For individuals with epilepsy, practicing yoga could help lessen the feelings of stigma associated with the disease, reduce the frequency of seizures, and alleviate anxiety, according to new research published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, on November 8, 2023.
UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT OF STIGMA
“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,” stated study author Dr. Manjari Tripathi of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. “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.”
YOGA VS. SHAM YOGA
The study involved 160 participants with epilepsy, averaging 30 years of age, all of whom reported experiencing stigma. Participants were randomly assigned to either yoga therapy or sham yoga therapy. The former included exercises for muscle loosening, breathing, meditation, and positive affirmations, while the latter mimicked the same exercises without the key components believed to induce relaxation: slow and synchronized breathing, and attention to body movements and sensations.
Compared to those who practiced sham yoga, those who practiced actual yoga reported a significant decrease in their perceived stigma of the disease. Additionally, individuals who did yoga were over four times more likely to experience a more than 50% reduction in seizure frequency after six months than those who did sham yoga. They were also over seven times more likely to stop having seizures altogether.
Improvements in quality of life measures, mindfulness, and a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms were also observed in the yoga group.
Dr. Tripathi emphasized that the findings highlight the need to consider alternative therapies for people with epilepsy facing stigma. “It may not only help reduce stigma, but also improve quality of life and mindfulness. Plus, it can be easily pre-recorded and shared with patients online using minimal resources and costs,” she said.
However, a limitation of the study was that participants self-reported their seizure frequency, and there is a possibility that they may not have remembered all the information accurately.
The study underscores the potential benefits of incorporating yoga into the management of epilepsy, offering people with the condition a tool to improve their quality of life and well-being.