How yoga can help mental health

Dr. Juliann Paolicchi, the director of Pediatric Epilepsy of Neurology at Staten Island University Hospital in New York, is a yoga practitioner who was not involved in the study.

She said that while the effects of yoga have been studied extensively, this study is novel in that it focuses on the stigma of the condition. But there are still questions to be answered, she said.

“The ‘why’ is an even more important aspect? Because they felt better as a whole about themselves? Because they felt less stress, anxiety, and tension overall? Because they felt more control over their epilepsy? These issues lead to even more interesting exploration from this study,” Paolicchi said.

Paolicchi added that yoga doesn’t just affect the mental state of someone with epilepsy.

“Regulated breathing and guided meditation have been shown to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system through the vagus nerve,” Paolicchi said. “Interestingly, vagus nerve activation through directed neuromodulation pacemakers have also been shown to reduce seizures over time and lessen the impact of seizures.”

“Vagus nerve stimulation also decreases the length, severity of seizures and the post-ictal recovery phase. It is just speculation, but the connection between these modalities is intriguing,” she added.

Paolicchi said she can attest to the calming, grounding power of yoga.

“Regular utilization of breathing techniques can also provide a decrease in anxiety and stress,” she said. “I regularly practice brief sessions of focused breathing in my clinics of epilepsy, anxiety, and migraine patients to demonstrate the ease and accessibility of these techniques. And everyone prefers non-pharmacologic therapies to their conditions.”