Yoga is a powerful tool for recovery after brain injury. Contrary to some beliefs, everyone can do yoga — you don’t need to be super flexible, have great balance, or even be able to stand up. The beauty of yoga is that every pose can be modified so anyone can be accommodated.
An important aspect of yoga is your breath. Connecting your breath to your body and flow, and getting oxygen flowing to your brain, is what makes it so powerful for recovery. Yoga is also a time to quiet the mind, to let anxiety and distracting thoughts drift away.
Warrior I Pose (Virabhadra) is a standing pose that helps build focus, power, and ability. This foundational pose stretches the front side of the body and is great for building strength in the legs, core, and back.
Some of its many physical benefits include stretching the chest, lungs, shoulders, neck, and groin. It helps strengthen the shoulders and arms, and the muscles of the back as well as the thigh, calves, and ankles.
- Stand in Mountain Pose and separate your feet 3-4 feet apart.
- Turn your left foot in approximately 45 degrees, and your right foot out to 90 degrees.
- Turn your torso to the right, squaring the front of your pelvis as much as possible with the front edge of your mat. As the left hip turns forward, ground the left leg and heel into the floor.
- With your left heel firmly anchored to the floor, exhale and bend your right knee over the right ankle.
- Reach your arms overhead, pulling your shoulder blades back and down, lifting the ribcage as you ground down through the back foot. If possible, bring your palms together.
- Keep your head in a neutral position, gazing forward; or tilt back slightly to look up at your thumbs.
- Release and come back up to standing on an inhale, then turn to the left and repeat.
Adjustments and modifications:
- Beginners may find it difficult to keep the back heel grounded and the lower back lengthened. As a short-term solution, you may raise your back heel.
- If it is difficult to raise your arms overhead, you may keep your hands on your hips.
- You can also practice Warrior I with your front thigh resting on a chair.
If you are interested in learning more about yoga, check out www.loveyourbrain.com and their yoga programs at partner studios throughout the U.S., which are completely free to brain injury survivors and caregivers.