She looked tired and a little dazed. “My seizures scare me.” She sighed. “I take my meds, but I still have them.”
Six months later, she looked like a different person. Calm. Relaxed. Peaceful. She attributed the change to adding yoga to her medication regimen.
The brain is the source of epileptic seizures. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, a surge of energy through the brain causes patients to lose consciousness and their muscles to contract. The culprit is a malfunction in the electrical system of the brain in which the cells just keep firing instead of controlling the discharge of electrical energy.
One of the more controversial alternative treatments for epilepsy control is yoga. It’s made up of a variety of practices native to India. The primary ones are meditation, devotional practices, breathing exercises and physical postures, according to the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
The positive effects of practicing yoga include reducing stress and increasing relaxation. If confirmed to be effective, it would be a particularly attractive natural seizure control since stress is a recognized risk factor in epileptic seizures.
However, the jury is still out as to how helpful yoga is for controlling seizures. One small trial of 32 epileptics divided the subjects into three groups. One group practiced sahaja yoga. The second did sham yoga (other exercises), and the third group had no treatment. All the subjects continued taking antiepileptic drugs.
When practicing this type of yoga, a person sits in meditation and directs his attention to a picture in front of him with a burning candle in front of it. The subject closes his eyes and focuses on the area around the top of his head.
Four patients in the yoga group ended up free of seizures for a six-month interval. None of the other subjects did. Due to the size of the study and dissimilar baseline conditions of the groups, experts believe they can draw no definitive conclusions beyond stressing that yoga should only be tried as an add-on treatment to medications already confirmed as effective.
An article in the American Chronicle touts yoga as an ancient practice – 5,000 years old – that can balance the various aspects of the body and mind of those who suffer from seizures. The key is using yoga exercises to overcome tension and relieve stress.
Some of the common triggers to epileptic seizures include music, environmental forces like heat and humidity, alcoholic beverages, irregular sleep patterns, hyperventilating, excessive fluids, lack of sleep and poor nutrition. Other triggers are drug abuse, forgetting to take medication and emotional stress.
American Chronicle reports that practicing yoga regularly can stop seizures. As a patient notes he or she is slipping into one, it’s possible to stop the process by catching a sharp breath as if frightened and holding it.
This action causes a change in blood pressure and metabolism and alters the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. This might help to control a seizure or even prevent one from starting. Proceeding into deep breathing then restores normal respiration.
Meditation is also an important aspect of yoga. It reduces stress by improving blood flow to the brain, slowing stress hormones and increasing serotonin to help keep an individual calm.
According to the American Chronicle, an Indian study showed that subjects who practiced yoga for 6 months were able to reduce seizure activity by 86 percent. However, it cautions that individuals already taking medication to control epileptic seizures shouldn’t just stop taking it without consulting their doctors.
Epilepsy Foundation site
University of Maryland School of Medicine site
American Chronicle site