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Dr Maarten Immink, Senior Lecturer, Human Movement at University of South Australia

Clinical Articles, News & Views

Yoga – the missing link to stroke rehabilitation?

Evidence-based lifestyle interventions such as yoga have a role to play in addressing the unmet psychological, social and spiritual needs after a stroke, according to a review by Dr Maarten Immink (University of South Australia) published online recently on The Conversation.1

Strokes may cause long-term difficulties with attention, decision-making, memory, speech, understanding others, movement and balance. While these difficulties are typically targeted through rehabilitation and long-term stroke management, other less obvious consequences of stroke, such as poorer emotional well-being, may not be appropriately addressed, Dr Immink says.

Fatigue and low exercise tolerance often make it difficult for stroke survivors to participate in standard modes of exercise – but yoga can be individualised and adapted to suit most individuals despite their movement abilities. In fact, yoga can be more accessible to those seeking to keep active after stroke than other forms of exercise, he adds. With this level of accessibility, yoga can increase confidence and promote participation in other forms of physical activity and daily activities.

Furthermore, psychological benefits such as feeling in control and able to cope provides a sense of self-mastery, leading to better stress management and emotional well-being, Dr Immink says. Yoga can help us develop the skills necessary to remain in control of our physical and mental reactions when we face challenging situations. However, the current level of evidence for yoga’s psychological benefits is far from conclusive and the mechanisms underlying these benefits are yet to be clearly delineated, he adds, citing commentators who have proposed that mindfulness techniques engage the brain in particular ways that strengthen parts of the brain responsible for attention, decision making, working memory, and emotional regulation.

Though it can be an important addition to standard therapies, it’s important to note that yoga is not a replacement for conventional health care, or a reason to postpone seeing a health professional, Dr Immink cautions. Before starting yoga, stroke survivors should consult with their health professional. Overall, yoga is considered to be safe, but styles and teachers vary, so not all yoga classes are appropriate for stroke survivors, he concludes.

References

1. Immink M.  Yoga may be the missing link to stroke survivors’ rehabilitation. The Conversation 2015. Available from: http://theconversation.com/yoga-may-be-the-missing-link-to-stroke-survivors-rehabilitation-36887

Published on: September 30, 2015

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