Yoga is an ancient practice from India, dating back 5000 years. The word yoga means “to unite”. Yoga is a practice that engages the whole person, including the mind, body, and soul. Yoga Therapy is at its most effective when it is tailored for each individual.
Useful yoga tools for individuals with Neurological disorders are:
Warm-ups and mobilizing techniques
Visualization – Feeling for positive thinking and renewal
Breathing and meditation
Researchers have shown that yoga may positively impact many post-stroke-related cognitive, emotional, and physical disabilities. Yoga may potentially lead to post-stroke improvements through increasing or altering blood flow to the brain; enhancing cross-hemisphere blood flow (partly through crossing the midline of the body with eyes, arms, and legs); calming the nervous system; integrating new movement patterns; changing neural pathways; grounding the mind and body, and; reconnecting the mind and body.
⦁ Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana): This pose can be done in neurological disorders like brain stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis. This is done in a supine position with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. On exhale, press the feet down into the floor while simultaneously pushing the hips off the floor. To release, roll the spine towards the ground slowly. This pose stretches the chest, neck, and spine. This pose helps to calm the mind, reduce stress, and enhance mood. Bridge pose is also thought to help with digestion, stimulate the belly and associated organs, reduce pain such as headache and backache, and improve anxiety and fatigue.
Precautions: Avoid if there is a neck injury. Do not let the knees push in towards each other or fall into each other due to hemiparesis.
⦁ Chair Pose (Utkatasana): This pose requires a good balance. Benefits of this pose include toning and strengthening the legs, ankles, and back, as well as stretching the chest and shoulders. This pose is not recommended for people with low blood pressure, insomnia, and headaches. Start by exhaling as you bend your knees and move your hips back as if you are trying to sit on a chair. Draw your lower abdomen in and up to support your lower back. Inhale as you raise your arms around your ears. Keep reaching higher while sitting lower for 5-10 breaths.
3. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Pranayama) for relaxation: This is powerful pranayama that can be used in neurological disorders. This technique is not recommended in cases of uncontrolled asthma or a heart condition. Start by sitting in a comfortable position. Close the right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale deeply through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with the ring finger of your right hand as you release the right nostril. Exhale slowly through your right nostril. Keeping the left nostril closed, inhale deeply through the right nostril. Seal the right nostril again with the thumb then release the left nostril. Exhale out of the left nostril. You should now be in the original position with the thumb sealing the right nostril. Repeat the process 5-10 times.
4. Corpse Pose (Savasana): This is one of the most important postures because it allows the mind and body to rest after a physical practice. This pose is thought to reduce blood pressure, calm the mind, and enhance relaxation throughout the body. It also reduces headaches, fatigue, and insomnia. Start by lying on your back. The arms can be placed at the side or overhead. The palms should be placed face up. Ensure that the shoulder blades are both placed on the floor. The legs should be extended to the width of the mat, with the feet turned out if that feels comfortable. Close the eyes if comfortable, relax the tongue, relax the cheeks, and soften the eyes. A guideline for the length of time to spend in this pose is to practice Corpse pose (Savasana) for five minutes for every 30 minutes of physical practice.