Stroke Recovery and Guided ‘Sleep’: Support for Caregivers and Patients
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Strokes are the most common diagnosis for which rehabilitation therapy is suggested. This rehabilitation support, however, may be shorter than is ideal and often lacks focus on the mental and emotional aspects that occur as daily living activities are impacted. These aspects can present as mood disorders, especially anxiety and depression and an overall sense of uncertainty and overwhelm. If this occurs, the ability to cope with what is, coupled with a sense of inability to research and then access needed resources can result in a decreased desire to move forward. Due to the anxiety caused by a stroke, sleep can become less restful and is often disrupted, thus the inability to cope persists. Life may be perceived as just too hard for the stroke patient and sometimes also for the caregiver(s). To whatever level this occurs, there are tools available from the yoga community that are time-tested and proven to be supportive.
This article focuses on the benefits of something called Yoga Nidra or guided relaxation. Let’s look at these two words:
Yoga means to balance the mind and the body with breath, to yoke together the human and spiritual form via breath. Breath is often overlooked and underrated for both our individual well-being and the health of our society.·
Nidra refers to a yogic sleep. This is not sleeping in the traditional sense of going to bed at night or taking a nap. Rather it invites a balancing via a guided meditation such that the brain wave patterns slow down to theta and even delta states. In these states of lower brain wave activity, the body can move towards balance and restoration.
Yoga Nidra is a practice that is done lying down or resting comfortably in whatever position supports relaxing. Yoga Nidra invites a state of deep, but conscious relaxation. It is said that 20-40 minutes of Yoga Nidra is equivalent to 4 hours of sleep. Why? Because the entire body, physical, mental, and emotional, can enter a state of heightened rest by turning down the natural stress reactions.
Yoga Nidra allows us to disengage from the thinking mind by entering the space between waking and sleeping. In this state we can deeply relax, rebalancing and releasing deep tension in the body. We also learn to interact with our thoughts differently, preventing them from overpowering the mind so we are able to remain in a relaxed state after Yoga Nidra is complete. Some of the benefits of a consistent practice of Yoga Nidra can include: ·
Less anxiety and depression
Making choices from a less reactive, habitual approach
While private Yoga Nidra sessions are ideal because of the ability to customize and refine, there can be benefit from a recorded, more generic offering as a starting point. This allows you to try it out and get an understanding of how the practice of Yoga Nidra may support you.
Two Yoga Nidra recordings have been developed for you to experience. A shorter version is ideal for stroke survivors; the longer version is designed for stroke caregivers and may also be appropriate for stroke survivors. It is suggested the caregiver determine if this is appropriate for the stroke survivor. Note that even if the receiver of Yoga Nidra falls asleep, benefits are occurring beyond a typical nap.
Mini Reset: Less than 10 minutes, this offers a shorter mini-experience.
Extended Reset: About 25 minutes long, consider this option to allow your body, physical, mental, and emotional, to relax even more fully.
Before beginning either of these Yoga Nidra, take time to set up your space to be as comfortable as possible to allow your body to receive the effects fully. Ideally be in a place where you will not be disturbed. Turn your phone to silent, dim the lights or use an eye pillow or hand towel over the eyes. Have a blanket near as body temperature will drop during the experience. Use props to help the body be as comfortable as possible; for example, sometimes a rolled blanket or pillow under the knees feels supportive. There will be moments of silence in the guided meditative Yoga Nidra experience; this allows your thinking brain to relax a bit more.
Practice once a day for a week; notice shifts and changes in your person. You might even make note of these as the results are cumulative. Ongoing practice will continue to restore balance; consider incorporating the practice of Yoga Nidra three times a week, or even daily.
And, please share with me what you notice, or let me know how I can support you.
About the author, Rhonda Vroman, Director of Even Being
Rhonda is passionate about helping people find balance in their life on all levels – physical, mental, and emotional. She is a certified yoga therapist (C-IAYT) and incorporates the practice of Yoga Nidra and breath work, plus other modalities, when working with her clients, both in group and individual sessions. She sees clients via Zoom and in person (in the Phoenix area). Rhonda credits the practice of Yoga Nidra with allowing her to rest and reset during the second half of her 25 years of leadership in business settings. It is a practice she continues to return to regularly to support her own healing and balance.