Sunday, October 14, 2018

Yoga for Stroke Survivors

United Stroke Alliance in partnership with Medtronic is launching a new resource for Stroke Support Groups called The Booster Box. Included in the box is everything a leader needs to conduct a support group meeting for up to 24 attendees.

To receive your free Booster Box please call our office at 
309-688-5450 or email to request yours. 

Subscriptions will be available for purchase and information will be inside your free box.  

Show Me The Booster Box
The following is from an article written by Walt Kilcullen, a staff member of the Stroke Network's Newsletter which, unfortunately, has discontinued their monthly newsletters. This article was first posted in September 2011 and again in June 2014.
The StrokeNetwork itself still exists and is an excellent resource for stroke survivors and caregivers. you may join them at:

If you have any questions about this article you may contact Walt at: at

Yoga for Stroke Survivors
By Walt Kilcullen

I started writing an article on fitness after a stroke and discovered there is a wealth of information out there giving great advice on keeping fit with exercise. I had almost completed the article when a member of my support group introduced me to adaptive yoga for people with disabilities. I began reading about this and realized that it would be better if I could see an adaptive yoga class in action. So last week, that is what I did.

The class was instructed by 
Della Moses Walker who was 
trained specifically to teach 
adaptive yoga at the Wellness
 and Enrichment Center in West
 Orange, New Jersey.

Many of the participants were
stroke survivors. The emphasis was on the individual. The pace for progress was slow so that each individual could advance at his own pace.

Della emphasized the following:
  • Yoga is a mind body connection.
  • Yoga with meditation yields relaxation of the mind and body.
  • Breathing in yoga is an important element for relaxation and concentration.
  • Adaptive yoga is designed to fit individual ability.
  • Yoga and meditation can be done independently, but it is far more beneficial if they are done together.

John McClain then led the class
to meditation. We all spent 
about fifteen minutes meditating
under John’s direction. He 
showed us how meditation
relieves tension, helps you to
find peace, creates relaxation,
and puts your mind in a natural

Two common problems for stroke survivors are balance and 
weakness affecting an arm, a leg, or both. The yoga instructor 
circulated and gave instruction to each participant as needed. Some 
students were able to sit on the floor as a regular yoga class would 
begin. Others were able to lie on a mat. Some were able to stand 
holding on to the back of a chair, while others sat in chairs.

In yoga, there are many yoga poses (specific positions) that the
instructor uses. The goal is to improve balance, strength, 
flexibility, mobility, and to create an environment of relaxation
through breathing techniques. Following are examples of exercises
for chair yoga taken from Shirley Marotta,

Chair Yoga

Forward Bend – eases tension in the upper
back and neck. Breathe in and out as you
bend forward. Let your head and arms hang
over your knees. Relax into the position and
hold for a few seconds and keep breathing.
Breathe in as you slowly come back to a
seated position.

     Spiral Twist – increases circulation and
     flexibility in the spine. Sit facing forward 
     placing your left hand on the outside of your
     right knee. Place the opposite arm over the 
     back of the chair. Breathe in and breathe 
     out as you twist your body to the right.
    Turn your head as well. Push against your knee with your hand. Breathe normally and hold that position. Release slowly and come back to facing forward. Repeat on the opposite side if you are able.

Side Stretch – increases flexibility of the spinal
column, improves respiration, and reduces 
waistline.Sit facing forward with feet slightly 
apart, breathe in, and raise your arms out to both

Breathe out and bend to the left, reaching toward the floor with your left hand and your right hand pointing toward the ceiling. Breathe in and come back to the starting position. Repeat with the right side.

Knee Squeeze – relaxes lower back, improves digestion and respiration. Breathe out and breathe in and put both hands around the front of your knee. Pull your left knee to your chest while holding in your breath. Lower your head to your knee and hold for a few  seconds. Then release slowly while breathing out. Repeat on your right side.

Leg Lifts – strengthens legs and lower back, and
improves circulation to your legs and feet. Sit
and hold each side of the chair for balance.
Breathe out and breathe in as you lift
straightened left leg and flex your foot. Hold for
a few seconds and then slowly breathe out while
lowering your leg. Repeat with your right leg.

Sun Pose – improves circulation to your head,
massages internal organs, and limbers your 
spine and hips. Sit back in the chair with legs
apart and arms by your side.

Breathe out completely then breathe in and
with a sweeping motion bring your arms up
over your head. Look up and stretch. Breathe
out while bending forward between your legs
and if possible, put your palms on the floor.

Slowly breathe in while rising back up with
your arms over your head again, then lower your arms to the side.

Although the above chair exercises are beneficial, they are no
substitute for adaptive yoga classes because the instructor will
pattern your exercises to meet your individual abilities and needs.
You can find out where you can participate in adaptive yoga 
classes through the closest rehabilitation hospital. You may also see
if anyone in the local support group knows of such a program.

There are also two sources you may want to consider. The first is a
video called, Yoga: Renewal of Life (no longer available at this site), by the Rocky Mountain Stroke Center. Second is a book, Recovery Yoga: A Practical Guide For Chronically Ill, Injured, and Post Operative People by Sam Dworkis.

Copyright @September 2011
The Stroke Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009
All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Dear Angela: An Open Letter to My Former Self

United Stroke Alliance in partnership with Medtronic is launching a new resource for Stroke Support Groups called The Booster Box. Included in the box is everything a leader needs to conduct a support group meeting for up to 24 attendees.

To receive your free Booster Box please call our office at 
309-688-5450 or email to request yours. 

Subscriptions will be available for purchase and information will be inside your free box.  

Show Me The Booster Box
I found this on the American Heart Association Support Network website: I thought this was a rather clever and unique way of confronting a life changing experience. I'm passing it on to you and hoping that it will change the way you and I work through our own life changing problems. I also hope it impresses on you the importance of not ignoring any signs similar to what Angela experienced. Stroke is not a wait-and-see-if-this goes-away type of diagnosis.
Dear Angela: An Open Letter to My Former Self by Angela Hager October 29, 2017 3:17pm EST

In recognition of World Stroke Day 2017, I decided to do something a little out of the ordinary: write an open letter to my former, pre-stroke self for all to read. My hope is that this piece will offer encouragement, inspiration and maybe even a little motivation to anyone either directly or indirectly affected by stroke.

Dear Angela,
My decision to write this letter wasn’t an easy one to make, but in time, you’ll come to understand that my need to write these things ultimately outweighed my hesitation. At 34 years old, life is comfortable. A routine has been established and the task of balancing work and family life has gotten easier. You’re a planner by nature and thrive on organization and predictability. So far, the storms you have encountered have been weathered pretty well; however, as you’ll soon discover, a darkness like you’ve never known looms just around the next bend.

Over the course of the next several months, you will begin to experience a series of “odd” moments, both physically and mentally speaking. These occurrences will pass rather quickly, giving you reason to chalk each of them up to just “one of those fluke things.” Unbeknownst to you, these seemingly trivial oversights will end up covering you in a thick, smothering cloak of regret…

The first oddity will be a sudden change in your eyesight; your vision will unexpectedly shatter into a million colorful pieces, almost as if you’re looking through a kaleidoscope. This effect will dissipate almost as quickly as it appeared, much to your relief. You’ll tell yourself that you just need to eat something and after a quick bite, all will be forgotten.

The next bizarre episode will be mental in nature. You’ll experience a brief bout with confusion at your place of employment. You’ll sit silently in a befuddled state, unsure of your assigned tasks. Again, this phenomenon will come and go within a matter of seconds. Once your brain regains its focus, you’ll shake it off, grab the next patient chart and simply carry on with your workday.

The third incident will appear to be more of an embarrassing mishap than anything else. A fast-paced walk down an office corridor will come to an abrupt halt with a sudden fall to the floor. You’ll pick yourself up with a bruised ego and place full blame on your newly acquired pair of heels. Little do you know that at this point, you are now barreling straight towards the eye of a storm so dark and so fierce that you’ll question whether or not the sun will ever shine for you again.

Just before your 35th birthday, your life will be irreparably split into two, very separate, very distinct chapters; pre-incident Angela and post-incident Angela. On a hectic morning in early June, you’ll be stopped in your tracks by a very strong ‘locked-in’ sensation. You’ll suddenly lose the ability to think straight or speak clearly. The left side of your body will lose its strength and simultaneously, you’ll feel a sense of numbness wash over your limbs. You will literally be frozen in terror. Once your mind loosens its grip on your body and you regain some control, you’ll notice a drool stain on your blouse. This will be the telltale sign for you: at 34 years of age, you just suffered a stroke.

The following days/months/years will be chock-full of every emotion imaginable. You’ll spend many days in bed, particularly in the beginning of your post-stroke journey, unable to function due to depression. You’ll often lash out in fear and anger and you will resent yourself deeply for not recognizing those earlier “flukes” as actual TIAs, or mini-strokes. Oh, the power of hindsight…

Although your stroke will be diagnosed as ‘mild,’ the lingering mental challenges will be devastating to you. You will be unable to return to your fast-paced work environment and the art of multi-tasking will become virtually impossible. Confusion, memory lapses and sensory overload issues will be at the forefront of your difficulties. Anxiety and insomnia will undoubtedly haunt you on a regular basis. The Angela that existed before your stroke will remain a distant memory, but take heart, sweet lady, I can assure you that all will not be lost nor in vain.

As difficult as it is to imagine, I promise that you will find happiness again. Learning to love the new you won’t be an easy journey, but with the unconditional love and constant support from your friends and family, you, we, eventually make it through to the other side. In the end, we will have gained a new perspective; a new appreciation for the simple things in life. Time is now more precious to us than ever and we grab hold of every opportunity to say, ‘I love you.’ No, all is definitely not lost. Our life may not be perfect, but I can genuinely tell you this truth: we’re now in a really, really good place; a place where the sun has never shone brighter.

Stay strong, from one Angela to the other.
Copyright @September 2016
The Stroke Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009
All rights reserved.