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.

A Drop of Goodness

I am not in this world to change people’s minds.

At all.

But I am in this world to be a drop of goodness that I hope will better humanity. I believe I am also here to remind others the responsibility to engage with fellow humans from the place of respect and oneness.

The last few months I have been faced with some tough situations that have invited me to look closely at the people I surround myself with. Along with the tough situations I have experienced, it may also be that taking the big turn becoming fifty this year has brought about a deeper wisdom about myself and where I want to invest my energy.

Or perhaps with more clarity, who I want to invest my energy with.

Maybe I just have a huge need to get off my heart the sadness that I have witnessed by people in recent months or maybe my honesty will spur someone else to think about their own role in the division and indifference to humanity that is so obvious these days.

In a world where it seems many people are focused on themselves, I am seeing some incredible discouraging characteristics; selfishness, hatred, self-centeredness and greed to name a few. And what saddens me even more is that my recent experiences have come from so called “healers”. People who claim to care about others, yet their actions are so out of alignment with those claims.

When I look at the world around me and the last few months, the word that keeps coming up to me is respect.

Respect, by the way is not words that can be easily typed into a text or portrayed through social media. I am talking about looking around at the world and acting with respect and to truly hold each other in deep regard.

Respect is treating or thinking about something or someone with honor. In a world where many have limited drinking water or warm beds to crawl into, I am deeply bothered that so many people will invest their emotions and time into arguing over simple acts of stewardship for each other as we all share this planet. It boggles my mind that some people feel that having to follow certain recommendations are not okay when really the intent is looking out for the safety of fellow beings. You know those things like stops signs, seat belts, speed limits that prevent less death, less injury. They certainly don’t eliminate every single event, but they greatly reduce tragedy. And yet, those things don’t take away rights, they just help to keep everyone safer and show respect for others.

Actions of respect. Doing what is best, not just for themselves, but for others. That is the essence of respectful actions.

Simple, right?

It seems not so much these days. In this all about me life our world seems to be living, it is grueling for someone like me who expects, and even demands respect.

In the last 18 months I have lost, or chose, to step away from many people who I was completely shocked to learn the truth of them, instead of just seeing the externally projected perfect Instagram loving people many of them have claimed to be. I saw the depth of their lack of respect for others.

Sometimes taking a hard look at your tribe or circle of people can be much needed. This is bigger than just slicing through your Facebook “friends” with a quick click. I am talking about taking a stand for what your heart feels and using discernment to kindly step away.

Reevaluating who is in your tribe can sometimes feel daunting. It can be incredibly isolating and down-right scary. I have even had a few times in the last year that the disappointment brought about periods of deep sadness.

When we start the process of choosing who we want to have in our tribe, we have to remember that this is not about ourselves being right and them being wrong, although it sure does feel like it, instead this is about aligning yourself with people who hold you up and who protect your heart. It is about making sure that the ones you choose to share your energy with will respect you and are grateful to be part of your life.

Aligning myself with those who are here to make a difference in the world for the better of humanity is where I want to be. After all, a single drop of respect and goodness can make some big waves in the world.