Thai papaya avocado cucumber salad


We know that tropical weather is far from the reality in our part of the world right now, but it is possible to find ripe tropical fruits such as papaya and mango in the stores. So trick your tastebuds into thinking it’s summer with this delicious salad – a great side dish or on its own.

Thai Papaya Avocodo Cucumber Salad


1 ripe papaya or mango, peeled and seeded
1 English cucumber seeded and chopped
4 green onions, sliced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 large ripe avocado, peeled & chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 small jalepeno or red chili minced
2 limes juice & zest
2 tbsp fish sauce or rice vinegar/tamari for vegan option
2 tsp sugar chopped fresh cilantro , parsley or mint
Salted peanuts to garnish


Combine all together and enjoy!

Chef Janet Craig recipes are simple, healthy, delicious and ABI friendly.

You can find out more about her HERE.

Satisfied Soul



How to rock climb with a disability


Having a disability just means that you do things differently, but it doesn’t have to prevent you from engaging in physical activities. Thanks to Canadian Adaptive Climbing  Society, people with different abilities can now safely rock climb in Toronto, ON and Squamish, BC.


Canadian Adaptive Climbing Society offers a therapeutic indoor climbing program that is currently run by occupational therapists. Using adaptive equipment (e.g. various harnesses, counterweight system, etc.), people with different physical abilities due to circumstances such as spinal chord injuries, and brain injuries (including invisible disabilities) can safely and comfortably rock climb. The advantages of climbing go beyond the physical benefits of utilizing muscle groups and promoting neuroplasticity. It also has cognitive benefits like practicing planning and problem solving. Furthermore, climbing is a social activity, a form of mindfulness, and it’s empowering; it fosters courage, self-trust and self-esteem which transfer to other areas of life. I attended one of their free Try-It sessions in Toronto and here was my experience.


My Experience Trying Adaptive Climbing

The session started off with brief introductions and an inspirational story from Jaisa, the lovely woman responsible for helping Canadian Adaptive Climbing Society to launch its Therapeutic Climbing program in Toronto. When she first discovered adaptive climbing, she was only able to climb using the medial part of her feet. Then, gradually, she was able to climb using the tips of her toes. Nine years after her injury, she’s still seeing improvements and is now also able to climb using the outer sides of her feet. Thanks to her and her team, many other people will be able to experience therapeutic adaptive climbing.

The occupational therapists and volunteers that I met were really nice, knowledgeable and passionate about climbing. Prior to our arrival, the team had already been informed of the participants’ health conditions and limitations, and were sensitive, mindful, and extremely helpful with appropriate recommendations. So, I felt very safe. There was at least one volunteer/therapist paired with each participant. Participants are encouraged to learn how to tie the ropes, which is great for brain training and independence. In order to climb, I needed the counterweight system, which is a rope and pulley system that connects the climber to someone else. This reduces the climber’s body weight (i.e. pressure), thus making it easier to hold themselves up and climb upwards. You can adjust the level of difficulty by choosing someone that is heavier or lighter to be your counterweight. When I was connected to someone heavier than me, it felt as if my body was already being pulled up. With that assistance, I was able to climb the wall all the way to the top, more than once.

I had tried indoor rock climbing before my brain injury and easily climbed a 100-foot chimney my first time. But during the adaptive climbing session, I noticed that aside from having weakness and numbness in my extremities, my body didn’t move instinctively like it used to. I really had to think about how to position my core, when to turn my body, and I had to purposely rely on my legs more than my arms. After a brain or spinal cord injury, our movement and connection with our bodies gets disrupted, and I think that climbing regularly would help with moving efficiently and naturally again.

I want to note that the stimulation from the bright coloured rocks and tall walls made me a bit nauseous part way through the session. Nevertheless, I hope that you’ll consider registering for one of Canadian Adaptive Climbing’s free Try-It (sign up to get contacted for a session in Toronto) sessions to see if this activity is right for you!

‘Mind Yourself with Alison’ is a collection of self-help tips, research, and personal experiences dedicated to helping people thrive after brain injury (or other health problems). Check out Alison’s other BIST Blog articles Women and Brain Injury: What you need to know and How to be a Good Friend to a Survivor. You can follow her on Twitter, HERE.

Yoga your way through the holidays


The Holiday Season can be a challenging time for brain injury survivors for a number of reasons; managing gift shopping, busy public spaces and big family gatherings can increase brain injury symptoms and shine a light on what has changed post-injury.  We may not be able to change our brain injuries and all that comes with the holidays but we can mentally and emotionally prepare with a toolbox of self care.

Here is one idea for your Holiday Toolbox- a yoga practice for brain injury survivors!  These poses reduce stress and anxiety, provide a sense of peace, bring joy and can help with managing symptoms.

Some yoga poses aren’t for everyone and can increase symptoms and other health issues.  Please refer to for more information and always listen to your body; if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it.

Child’s Pose
This pose calms the mind and reduces stress and anxiety.

Child Pose

  • Come onto your knees
  • Point knees to the edges of your mat
  • Bring big toes together
  • Allow upper thighs to sit on heels
  • Lean forward and walk your hands out in front of you (arms can be up or on the mat)
  • Modification: put a block or item under your forehead

This pose helps with focus, coordination, lower back pain, and emotional and physical balance.

  • Come onto hands and knees (knees underneath hips; wrists, elbows and shoulders in a line) with a neutral spine
  • Cow: As you inhale, look up and let your stomach drop
  • Cat: As you exhale, curl your spine and bring your chin to your chest
  • Flow through these poses to the pace of your inhale-exhale


This pose helps with mood elevation, fatigue and relieves stress.

Yoga your way through the holidays

  • Lay on your stomach
  • Bend elbows, bringing hands flat on mat with thumb aligned with top of ribs
  • As you inhale, push up while keeping the tops of your feet pressed into the mat
  • Modification: Baby Cobra- stop when your belly button lifts off the mat

Warrior II:

This pose helps with concentration, stamina and feeling strong.

warrior pose

  • Stand with your legs four to five feet apart
  • Turn right foot 90 degrees to face the front of the mat
  • Align your heels so if you drew a line between them on the mat, it would be straight
  • Bend your right knee to a 90 degree angle (ankle and knee in a straight line)
  • Allow your left leg to straighten
  • Stretch arms out, keeping them parallel to the floor
  • Repeat on left side


This pose is for energy and neck/back pain.


  • From Warrior II, bump your hips towards the back of your mat to create a straight line in your front leg
  • Bring legs closer together if needed to feel stable and balanced
  • As you exhale, bring your right arm down to your ankle, shin, a prop or the floor
  • Lift your left arm up, trying to stack the shoulders on top of each other- keeping a straight line from one hand to the other
  • For an extra challenge, look up to top hand
  • Repeat on left side

Wide-Legged Forward Fold:

This pose helps with headache, fatigue and stress reduction. Use a prop underneath forehead to relieve pressure in your head.

Wide legged forward bend

  • Wide stance as far as feels comfortable
  • Bring your hands to your hips; take a deep inhale
  • As you exhale, fold forward; keep back straight
  • Allow your hands to find the floor, legs, ankles, feet, shins, or prop


This pose is for energy, warmth, concentration and a sense of well-being.

Goddess Pose

  • Widen stance as far as feels comfortable
  • Pivot on heels so toes are pointing to the ends of your mat
  • Inhale; sweep your arms above of head
  • Exhale; bend your knees and bend your elbows, drawing your shoulder blades together
  • Chest should feel open in this pose


This pose helps with anxiety relief, problem solving, processing emotions and self love.

  • Come onto your knees
  • Bring hands to the small of your back
  • Inhale; bring chest forward, arching your back and looking up
  • If this feels good, stay here
  • Full Camel: Take hands behind you and guide them towards your heels
  • Do a few rounds of cat/cow following this pose

Legs Up the Wall:
This pose helps for headaches, relaxation, insomnia and slowing down.

  • Lay on your back with your arms on the mat
  • Lift legs in the air as if you are walking on the ceiling
  • Use the wall as a support

Happy Baby:

This pose is for happiness, letting go of emotions, releasing tension and nervous energy.


  • Lay on back
  • Bend knees and bring them into your chest
  • Grab onto your toes, foot arches or chins
  • Explore your inner child; be still, rock a bit, move your legs, listen to your body!

Reclined Bound Angle/Butterfly Pose:

This pose helps to calm the nervous system and is restoring.

butterfly pose

  • Lay on back with upper body relaxed
  • Bring the soles of feet together, finding a bend in your knees and opening in your hips
  • To increase stretch in hips, bring feet closer to your body
  • Modification: This pose can be done sitting up

Alyson is a brain injury survivor that is passionate about raising the awareness of brain injuries by sharing her own experiences.  She teaches studio yoga classes and private classes in peoples’ homes. Alyson has a Bachelor of Social Work from Ryerson University and works in social services in the Niagara Region.  You can find Alyson on Instragram at @_yogabrain and on Facebook as Yoga Brain.

8 tips on how to holiday after brain injury


Feelings of apprehension, stress, and loneliness often accompany the anticipation of winter holidays for brain injury survivors and their caregivers. Typical stressors such as finances, unpleasant gatherings, and being too busy are much more difficult to manage.  When brain injury causes changes to employment, cognitive deficits, lowered emotional health, chronic fatigue, and sensitivity to stimulation, things can be that much harder.

Here are some tips and ideas for enjoying the holidays after a brain injury:

Continue reading

FREE and ABI friendly activities to do in Toronto over the holidays


Not feeling the Holiday Spirit?

You are not alone! But in case you want to start feeling those holiday vibes, here’s a list of free, brain injury friendly activities in Toronto. You never know, you may get into the spirit after all.

  1. Check out Amazing Christmas Decorations 🎅🏾

Go for a walk or drive in neighbourhoods that are known for their extravagant decorations. For example, the residents on Inglewood Drive (which happens to be close to the BIST Office, just south of St. Clair and Mount Pleasant, DIRECTIONS) put up giant blow-up Santa Clauses all along the street. But there are more! You can find other incredible decoration displays in Toronto, HERE.

 2. Watch a free or low cost Christmas movie! 🎬

Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema is showing classic Christmas movies for free, a price that can’t be beat! 506 Bloor Street West, DIRECTIONS

On Saturday mornings at 11 a.m., select Cineplex theatres offer screenings of family friendly Christmas movies for $2.99, which isn’t a bad deal either.

Tips: bring ear plugs and sunglasses to reduce the stimulation from watching movies in a theatre. Adding ear muffs and / or a toque will further reduce the noise.

3. Go to (one of many) Holiday Markets! 🎄

Toronto has upped its Holiday Market game in the past few years, and many of them have free admission. Check out some of the more popular ones below.

  • The Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District has free admission on weekdays, and begins to charge admission on weekends starting on Friday nights at 6 p.m: 373 Front St E, DIRECTIONS
  • Evergreen’s Winter Village has a charming ice rink, a Christmas Market and other wonders: 550 Bayview Avenue, DIRECTIONS
  • stackt Market is a “unique, ever-changing and curated retail experience” plus it’s indoors and pet friendly: 28 Bathurst Street, DIRECTIONS
  • Nathan Phillips Square Holiday Square, what could be more Toronto than skating at the Square? The Holiday Square is a space where a winter carnival and Christmas Market come together. Best, it’s always free: 100 Queen Street West, DIRECTIONS. How many times can we say square in one bullet point?


 4. Soak in the tropics and glitter in the 6ix 🌴
  • The Winter Flower Garden in Allan Gardens is filled with displays of stunning flowers, plants and vines from all over the world. International, natural beauty without the jet lag: 19 Horticultural Ave, DIRECTIONS
  • Did you know there is a bamboo forest in the heart of downtown Toronto?  Check out the The Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and it’s hidden bamboo treasures: 160 College Street, DIRECTIONS
Tunnel of Glam
  • Did you know there’s a sequinned-filled tunnel at Yonge and St. Clair, right by the BIST Office? Yes, you read that right. Check out the Tunnel of Glam: 1501 Yonge Street, DIRECTIONS.

This holiday season, I hope that you’ll use all of the energy that you saved to heal and create joy for yourself.

‘Mind Yourself with Alison’ is a collection of self-help tips, research, and personal experiences dedicated to helping people thrive after brain injury (or other health problems). Check out Alison’s other BIST Blog articles Women and Brain Injury: What you need to know and How to be a Good Friend to a Survivor. You can follow her on Twitter, HERE.

Quick & easy: try beet bruschetta this weekend


Nothing says fall like root vegetables right? Janet Craig brings you a new take on beets – the reddest vegetable of them all – with a beet bruschetta recipe that will blow your mind!

The easiest way to do this recipe is with canned beets, but if you like them fresher, check out these ways how to cook beets, HERE.

Beet Brushetta

  • 2/3 cup of balsamic vinegar reduced down to 1/3 cup in small saucepan on medium heat until syrupy. Find out how, HERE
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 can of beets drained & chopped
  • Feta cheese or goat cheese
  • Bread for toasting, baguettes work well
Combine ingredients. Place on toasted bread with crumbled goat cheese or feta. Grill under broiler and serve.

Satisfied Soul






Chef Janet Craig recipes are simple, healthy, delicious and ABI friendly. You can find out more about her HERE.