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Yoga 'can help stroke patients improve balance'

“Yoga helps stroke patients recover balance,” The Daily Telegraph headlines, saying that stroke victims who took an eight-week course of yoga had better balance and felt more able in their lives as a whole.

The headline is in fact a deeply unbalanced summary of research that actually found no significant improvement to balance in people who were assigned to yoga therapy.

Of 47 people in the study, 37 were assigned to receive twice-weekly yoga sessions delivered by a trained therapist for eight weeks. The other participants were part of a control group and did not receive yoga therapy. The study used a scale to assess balance and asked participants other questions about fear of falling and quality of life.

Despite the news hype, the study found no difference in the results between the groups. While people in the yoga group did experience modest improvement in balance and a reduced fear of falling, the difference between their scores and the control group scores was small and not statistically significant. So there is no hard evidence that yoga was responsible for the improvement.

This study provides no evidence that yoga is better for balance in people who have had a stroke than their usual care. However, any form of exercise that a person feels comfortable to participate in post-stoke, and feels is helping them, is likely to be a good thing.