Article by Basavaraj Gollar
Polio - we have heard it in the radio ads, watched TV infomercials, remember Amitabh Bachchan addressing the public to take their children to the nearest polio booth for vaccination? Bless your memory if you are familiar with the trips to polio booths, the 2 drops that might save us for a lifetime.
What was it for? Ever wondered? Polio or poliomyelitis is a highly contagious disease caused by the poliovirus. It attacks the nervous system and is transmitted through contaminated food or water and through an infected person. Polio is more likely to attack children below 5 years and can also lead to paralysis. Though it is preventable with vaccination, people who have recovered from this disease can contract polio-like symptoms even as late as 15 to 40 years later, this is known as Post-Polio Syndrome. This results in the weakening of bones and muscles that were affected and sometimes even unaffected by polio. It makes the person weak, often unable to walk and left with body deformities. Although the main cause for Post Polio Syndrome is still unknown, it often is related to nerve degeneration and weakening of the nervous system. Increased usage of bones and body muscles adds to the stress on the nerves and often makes it impossible to carry out the day to day activities. The Post Polio syndrome slowly affects the regular lifestyle dynamics of the patients, often making them unable to carry out daily chores/activities.
Yoga is a practice that can help a person suffering from Post Polio Syndrome to strengthen the bones and muscles so that their meagre daily activities can be carried out without hindrance. Although Yoga cannot completely cure Post Polio Syndrome, when combined with a few other forms of therapy, it does help the body to heal and keep it active. Yoga helps in providing the body with better balance, improvement in flexibility and body movement and helps in reducing pain and its related symptoms.
One exercise that really helps people suffering from Post Polio Syndrome is the Breathing tree. To practice this, stand straight with your feet wide apart in alignment with your hips and keep the hands on the side. Breathe in and as you do so bring your hands on the heads. Slowly, as you breathe out bring your hands to the side. Repeat this a few times. Now, lift your hands till your shoulders, turn your head to the side and move your body to the same side. Repeat it on the other side.
Another effective yoga exercise is Sukshma Vyayam. This exercise brings relaxation to your body and mind. To practice this, sit straight and place your hands on your head and massage it. The movement relaxes the muscles of the head. Pinch your eyebrows with your thumb and index finger. Do this 5-6 times. Now, roll your eyes clockwise and anti-clockwise. Close your eyes tight and open your eyes wide. Do it 10-12 times. Pull your ears gently for 10-15 seconds. Hold your ears and rotate them clockwise and anticlockwise. With your middle, ring and first finger massage your jawline, moving till your chin and gently massaging it. Open and close your jaw. Repeat this about 10 times. Rotate your neck left to right and move your head up to down touching the chest. Finally, shake your hands for about a minute.
Pranayama is another practice that will help relax the body muscles. Practising yoga asanas that are gentle and do not cause much stress to the body muscles for people suffering from Post Polio Syndrome is important. Yoga helps in reducing the pain and relaxes the bones enabling the patient to do regular chores, strengthening them mentally and physically.
Please note, before beginning the Yoga practice or any other form of exercise to aid the healing process of Post Polio Syndrome; it is recommended to get honest advice and guidance from a doctor.