Stroke Recovery

By Nicole Duncan

Roger Maxwell of Dallas didn’t smoke. He exercised regularly and kept his weight down. But at 49 he suffered a stroke that left him wheelchair-bound and unable to speak words more than two syllables. Maxwell’s stroke came from an arterial dissection; an artery in the back of his neck split in half and blocked the flow of blood to his brain. And when brain cells become starved for blood, they get damaged or die, making simple tasks like eating, walking, and talking nearly impossible.

The Conventional Rx: Recovery from stroke is long and complicated, and understandably often accompanied by hopelessness. So doctors usually prescribe antidepressants, daily aspirin to keep the blood from clotting again, and very limited physical therapy. But antidepressants come loaded with side effects, aspirin can cause stomach ulcers or internal bleeding, and many stroke victims give up in frustration before they can regain their mobility and plummet further into depression.

The Alternative Rx: A rehab plan that included Iyengar yoga, time on the treadmill, supplements, and speech therapy. Maxwell was determined to walk and talk again, but his stroke affected the section of the brain that controls balance, which made walking difficult. Since walking requires not only balance, but strength, flexibility, coordination, and endurance, a combination of yoga (for balance, coordination, and flexibility) and treadmill time (for strength and endurance) made the most sense. With its emphasis on precise positioning and the aid of props, Iyengar yoga in particular gave Maxwell the help he needed. Maxwell also supplemented with omega-3s, vitamin E, and Co-Q10, all of which have been proven to enhance brain function.

The Outcome: “The stroke rendered me unable to do just about everything but think clearly. I felt like I was imprisoned in my own body. I needed to break free,” says Maxwell. Within a year of his stroke, he had shed his wheelchair and regained full control of his speech. In fact, Maxwell completed the Dallas White Rock marathon less than two years after losing his ability to walk.