Yoga as Therapy for Traumatic Brain Injury Survivors

Traumatic Brain Injury / Head Injury | Physical Exercise | Traumatic Brain Injury | yoga

By Melissa D. Carter

January 17, 2019

Yoga

I don’t claim to be a professional grade yogini by any means, but there is nothing better than a good yoga class to loosen up when things get busy.  Turns out, the benefits of flow go far beyond simple relaxation—yoga can actually be a form of rehabilitation for survivors of brain injury.

According to the Center for Disease Control, over 2.5 million people in the country sustain a traumatic brain injury every year.  TBIs account for 30 percent of all injury-related deaths and lead to $76.5 billion in annual medical costs.  These numbers are still growing.  The World Health Organization predicts that TBIs will become the third leading cause of death and disability in the world by 2020.

A TBI can devastate a person’s independence and quality of life—it can involve impaired cognition, decreased attention, memory loss, balance disturbance, lagging energy levels, increased depression, over-stimulation, mood dysregulation, anxiety and stress.  The body and the mind struggle to function together as they once did.

Enter yoga as a rehabilitation tool.  Yoga is more than just putting on stretchy leggings and assuming awkward poses (although we can’t deny it is much of that too).  Traditional yoga practice incorporates the intentional blending of breath, focus, balance, muscle strength and energy.  Yoga can help quiet the brain injured mind, allowing the brain to heal while focusing energy on body strength.

Mindfulness, meditation and yoga are becoming more accepted as brain injury recovery tools, and many practitioners—including neurologists, physical rehabilitation physicians and primary care providers—are recommending it as a form of treatment for survivors.  TBI survivors that participate in yoga classes report improved sleep, improved energy, decreased anxiety and depression and feel more hopeful and calm.

A recent study conducted at Indiana-Pursue University School of Health and Rehabilitation[1] affirmed this: adults in the study with TBI demonstrated improved balance, flexibility, strength, endurance and walking speed after initiating a yoga practice.

This is exciting news for the TBI community indeed—here is yet another tool available to survivors, for a more holistic and integrative recovery approach.


[1] http://archive.news.iupui.edu/releases/2016/02/adapted-yoga-brain-injury.shtml