New Delhi: For people with epilepsy, doing yoga may help reduce feelings of stigma about the disease along with reducing seizure frequency and anxiety, claims new research.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, involved a small group of 160 people with epilepsy who had an average of one seizure per week and on average took at least two anti-seizure medications and faced stigma.
"People with epilepsy often face a 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," said Manjari Tripathi, from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) 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," she added.
In the study, the researchers randomly assigned participants to receive yoga therapy or sham yoga therapy. Yoga therapy included exercises in loosening muscles, breathing, meditation and positive affirmations.
Sham yoga consisted of exercises that mimic the same yoga exercises, but participants were not given instructions on slow and synchronised breathing, and attention to the body movements and sensations during practice.
The results revealed that those who did yoga were more than four times as likely to have more than a 50 per cent reduction in their seizure frequency after six months than the people who did sham yoga.
In addition, people who did yoga were more than seven times more likely to no longer have seizures than those who did sham yoga. Researchers found when compared to people who did sham yoga, people who did yoga were more likely to reduce their perceived stigma of the disease.
There was also a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms for people who did yoga versus people who did not. They saw improvements in quality of life measures and mindfulness.
"These study findings elevate the need to consider alternative therapies and activities for people with epilepsy facing stigma," said Tripathi.
"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," she added.
However, a limitation of the study was that participants self-reported their seizure frequency and they may not have remembered all the information accurately, the team said.