MAYWOOD, Ill. -- While making dinner for his daughters one night, James Abram, 59, collapsed on his kitchen floor. He was rushed to Loyola University Medical Center where doctors determined he had suffered a stroke. He later suffered a second stroke and underwent emergency surgery to reduce life-threatening swelling in his brain. The strokes left Abram paralyzed on the left side. But in the seven months since his strokes, he has made remarkable progress. He credits his recovery to the advanced, multidisciplinary treatment and rehabilitation that he received. Abramâs recovery included wheelchair yoga, a new Loyola program for hospitalized patients, said psychologist and certified yoga instructor Susan Walsh, PsyD, who directs the program. âThere is a growing body of evidence to support the use of yoga as a health and healing tool and a complement to standard medical interventions and therapy,â said Dr. Walsh, assistant professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neurosciences, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. âI have seen firsthand how yoga facilitates recovery, which allows us to better manage the potentially debilitating side effects of various medical conditions.â Like other patients, Abram attended a one-hour yoga class twice a week in a conference room that is transformed into a yoga studio. Lights are dim and electric candles line the room as soft music plays. The class is led through a series of modified yoga, breathing and guided-imagery exercises from their wheelchairs. The goal of the yoga classes is to enhance posture, alignment, coordination, mobility, psychological health and an overall sense of well-being. The exercises also help patients open their chest to increase oxygen flow, which makes movement easier and speeds healing. âThis was my first experience with yoga, and I found it to be enjoyable,â Abram said. âYoga and all of the other therapy has helped me regain control of the left side of my body. I now walk without assistance and have some use of my left hand and arm.âDr. Walsh, who also practices yoga, plans to measure how her class affects patientsâ psychological health. Nearly 30 â 50 percent of inpatient rehabilitation patients develop depression during the first year of their care. Untreated depression can result in excess disability, impaired quality of life, cognitive problems and increased mortality.
âWe know that medical conditions can take their toll on the psychological health of our patients,â Dr. Walsh said. âYoga has the potential to reduce depression and anxiety, which can positively impact a patientâs prognosis.â
Dr. Walsh plans to expand Loyolaâs yoga program for patients such as Abram who now receives rehabilitation services in the outpatient setting.