By Priyal Sakhuja
Take a deep breath in, raise your hands overhead, arms straight, and reach toward the sky with your fingertips. Find your center and feel the essence of your body. That’s yoga, the practice of uniting the mind, body, and spirit. It’s the art of creating balance through developing strength and flexibility. Yoga has recently become an increasingly popular form of exercise for many in the Western world, but its origins lie in ancient Indian philosophies and texts such as the Rig-Veda. The word yoga itself comes from the Sanskrit word, “yuj,” which means yoking, or a team of oxen (Ann, 2014). Thus, yoga can be interpreted as a union of sorts. So how can this ancient practice, which has recently become an increasingly modern form of therapy and fitness, be beneficial for epileptics?
Epileptologist, Dr. Nandan Yardi, head of the Yardi Epilepsy Clinic in Kothrud, Pune, India explains that seizures are caused by imbalances in the physical and psychological systems or the union of these systems in the body. This is where yoga and its various forms come in, which could become a key step in restoring the balance between the mind and body (“Yoga for Epileptic Seizure Control”).
Pranayama or Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing
It is important for people who are having a seizure to catch and hold their breath to cause changes in metabolism, blood flow, and oxygen levels in the brain. Pranayama, or deep breathing, helps bring about normal respiration and reduce the chances of going into a seizure or can even stop seizures before they are in full effect.
Asanas or Postures
Postures, or “asanas” are integral to restoring balance to the body and metabolic systems. This is because postures increase physical stamina which helps develop improved strength and flexibility. They are also known to calm the nervous system, which contributes to increased mental strength. Using asanas as physical exercise allows for improved circulation, respiration, and concentration, thus decreasing the chances of having a seizure.
Dhyana or Meditation
Since stress is a major trigger, meditating, or calming the mind is an important method for controlling seizures. Dhyana improves blood flow to the brain and decreases production of stress hormones while increasing production of essential neurotransmitters. Increased levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin substantially calm the nervous system. Meditation is the key to restoring the balance between the mind and the body.
In 1996, The Indian Journal of Medical Research published the effects of “Sahaja Yoga” on seizure control. While the study was not very conclusive, its results were still quite promising. In the study, a group of patients with epilepsy who practiced “Sahaja Yoga” witnessed an 86 percent decrease in their frequency of seizures. While yoga might not be a cure to seizures, it is certainly an encouraging form of alternative medicine that could only benefit the body in various ways. Although yoga is certainly becoming more popular in recent years, it has proved to be the master of unifying our mind, body, and soul for centuries in ancient India. Yoga is a healthy lifestyle that allows one to get away from the chaos that work, family, relationships, or health issues may bring about. It teaches you how to focus on you. So give it a try. Do it with your loved ones. And remember, mind over matter.
Langley, Zoe. “Yoga for Epileptic Seizure Control.” Online. <http://hinduism.about.com/od/meditationyoga/a/Yoga-For-Epileptic-Seizure-Control.htm>
Pizer, Ann. (January 2, 2014). “What is Yoga?” Online. <http://yoga.about.com/od/beginningyoga/a/whatisyoga.htm>