Yoga Instruction Expands Minds, Function of Veteran Stroke Victims

By Steve Lewis

While clinicians who work directly with patients may serve the healthcare needs of veterans, those who do behind-the-scenes research also play a critical role.

A good example is Arlene A. Schmid, PhD, OTR, who teaches at Indiana University but has been working with VA for more than eight years exploring the benefits of yoga on stroke victims.

Arlene A. Schmid, PhD, OTR

It began, Schmid says, by being in “the right place at the right time.” Her mentor when studying for her PhD was working at VA, she notes.

Schmid and her colleagues at the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis recently reported that stroke victims using yoga showed significant progress in static and dynamic balance, compared with controls, who underwent traditional rehab. The study was published online in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Though her day-to-day work doesn’t involve being on the floor at the VAMC, Schmid says she has a strong connection with veterans.

“My dad was a veteran,” she explains, “And this gives me the opportunity to work hands-on with patients – which I love and which I much prefer to working just with data. I like walking down the halls and seeing and chatting with them – it makes me feel like I’m based in the clinic with people who have served.”

This most recent research grew out of a long personal involvement with yoga, Schmid explains. She previously lived in Hawaii, where she began to practice yoga personally. She then introduced its use, along with other Eastern influences, into her occupational therapy practice. When she went back for her PhD, she says, the therapeutic use of yoga was “always in the back of my head.”

One of her research colleagues had started to do work with yoga and cancer, “So this led to our working with older adults and then specifically to people with strokes,” Schmid explains. “I’ve always talked about being holistic – treating the mind and the body – so for me this was personally very exciting.” Her research was funded through a grant from the VA’s Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI).

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