) very deliberate, and that extra stimulation can really wake up your brain.
Your brain gets an extra push that says, “Yes, we’re moving! Let’s get better at this skill.”
Then, the rewiring process begins – perhaps more intensely than regular rehab exercise because of all the extra awareness and attention.
This is just our opinion; and if you don’t like opinions, don’t worry. We’ll dig into the research and clinical studies next!
2. Yoga Helps Stroke Survivors with Balance, Range of Motion, Strength, and Endurance
Yes, aaall that good stuff comes from yoga!
In this study from 2014, 37 stroke survivors participated in yoga twice a week for 8 weeks.
By the end of those 8 weeks, the stroke survivors improved their pain, neck range of motion, passive hip range of motion, upper extremity strength, and endurance.
That’s a lot of benefits from two yoga sessions per week! And it’s a great reason to start your yoga practice right now.
Which brings up an important point:
Side Note: Is Yoga Safe for You?
If you are a stroke survivor with impaired movement and balance, then yoga can be potentially dangerous.
To improve your safety, modify all your yoga poses to suit your ability level (more on this later). Also, be sure to practice with a caregiver around or work with a therapist.
And with that said, let’s dive back into these amazing benefits of yoga for stroke recovery.
3. Yoga Can Unintentionally Help with Your Gait!
The mobility issues that stroke survivors face often lead to balance issues and poor gait (your manner of walking).
In another study on yoga for stroke recovery, researchers discovered that yoga helped stroke survivors improve both balance and gait speed.
The quality of their gait improved with longer steps and better coordination.
Best of all, the study didn’t even intend to discover a correlation between yoga and gait improvement!
Researcher Tracy Dierks reported,
“The yoga intervention was designed to improve balance, not gait; we did not focus on improving gait at all. Yet we saw major improvements in most clinical gait measurements.”
Researchers found benefits of yoga for stroke recovery outside of their original purpose! That speaks volumes for how powerful this practice is.
If you want to improve your movement, balance, and gait, then we recommend adding yoga to your rehabilitation as soon as possible – with proper guidance and care.
4. Yoga Can Be Modified to All Stages of Recovery
Yoga is also great for stroke recovery because it can be tailored to almost any stage of recovery.
If you have some mobility impairments, you can try starting with chair yoga or using props to support your poses.
Here’s a video of a yoga therapist demonstrating a modified downward dog for stroke rehabilitation.
Here’s a chair yoga flow demonstrated by a stroke survivor who credits yoga to her amazing recovery.
YouTube is full of ideas for you to try.
And if you don’t feel confident trying these poses by yourself at home, then listen to your gut and work with a therapist.
Now let’s move onto the last huge benefit of yoga for stroke recovery before we share a success story.
5. Yoga Helps You Remember to Stop Holding Your Breath While You Exercise
We all know that breathing is good, especially when we’re exercising. This is obvious.
An unintentional mistake that stroke survivors often make is holding their breath while they exercise.
Because movement requires so much more effort than before, it can cause you to subconsciously hold your breath while you do your rehab exercises – NOT GOOD!
Luckily, yoga places a heavy emphasis on linking breath to movement. Breathe in, move one way. Breathe out, move another way.
This extra emphasis on your breath will help you remember to breathe when you’re doing rehab – and when you’re going about your daily life!
So, have we convinced you to start doing yoga for stroke recovery yet?
Here’s a success story that will hopefully seal the deal:
How a Stroke Survivor and Yoga Teacher Used Yoga to Recover Faster
In our book Healing & Happiness After Stroke we talked about a 51-year-old stroke survivor and yoga teacher named Isabelle.
Isabelle’s recovery took just 3 months, and she credits her quick recovery to her experience with yoga.
Isabelle’s mental practice involved visualizing herself doing various yoga poses.
Each day, she’d lie in bed and visualize those yoga poses, and then she would try to practice them in real life.
And every day, Isabelle noticed that she could do the pose a little better.
Mental practice and yoga are both great for stroke recovery because they really help rewire the brain!
Start Your Practice Today
There are many benefits of yoga for stroke recovery. We recommend that you look into starting your yoga practice as soon as possible.
Hop online and see if there are any yoga therapists in your area. Then give them a call to see if they have any experience with stroke survivors.
For those who have enough mobility to try yoga at home, hop onto YouTube and look up various modified routines and poses that you can practice.
Be safe and have fun!