Late Breaking News
Yoga Instruction Expands Minds, Function of Veteran Stroke Victims
Advantages for Veterans
Does having served in the military better prepare veterans to meet the challenges of recovering from a stroke? While she does not have scientific proof that this is the case, “Anecdotally, I would say yes,” notes Schmid. In this particular research program, which treated veterans who had had a stroke at least six months prior to being enrolled as a participant, almost all of them were older men.
“A couple of them were World War II veterans; they have a very different mindset than those who are coming back from the current wars,” she shares. For example, they were asked their opinions about yoga both before and after the program; before it began, many said it was “for girls” or “for hippies.”
“After we were done, they said everyone should do yoga,” says Schmid. “It was really fun for us to get them to think differently.”
The eight-week program was fairly simple, she recounts: There was a lot of focus on breathing and eye movement. Each day, another element was added, and the exercises became more complex.
What was most important, she says, is, “From the very first day, we wanted everyone to feel successful. We didn’t want to lose someone on the first day.” Eventually, she notes, the participants progressed to standing with or without support, being able to do knee bends while standing, in addition to prolonged lunges. Finally, they undertook more complex bends and stretches.
“I think that’s really important after stroke – to be confident you can do something without falling or losing your balance,” says Schmid. “And for stroke victims, self-esteem, that psycho-social piece, may be even more important than physical improvement – even more than we would have guessed.” The patients talked about going out with friends, walking around the corner to the grocery store, even taking shower for the first time since their stroke, she recalls.
Schmid says she probably got as much out of the program as the veterans.
“I got to really know their stories; I felt I was able to connect so well with them because they were veterans,” she says. “And it was really exciting for us to watch them go from people who had no social outlet to meeting fellow veterans, asking each other where they served and in what branch and then starting to go out to lunch together or helping each other around the house.”
Most exciting for her, perhaps, was bringing veterans together years after they had served. “If you just put any older adults in a room together, they would not feel so connected,” she observes. “Some of them work or volunteer at the VA. One had been at another of our studies, and this has helped change life patterns.”
Schmid says she has applied for additional funding, in order to do a much larger study. She also is being guided by comments from the participants. “They said they wished they had learned about yoga when they first had their stroke, so we just finished a small study involving veterans who were still in the hospital,” she notes.