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Yoga

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

This information is for people who have epilepsy. It tells you about yoga, a treatment used for epilepsy. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it work?

We don't know. If you find that stress triggers your seizures, then yoga may help you manage your stress and feel calmer and more relaxed. But we don't know if you're less likely to have a seizure if you do yoga.

What is it?

Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice from India. The yoga done by most people in the West focuses on stretching, breathing and deep relaxation or meditation. The word yoga has a number of different meanings, such as 'controlling the mind' and 'to unite or connect' the mind and body. The aim of yoga is to keep your mind and body healthy. [173]

The use of yoga for epilepsy is based on the idea that you may have some control over your seizures. Seizures are sometimes triggered by the way you think, feel or behave. Many people say they are more likely to have seizures when they are very tense and stressed. [174] And there's some evidence that yoga can reduce stress. [173]

There are several different types of yoga, such as Hatha yoga and Raja yoga. Some focus on relaxation, while others are more energetic and focus on flexibility.

The type of yoga that has been studied for epilepsy is called Sahaja yoga. This is a simple form of meditation where you learn to control your breathing and alter your level of awareness. Each session lasted about 20 minutes.

  • You sit in a relaxed position with your hands in front of you, palms turned upward and your eyes closed.

  • To begin, you repeat a chosen word (or mantra) to yourself for several minutes. This helps to focus your attention and clear your mind.

  • You then sit silently and think about your breathing to clear your mind of thoughts. If you do think of something, you recognise it but don't get caught up in the thought.

  • The goal is a state of thoughtless awareness, where you feel deeply relaxed.

People who practise Sahaja yoga believe that it awakens energy in their body and that this can correct physical, mental and emotional imbalances. [173] [174] [175]

How can it help?

If you have difficulty coping with stress, then practising yoga may help you feel calm and relaxed.

But we don't know if yoga can help you control your seizures, even if it helps reduce stress. There's not enough research on this. [175] [176]

Last Updated: June 20, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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