We now know that the brain can—and does—change throughout our lives. Thanks to neuroplasticity, the symptoms caused by stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other neurological conditions can be affected by yoga therapy techniques. Sometimes the symptoms themselves change, even for those with serious conditions. Even when that doesn’t happen, yoga practice helps individuals change their relationship to themselves and the conditions with which they live.
Living with a lifelong neurological condition is a daily effort, both mentally and physically. This reality makes yoga therapy, with its emphasis on creating a more easeful relationship between the mind and body, a supportive and potentially long-term therapy. Neurological conditions present challenges that may surpass the reach of conventional therapeutic interventions. Rather than focusing solely on a symptom or perceiving a progressive neurological disease as something to be “fought,” yoga therapy can provide a personalized self-care resource, with an eye to improving or sustaining day-to-day well-being and quality of life.
According to a pilot study on people with Parkinson’s disease,
“Yoga appears to improve physiological and non-motor factors that can affect [quality of life] over a relatively short period.”
Similarly, a study at Rutger’s University suggests that yoga can help relieve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS):
“[T]hose who participated were better able to walk for short distances and longer periods of time, had better balance while reaching backwards, fine motor coordination, and were better able to go from sitting to standing. Their quality of life also improved in perceived mental health, concentration, bladder control, walking, and vision, with a decrease in pain and fatigue.”