BY: ALYSON ROGERS
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 www.yogajournal.com for more information and always listen to your body; if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it.
This pose calms the mind and reduces stress and anxiety.
- 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.
- 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
This pose helps with concentration, stamina and feeling strong.
- 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 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.
- 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
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.
- 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.