Yoga may reduce epilepsy seizures and ease stress of stigma, study finds

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Taking part in yoga classes may help people with epilepsy reduce the frequency of their seizures, a study suggests.

Research in India found exercises involving loosening muscles, breathing, meditation and positive affirmations also reduced feelings of stigma about their condition.

Study author Dr Manjari Tripathi, of All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, said: “These study findings elevate the need to consider alternative therapies and activities for people with epilepsy facing stigma.

“Yoga may not only help reduce stigma, but also improve quality of life and mindfulness. Plus, yoga can be easily pre-recorded and shared with patients online using minimal resources and costs.”

The study recruited 160 people. Half took part in seven group sessions of 45 to 60 minutes over three months and practiced at home for 30 minutes, five times a week.

The rest took part in a “sham yoga” programme which mimicked the exercises but lacked other components of yoga.

All tracked their seizures in a journal. Six months after starting the intervention, those who did yoga scored lower on tests that measured perceived stigma of their disease.

They were also more than four times as likely to have seen a greater than 50 percent reduction in frequency of their seizures, and were seven times more likely to no longer have seizures than those who did sham yoga.

Yoga participants also reported feeling less anxious and saw improvements in their quality of life and mindfulness.

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Dr Tripathi added: “People with epilepsy often face stigma that can cause them to feel different than others due to their own health condition and that can have a significant impact on their quality of life.

“This stigma can affect a person’s life in many ways including treatment, emergency department visits and poor mental health.

“Our study showed that doing yoga can alleviate the burden of epilepsy and improve the overall quality of life by reducing this perceived stigma.”

The findings were published online in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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