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Yoga can control epilepsy: study

Staff Reporter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A yoga meditation protocol may be effective as an adjunctive therapy in patients with drug-resistant chronic epilepsy, according to a pilot study conducted by doctors at Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology here.

The results of the study, done at the R. Madhavan Nair Centre for Comprehensive Epilepsy Care, SCTIMST, has been published in one of the recent issues of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, an international science magazine.

The seizures in a majority of patients with epilepsy can be controlled easily with routinely available anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). However, nearly one-third of patients with epilepsy have conditions that eventually become unmanageable even with multiple anti-epileptic drugs.

The study was conducted to explore the efficacy of yoga, as an ancient, inexpensive and non-pharmacological strategy, in patients with chronic medically refractory epilepsy.

Twenty patients with complex partial seizures, who failed to respond to standards anti-epileptic drug therapy at maximum tolerated dosages and who were willing to practice a yoga meditation protocol were recruited for the study. The patients were above 15 years, with unequivocally established diagnosis of epilepsy and who had experienced four or more complex partial seizures in the past three months.

This was an open-label, non-randomised add-on trial. During a 12-week baseline period, seizure frequency was ascertained. This was followed by a 12-week supervised yoga meditation protocol. The frequency of seizures was assessed at three, six and 12 months of the treatment period.

The yoga meditation protocol administered to the patient included `pranayama' (breathing techniques), followed by silent meditation by concentrating on the region in between the eyebrows. Patients were required to meditate daily at their homes for 20 minutes in the morning and evening and attended supervised yoga sessions every week for three months. Continuation of yoga beyond three months was optional.

Reduction in occurence

A significant reduction in seizure frequency of over 50 per cent was observed as early as three months of the yoga trial. In the 16 patients who continued yoga and meditation, a progressive decline in seizure frequency was observed. Further, three out of eight patients who continued the yoga protocol for over a year were free of seizures for over six months. Even patients who discontinued the yoga therapy after six months also continued to maintain a low seizure frequency.

SCTIMST is preparing to conduct a more detailed study so that yoga and meditation can be used as a cost-effective, adjunctive treatment without side effects, for patients who have epilepsies that are difficult to control with medicines.

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