Yoga and Seizures
From a Yoga friend:
“I have a client in my yoga class that told me last night the doctor has diagnosed her with ‘seizures’. Would you recommend anything for them?”
When we think about someone having a seizure, we usually picture them as having spasmodic-like jerkings of the entire body. That’s not always the case. Sometimes seizures only affect one area such as an arm, a leg, or even (very rarely) the abdomen. Regardless of how they appear, or how we experience them with our bodies, a seizure always begins in the brain. They are abnormal, unexplainable massive electrical discharges of brain cells.
There is evidence that Yoga can help.
Progressive relaxation and biofeedback have provoked changes in brain electrical wave activity (as seen on an EEG) that in turn decreases seizure frequency. That means the relaxation component at the end of practice is a particularly useful tool. This should be done once or twice a day at least, and if the seizures affect only one part of the body, focusing extra time on relaxing that area of the body is key.
A lower blood level of carbon dioxide is a trigger for seizures. Lower levels of carbon dioxide in the blood are caused by the rapid, shallow breathing of anxiety. Pranayama training is wonderful for this. Spending time consciously focusing on a particular technique, something like nadi shodhana, will train the overall breathing pattern so that even when unconscious of the breath, it will be slower and deeper. Whenever feeling stressed or anxious – or if it feels as if a seizure is coming on (many seizures have an aura, or warning, that is specific to each person), then relax and focus on the breath.
Meditation is an important tool to help stop seizures. One good study, a randomized-controlled one, found a 62% decrease in the number of seizures experienced over 3 months and an 86% decrease at 6 months in those who practiced meditation compared to controls who did not. Four out of 10 of those suffering from seizures at the beginning of the trial were completely free of them by the end.
And last but not least, the spiritual and psychological training of Yoga help us to accept the things we are dealt and to learn from them.
On a positive note, about 70% of people that have seizures eventually go into remission. There is much hope for self-healing through Yoga.
Helané Wahbeh, ND, Siegward-M. Elsas, MD, and Barry S. Oken, MD. Mind–body interventions: Applications in neurology. Neurology. 2008 June 10; 70(24): 2321–2328.
Marson AG, Maguire M, Ramaratnam S. Epilepsy. Clin Evid (Online). 2009 Jan 28;2009. pii: 1201.