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.