Epilepsy is defined as a tendency to have repeated seizures that originate in the brain. Epilepsy can develop at any age. However, it is diagnosed most often before the age of 20 and after the age of 60. Epilepsy is a disorder with many possible causes. Anything that disturbs the normal pattern of neuron activity – from illness to brain damage to abnormal brain development – can lead to seizures. Epileptic seizures are due to a temporary interruption of brain activity, causing disturbance of consciousness or impaired awareness, strange or out of place sensations, or changes in movement or posture.
Primary Epilepsy is considered as “Adhija Vyadhi” – a disease caused by an internal imbalance within the system and not caused by an outside agent (such as infection). Although we know that external causes like head injury (old or recent) or infections (old or recent) can cause the epilepsy the commonest type of epilepsy has hereditary tendency as the cause. Stress anxiety, loss or lack of sleep, flickering light, fast breathing are some of the known triggers that could be the immediate cause for an attack.
The brain is a highly complex structure composed of millions of nerve cells (neurons) that generate and conduct electrical currents. These are responsible for a wide range of functions including consciousness, awareness,movement,body posture etc. In Epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed leading to signal abnormality.
Yoga defines this internal imbalance as an excessive reactivity to situation (known/unknwon) at manomaya kosa. This speed ‘Vega’ at the manomaya kosa triggers off very high electrical potentials in too many nerve cells in different parts of the brain. This heightened activity sends down a big shock that shows up as altered consciousness and body movements.
Once epilepsy is diagnosed, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. Most people with epilepsy lead outwardly normal lives. While epilepsy cannot currently be cured, for some people it does eventually go away. Most seizures do not cause brain damage. It is not uncommon for people with epilepsy, especially children, to develop behavioral and emotional problems, sometimes the consequence of embarrassment and frustration or bullying, teasing, or avoidance in school and other social setting. For many people with epilepsy, the risk of seizures restricts their independence (some states refuse drivers licenses to people with epilepsy) and recreational activities.
Most women with epilepsy can become pregnant, but they should discuss their epilepsy and the medications they are taking with their doctors. Women with epilepsy have a 90 percent or better chance of having a normal, healthy baby.
Yoga therapy aims at developing master over these excitations by training to develop an internal balance through technique of slowing down of activity at all levels. It is the deep rest to the mind body complex that heals.
The brain cells have to be given very deep rest by consious slowing down of thoughts though meditation. Hence loud chanting followed by mental chanting of AAA, UUU, MMM and OM as used in our Mind Sound Resonance technique (MSRT) is a very useful tool for epileptics. Any form of meditation which does not allow you to go off to partial sleep is vey useful. Meditation using body movements (Tai Chi, Cyclic meditation) or chanting (om meditation, MSRT) or Devotion to the divine (MEMT) or observing slow breathing may all be used.
Are there any yoga practices that are dangerous to epilepsy?
Any practice that involves fast breathing (Hyperventilation) could trigger off an attack and hence is contra indicated (Avoid kapalabhati, Bhastrika, Rabbit breathing, Mukhadhouti etc) Balancing postures are to avoided. What are the asanas that are good for epileptics? Forward bending and inverted postures are good Padahastasana, Sasankasana, Ardha Sirsasana, Sarvangasana, Matsyasana and their variations followed by deep relaxation technique. These postures help in bringing your awareness and concentration to the head region following which you can experience deep relaxation in the head region.
Is Trataka is good?
Trataka is very useful. Avoid doing trataka on flickering light.
PINDASANA IN SIRSASANA
Pinda means an embryo. From Padmasana in the head stand, the hips are flexed and the legs are lowered to touch the armpits.
1. Do Padmasana in Sirsana, first place the right foot over the left thigh and the left foot over the right thigh.
2. Exhale flex the hips and take two breaths. Again with the exhalation lower the legs till they touch the arms near the armpits.
3. Stay in this position from 20 to 30 seconds with normal breathing.
4. Inhale, go back to Urdhva Padmasana, uncross the legs and stay in the sirsana for some time. Then cross the legs the other way and repeat the pose.
5. Relax the crossed legs one by one, stretch them back to sirsasana and then lower them gradually and straight to the floor with an exhalation.
This posture has the same effects of Sirsasana. Balancing on the vertex requires enormous training in concentration. While balancing the awareness is brought to the pressure and increased activity in head regions. Focused attention followed by deep relaxation when you observe the ‘let go’ in the same area allows very deep rest to the head region (decreases the Vega both inside and outside).
Further crossed leg and balancing the padmasana on the arms in pindasana provides more intense training in focused attention which brings about balanced functioning of the Center Nervous System (CNS). Mastering the haphazard discharge of signals from the CNS and promote stable, balanced functioning of the CNS (Samatvam) is the basis of cure of epilepsy.