Every 13 seconds, someone in the U.S. sustains a traumatic brain injury (TBI)—totalling about 2.8 million TBIs a year. Unlike many injuries, TBI often leads to lifelong physical, behavioral, and emotional challenges that are largely invisible. As a result, many people affected by TBI lack the support and understanding they deserve.
While several studies have demonstrated the benefits of yoga for TBI (e.g., for attention skills, memory, mental fatigue, and quality of life), yoga specifically designed for TBI is often inaccessible. The complexity and heterogeneity of TBI—people may face complications that compromise their balance and strength, capacity for learning and remembering, and ability to follow instructions, regulate emotions, and respect social norms—make it challenging for yoga instructors to know how to effectively tailor their classes to accommodate the full range of needs.
LYB was born in 2014 with the mission to improve the quality of life of people affected by TBI through programs that build community and facilitate resilience for healing.
We at LoveYourBrain Foundation (LYB) are changing this paradigm through a community-based yoga program for people with TBI and their caregivers. LYB was established by my husband, Adam Pearce, and his brother, Kevin Pearce, following Kevin’s severe TBI from a snowboarding accident before the 2010 Olympics. Kevin’s TBI gave us a glimpse into a new world—one where people with this injury are plagued by intense isolation and disempowerment. So LYB was born in 2014 with the mission to improve the quality of life of people affected by TBI through programs that build community and facilitate resilience for healing.
We believe that yoga’s holistic and dynamic nature can meet the individual needs of each person with TBI—from wanting to rebuild strength and balance, to managing stress, to finding comfort in a community of people with shared experiences. Yoga also encourages the exploration of what is often hidden—our emotions, thoughts, and beliefs—and underlies our well-being. When we bring these aspects of essential beingness to light, we can ignite our potential for healing and connect more deeply with ourselves and our community.
The LYB Yoga program includes a free six-week series based on the science of resilience. Each class integrates breathing exercises, gentle asana, guided meditation, and group discussion. Our program’s curriculum is informed by the positive results of an eight-week gentle yoga pilot program that we evaluated in collaboration with Dartmouth College in 2014. It showed improvements in quality of life, including emotional regulation and positive outlook, in those who participated in the program.
Some of the ways our program is TBI-friendly include modifying poses to prevent dizziness and headaches, offering similar movements in a similar sequence to support learning and memory, and being sensitive to lighting and sound to make the class environment welcoming.
Our trainings, which have engaged over 400 yoga teachers and clinicians, have led to partnerships with 28 yoga studios and three TBI rehabilitation facilities across North America to deliver LYB Yoga. To date, nearly 1,000 people have participated in our program, and among the widespread positive impact is the experience of one participant, who shared:
“Well, from that group aspect, I got the support I needed; from the yoga aspect, I got the tools that I needed, and...for me, particularly the most valuable things from the yoga experience were the breathing exercises. Because when I would start to, for lack of a better word, kind of freak and panic about hitting a wall of some sort, such as with my thinking or with my memory, I knew to step back to practice the deep breathing, and to just take a moment to find some peace, which helped me recalibrate myself in some of the more challenging moments emotionally. But the physical practice helped me to get anchored so that my emotional state did not take over and take me to some dark places.”
This March, in honor of Brain Injury Awareness month, we are hosting MindfulMarch, our flagship campaign to raise awareness about TBI and funding for our yoga program. As part of MindfulMarch, we are also offering a 30-day Meditation Challenge to help cultivate greater awareness, compassion, resilience, and acceptance.
Every morning in March, we’ll send you a unique meditation practice based around these themes. With greater awareness about the impact of TBI, our society is better able to understand and compassionately respond to the TBI community’s needs. Visit us to learn more and sign up for our challenge. Our goal is to have 500 people meditating together in support of, and solidarity for, TBI.
For more information about the LYB Yoga program, please contact Kyla Pearce, Senior Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org