A new study says that yoga could reduce disability in stroke victims by improving their balance, proving that viral videos like Arthur Boorman‘s aren’t just freak occurrences. If you’re willing to buy one man’s experience as testament to the incredible transformational abilities of yoga, Boorman’s video could definitely get you to the mat. But new research, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, is enough to get even skeptics to try their luck in a yoga studio.
Researchers tracked 47 mostly-male stroke victims who’d had their strokes within six months of the study’s start. The patients all struggled with balance (caused by damage to the central nervous system), but all were at least able to stand independent of any help. Patients were put in one of three groups: one attended group yoga twice a week for eight weeks; another did the same, plus listened to relaxation recordings three times a week; the third received usual medical care without yoga.
Participants who did yoga not only experienced improvement in balance and coordination; they also reported a more positive mindset. Dr. Arlene Schmidt, a rehabilitation research scientist at Roudebush Veterans Administration–Medical Center in Indianapolis and lead study author, believed that yoga’s mind-body connection was at the core of participants’ improvements:
I think that yoga was so beneficial because it is complex and includes the mind and the body, and helps to coordinate movements and breathing. Many of the [participants] stated they wished they had done this type of intervention while in the hospital or just earlier in their life. They were able to use the breathing and meditation to help decrease stress.
Yoga is often linked to some fairly unbelievable health claims, many of which are too vague to prove true or false, or so miraculous that they’re hard to credit solely to yoga. But the study proves that yoga really can have incredible physical and psychological benefits that go far beyond a single viral video.
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