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Yoga as treatment for epileptic seizures

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In a yoga studio lights are dim, voices are silent and the atmosphere is calm. These factors should make for the perfect environment to relax people with epilepsy—a brain disorder that causes recurrent episodes known as seizures. Stress is an important factor that can induce seizures, so as a proven source of stress-relief, yoga may be the optimal therapeutic method for patients.

During a seizure, brain activity is interrupted by overly excited neurons. This can cause changes in awareness, disruptions of consciousness and bodily convulsions. Patients are diagnosed with epilepsy if they seize periodically with no known treatable cause.

Yoga is an ancient Hindu practice that involves stretching and breathing exercises to increase flexibility, strength and balance. The purpose of yoga is to provide human beings with a sense of inner peace and clarity of mind. This general idea is why practitioners believe yoga is beneficial beyond exercise and can be used as treatment for certain health problems like epilepsy.

Yoga may be the key to preventing neurons from becoming overly excited, and thus resulting in a seizure. The goal of yoga therapy is for the patient to become master over his or her excitations. Through meditation, deep breathing and subtle movements, patients learn how to put their brain cells to rest and slow down activity.

While many people with epilepsy attest to feeling more relaxed and in control after yoga therapy, there is not enough published evidence to support yoga as an effective treatment. A study conducted in 2000 titled Yoga for Epilepsy compared real yoga to sham yoga or no treatment, and found that real yoga did reduce seizures. However, an additional trial in the study found no sign of seizure reduction after yoga. These trials prove that there is a need for more studies in this area.

While yoga is not currently a proven treatment for epilepsy, there is no doubt that the practice can help. Yoga teaches relaxation and self-control, which anyone with epilepsy can find beneficial in preventing a seizure from occurring. Methods learned in yoga therapy can be taken outside of the studio for when patients feel stressed or overly excited. Yoga is an effective tool that can give patients a sense of security in their everyday lives.

The Center for Contextual Change in Chicago, Elmhurst and Skokie specializes in yoga therapy. Schedule an appointment on their website today.

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