Yoga for Stroke

After a stroke, survivors may experience balance problems, pain and weakness. When all you hear is, ‘you should exercise,’ these problems can make it tough to take part in normal everyday activities, much less exercise!

Many people are afraid to start yoga because it requires balance and it often requires using the strength of only one side of your body to to support yourself. But recent studies have shown that yoga can actually help improve some of the effects of a stroke, even if you start yoga years after a stroke.

Types of Yoga

There are number of different yoga practices. However, beginners generally can’t get into advanced yoga right off the bat. Many yoga classes that you can sign up for at a neighborhood recreation center or as part of your stroke rehabilitation are simpler, but can still provide benefits.


Meditation based yoga practices are generally focused on breathing and relaxation.

This can be helpful in getting yourself to start moving, especially if you have been bedridden for a while. Yoga with a meditation slant is also useful for relaxing and calming your mood and decreasing your stress level. If you have issues with pain, meditation can help alleviate some of your pain.


Mind body yoga classes are generally focused on the process of thinking about the intentional actions of the body. This can aid in regaining your balance and in stimulating, stretching and strengthening stiff muscles that you haven’t used in a while.

Power Yoga

 Power yoga is often a blend of postural challenges and balance building poses while using light weights. Often, this is a good way for you to focus on your body and it can provide moderate cardiovascular challenges of you want to start building your endurance and energy.

Yoga for Stroke

Yoga for Stroke

Several scientific research studies have evaluated the effects of yoga on different effects of stroke.

Pain, Balance and Weakness


Pain can be a real pain after a stroke. About 30%-50% of stroke survivors are living with pain that started after the stroke. A multi-center patient trial demonstrated improvement in stroke related pain after an 8-week yoga program.


Trouble with balance is one of the most common problems after a stroke. Balance problems can be caused by a hemorrhagic stroke, an ischemic stroke, a small stroke or a large stroke or a stroke in any part of the brain. Balance problems can mean feeling dizzy, trouble walking, feeling woozy or feeling tipsy.

Of course, when we picture yoga exercises, we think of balancing, which is a huge challenge even for someone who is not a stroke survivor. But a recent research study evaluating stroke patients who suffered from balance problems demonstrated significant improvement in balance after yoga based rehabilitation intervention. 


Of course, when we think of a stroke, we almost always think of weakness. And weakness is the problem that is usually the least likely to get better. However, a small research study evaluated patients’ weakness and balance impairment and noted improvement of strength among the patients who practiced the yoga exercises more frequently and were more adherent to the yoga regimen.

Start Slow

Make sure that you start slow when resuming any type of exercise after a stroke. If you were athletic prior to your stroke, you will need some time to get back to your pre-stroke strength and endurance. Be patient with yourself.


If you are starting to exercise for the first time after a stroke, you might be pleasantly surprised to see that you have an inner athlete after all of these years!


Make sure to tell your yoga instructor that you had a stroke prior to starting any classes. Sources: Schmid AA, Miller KK, Van Puymbroeck M, DeBaun-Sprague E, Yoga leads to multiple physical improvements after stroke, a pilot study, complementary and ATherapeautic Medicine, December 2014 Schmid AA, Van Puymbroeck M, Altenburger PA, Schalk NL, Dierks TA, Miller KK, Damush TM, Bravata DM, Williams LS, Poststroke balance improves with yoga: a pilot study, Stroke 2012 Bastille JV, Gill-Body KM, A yoga-based exercise program for people with chronic poststroke hemiparesis, Physical Therapy, January 2004

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