Yoga might be a solution to the balance problems that so commonly plague stroke survivors, a small new study in the journal Stroke suggests.
Researchers found that stroke survivors who participated in yoga for eight weeks had much greater balance at the end of the study period than people who just received standard care.
Improving balance among stroke patients is important for reducing the risk of falls. People who had balance problems, or feelings of dizziness and/or spinning, were five times more likely to fall than those without balance issues, according to an earlier 2003 study in Stroke.
"For people with chronic stroke, something like yoga in a group environment is cost effective and appears to improve motor function and balance," study researcher Arlene Schmid, Ph.D., O.T.R., a rehabilitation research scientist at Roudebush Veterans Administration-Medical Center and Indiana University, said in a statement.
The eight-week study included 47 people (of whom about 75 percent were male veterans). The researchers had some of them participate in group yoga twice a week, while others did the group yoga twice a week, as well as a relaxation recording three times a week. The final group just received standard care, with no yoga.
In addition to actually improving balance, yoga seemed to also help people to become less afraid of falling down, researchers found.
The University of Maryland Medical Center noted that while yoga can be helpful for rehabilitation in stroke survivors, it's important for patients to consult their doctors before participating because there are some moves that could be dangerous for certain people. (The yoga poses in the new study were modified for the stroke patients.)
Previously, the researchers presented a study at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine showing that yoga helped to increase strength, endurance and flexibility because it helped neuromuscular control. They also found that it helped stroke patients to take longer steps and faster initial gait speeds, although they were unable to sustain a fast gait for the entire six minutes of the test.