Dartmouth Study Recognizes LoveYourBrain Yoga as an Effective Tool for Community Based Rehabilitation For People with Traumatic Brain Injury
Funded by the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire, a group of researchers at Dartmouth assessed the effectiveness of the program by conducting semi-structured interviews of 13 participants with traumatic brain injury and 3 caregivers who had completed the 6 week, 6 session program. The results are published in the February, 2019 issue of Disability Rehabilitation.
Kevin Pearce, a Vermont resident and world leading professional snowboarder, suffered a near fatal traumatic brain injury while training for the 2010 winter Olympics. Kevin’s remarkable resilience since his injury has inspired millions through the award-winning HBO documentary, The Crash Reel. Using the visibility generated by his success as a professional snowboarder and the international acclaim achieved by The Crash Reel, Kevin and his brother Adam created the LoveYourBrain Foundation, a non-profit organization that is working to connect, educate and empower people with Traumatic Brain Injury and to promote prevention programs. Building on Kevin’s own experience, the LoveYourBrain Yoga program has become central to the Foundation’s mission. The program incorporates group-based breathing exercises, yoga, meditation and psychoeducation. The first six weekly sessions of the program are open only to the TBI community. Participants who complete the program can remain in the yoga community by taking gentle classes at studios throughout the country taught by yoga teachers with specialized training through the Foundation (at a discounted rate.)
As most yoga teachers recognize (including the author of this blog) one of the important benefits of the yoga program was building, through this shared experience, a sustained sense of community connection. This is particularly important to a TBI survivor isolated by her injury and impaired in the ability to make those connections. About half of the participants in the program sustained relationships built during the program and felt more capable of accessing other activities in the community. Most participants also reported physical benefits including improvements in strength, balance and flexibility and cognitive benefits, particularly the ability to control attention. Participants also reported ongoing use of tools such as breathing exercises to cope with negative emotions and stress.
Yoga practice has become increasingly popular in the general population, which is also challenged by community disconnection, stress and physical deconditioning. The LoveYourBrain yoga program customizes yoga for the TBI community and intentionally encourages connections among participants to make these recognized benefits more accessible to that community. As the Dartmouth researchers conclude, the LoveYourBrain Yoga program appears to be an effective model for community-based rehabilitation, with diverse and meaningful physical, psychological and social health benefits.