Yoga and Traumatic Brain Injuries

A person with a traumatic brain injury can practice yoga, it just might not look like the yoga we have learned in our Western view. I have permission from this man’s family to share a little of his story. I no longer work with him because of the pandemic moved him out of the facility I saw him in. My time with him was a great experience for me and we worked together for three years.

His Story

His injury occurred when he was just 12 years old coming home from a family ski weekend in the mountains. An oncoming vehicle struck his family’s car and he was injured badly. His traumatic brain injury caused a long term coma, loss of communication, and severe body damage. His cognitive ability was stunted to a young child’s level and yet, he continued to age and become a man.

I began sharing yoga with this man about 10 years ago. He never wanted to participate in the group class I was leading at the assisted living home he lived in. He has some pretty tough “behaviors” due to his injury and lack of communication so group settings were really hard for him.

People would often ask me how I was teaching him yoga since he was paralyzed on one side and had very rigid limbs and atrophy in most of his major muscles, and actually even his hands. He has minimal language and was very hard to understand so he often resorted to yelling and destruction. I asked his family if I could try working 1:1 with him. I wanted to give this guy some goodness and show him he had value and he was often viewed as a challenge by the 24/7 staff.

Our yoga sessions consisted of me talking to him like a normal person, sharing silly things to make him laugh, bringing in his favorite color red in the form of balloons and balls to have him attempt to swat with his working arm, sharing wild orange essential oil, taking deep breaths together, moving his affected limbs gently in range of motion exercises, giving him a neck and shoulder massage, talked about the good in our lives, and mostly connecting with this human.

Is this Yoga?

Did we do a sun salutation? Nope.
Did I speak in Sanskrit? Nope.
Did I stand and just guide a series of movements? Nope.

Did we connect in Union? Yep.
Did he experience movement? Yep.
Did we breathe together? Yep.
Did we share gratitude? Yep.

The Four Pillars

Those are the four pillars that I teach and preach when working with someone with different abilities. Actually all my classes regardless of ability have those four pillars.


Last I heard from his mom he was doing well. He is now 45 and still loves the color red.

The Playground

Looking at this picture it looks like an average playground, right? A place where moms and dads take their little kids to play outside and learn to socialize. For most kids this is a place to squeal and run around with other kids that you don’t even know. Funny how kids can just jump right in where there is no judgment or shame or the tricky navigating that takes place as people begin to age and notice differences.

It was at this very playground that I had taken my kids to play over 26 years ago that I noticed the big difference. Being a native to my city I am often overcome with memories of not just my childhood, but the memories of raising my own family here and the changes that have occurred over my life time. It never fails when I walk past this playground I am transported to a time over two decades ago when a simple intention to have a little picnic at a playground shook my world.

Triggers are a funny thing like that. They sneak up on you when you least expect it and send you back in time. Thankfully, over the course of twenty years and lots of personal growth I am no longer triggered to a place of pain, but rather I think of the young mother that I was who was lost in her own life and about to embark on something that would either break her or make her.

Seeing the merry-go-round on my lunchtime walk I was reminded of the sunny summer day when I was carrying my one year old around making sure that he wasn’t eating too much sand or climbing on things too high, and trying to watch my older two kiddos. My oldest son was fully self-sufficient at a playground and was busy making new friends and doing what boys do on playground equipment. Scanning the area for my daughter, my eyes finally landed on the merry-go-round. There she laid, stretched out and holding on with her little hands while a group of older kids were spinning her as fast as they could. She was fixated on the sky and completely at ease.

Huh. That is strange I remember thinking. No other kids were on this piece of equipment, only the bigger kids spinning her. I watched for a few minutes and eventually walked over and spoke to her. She was completely unaware of the spinning sensation or how most of us would feel being spun into a dizziness that I cannot even imagine. I tried with everything to get her off the merry-go-round but the tantrum that came when I touched her arm sent her into a rage that I had never seen.

Then came the stares from other parents. Then the grabbing of their little boys and girls and taking them far away from this now screaming, sweating, snotty, disheveled mess of a three year old. Then came attempting to get my boys and her get out of there fast as I could while the gasping of others was all I could hear. Then the protests from my oldest son that we had just got there.

I am sure to an onlooker it was scary or even perhaps the thought that she was being a “bad” kid.

Soon after my life began to turn itself upside down. More and more opportunities occurred that I was aware of how different my little girl was. More and more opportunities for me to feel shamed and embarrassed and on the outside of a club called parenting. More and more sadness and the great unknown.

Over the years I learned that her little brain could not interpret things like spinning and effectively organize the sensation and as a result her brain caused chaos in her sensory system, so she learned that spinning was not something she was allowed to do, although she craved it.

Today, I am able to walk past that merry-go-round–the exact one that was my first look at my different girl– and be grateful to see that it was an experience that would either crush me or lead me down a new path.

Although it took many years to get on the path, I eventually did and it led me someplace amazing.

My message hopefully will be read not as sadness but a reminder that you never really know what is happening in a person’s life and that different doesn’t always relate to bad or scary. Blessings to all the parents struggling and my hope is that the world softens a bit and people choose to be helpful instead of judgmental.

Follow me for more goodness!

Inclusion Yoga

Inclusion Yoga is a dynamic form of living and sharing the true essence of Yoga that embraces as its main focus the principles of inclusion.

The dim lights of the Yoga space were easy on the eyes.  The wood floors were cool to the feet that padded along in eager anticipation for the arrival of Yogis. Voices of fellow Yoga teachers whispered around the room.  Candles flickered with shared excitement.

The energy itself was touchable.

As I knelt on my mat prior to the first arrival I witnessed in myself an acknowledgement of what brought me to this day.  With sweet tears, I first saw my beautiful daughter.  Images of her sweet life from birth to this day.  Without her being in my life–exactly as she is–I would not be sitting on that mat preparing to meet my vision.

Next, I remembered my first Yoga class where I was the student.  I remembered my first teacher gently planting seeds that I would soon discover about myself and about Yoga.  I remembered my first Yoga conference when I was eager with excitement and driven to be doing it “right”.

Being told to just be yourself and teach from your heart were wise words given to me.

This moment was indeed divinely guided.

The room filled and people settled in.  Mats were placed in a circle; a circle of inclusion, of equality and of acceptance.

I dropped to my knees and felt the tears sting my eyes as I saw my friend in her wheelchair arrive.  She was the exact reason my heart knew that this calling was not to be ignored.

At that moment, I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I spoke my truth and I taught from my heart.  There was inclusion and pure acceptance.  I got to see huge willingness and courage.  

Witnessing pure love.

I closed the class in complete wonder for what just occurred and with a reading of how it began.  There was deep gratitude for the faith people had in me. Also for the support from others and for the opportunity.

Years that the foundation of inclusion is the essence.

I am blessed to bring adaptive yoga into long term care centers, assisted living setting and group homes. To learn more about my services, check out this gorgeous webpage that explains it all.


Many of you know I have a daughter with a disability. To be specific it is a rare chromosome anomaly with feature of autism and cognitive delay. She is a delight in many ways, but the truth is, many of the “typical” interactions of having a daughter were lost. Out life consisted of therapists, learning to talk and cope and much more.

Having a granddaughter has brought such a joy to my heart through the simple things like painting nails.

While my girl means so much to me, the truth is there is a loss. The honesty in saying that is real. And in that honesty, there is redemption. Her same is Sawyer.

And she loves purple and she loves sparkles.

2020 Year in Review

Ahhhhh.the final day of 2020. It has been a transformative year for me in so many ways. When I pulled up my #bestnine photos I was happy to see that two of my favorite quotes made the cut.

Mindset IS everything.

Like so many people, my life that I knew came to an abrupt stop March 7th—my studio closed, the gym I taught at closed, the long term care centers and clinics I saw clients in closed, and my daughters adult day programming closed.I needed to generate an income to sustain my life AND meet the needs of my kid. Within 36 hours my entire business went online and I was again navigating meaningful and purposeful activities for my girl to do while at home, and still maintain her social skills, advocating skills and navigating the community.

My mindset HAD to shift, and shift quickly. What once was daunting to me, has now become second nature. I actually like the camera! And the growth I have seen in my daughter these last nine months has solidified my belief that the services in the community need a serious overhaul before I would consider putting her back in a program.

The other quote that popped up inspired me to be open to anything…to allow myself to become what I want by moving through the challenges with grace, hard work and a bunch of faith.The cute little gal in the photos showed up so much because my life changed SO much this year, I was able to spend weekly time with my little mini-me. The special bond that we have developed would not have happened if not for the major changes to my work schedule.

A major ankle surgery and looking forward to the next season of my life inspired me to practice radical self-love. To say no when I needed to, to take extra long bubble baths and be willing to receive help and accept a pace of healing that has been incredibly slow. I recognized the boundaries that were needed to keep my heart in a good space. I learned to let go.

For me, 2020 has been remarkable.

My word for 2020 was REVERENCE—a deep honor and respect for all things and experiences.

I’d say I embraced it beautifully.

Carrying It Well

Most people know I am not a complainer and that I always, always look for the good in most situations.

And I’m sure one day, I will find the good in this, too. Today, it feels anything but that.

Sure, I put on a smile and do my work. But the heaviness in my heart is ginormous.

Some of my closest friends know the recent unfolding of some devastating news. As a private person I intended to be quiet about this, too. But after thinking long and hard I realized that maybe by speaking it, someone will be inspired to see the need for serious changes in our world.

Since my daughter was 10 years old (she is 26), I have been her certified nurses aide. This allows her to have the help she requires and me to be paid for providing. I also receive health insurance through the home health care employer I work for.

Last week I learned that the state of colroado and the resource exchange has determined that she is no longer eligible to receive services.

What does that mean?

There are layers to implications to this. It means most importantly that if I were to die, she would NOT have the services in place for her to receive the care she needs, except in a completely inappropriate placement like a long term care center. Secondly, it means that this incredibly hard working woman now loses an income and worse, health insurance. And finally, it means she doesn’t get the services she needs and is eligible for. It is all handed back to the parents to do, and the state must think parents of special needs people live forever.

I have a much needed surgery scheduled in three weeks. I have multiple preexisting conditions that prevent me from getting AFFORDABLE insurance which leaves me to have to pay for incredibly expensive, limited, and costly out of pocket insurance that covers the minimum of what I need. And deserve.

For the pencil pusher at the state level and at the agency who oversees funding—how dare you.

I’m not sure what my next steps are. Perhaps get a j.o.b. and release my dream of what I’ve created. Perhaps I sit and do nothing but pay the premium and put off surgery until something better comes along.

Mostly I pray that one day people with disabilities will have the protests, rallies and out spoken support that other groups seem to get. Until then, this most vulnerable population gets swept under the rug, forgotten about except for their very tired family to deal with.