Studies: Yoga Shows Benefits for Stroke Rehabilitation

Stroke survivors, get ready to get your “ohm” on. New research shows that adapted yoga improves balance and flexibility, contributes to a stronger and faster gait, and increases strength and endurance during stroke rehabilitation.

Researchers from the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and IU Bloomington exposed older veterans recovering from stroke to an eight-week yoga program. The subjects had completed post-stroke occupational and physical therapy before the study but continued to have impairments.

One of two studies focused on how well a person could walk after the program. The participants showed improved balance and faster gait speeds with longer steps or strides. Although the veterans could walk faster, they could not sustain the faster speed for the entire six-minute test.

“The gait findings from our study have the potential to greatly impact clinical practice for gait recovery,” said Tracy Dierks, associate professor of physical therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “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. But one often overlooked deficit remained: the inability to sustain gait speed for endurance.”

The researchers concluded that including yoga in in-patient or out-patient stroke rehabilitation might be appropriate.