On a cold February morning, my life changed forever. Walking down the driveway of my building, I slipped on a patch of sheer ice. My feet went straight up, and I landed with my head taking the full impact, briefly knocking me unconscious.
When I started to get up, I knew I wasn’t okay. I had an excruciating pain in my skull where it hit, and I was seeing whirly, bright lights out of my left eye.
The doctor confirmed I had a severe concussion, major whiplash, C4/5 damage, a dislocated sternum, and multiple torn muscles. I had no idea the road to recovery I’d face, and how drastically my life had just changed.
I had been doing yoga since college because it brought me balance and peace, and was an instant de-stresser me. With all of my physical injuries added to my traumatic brain injury (TBI), I could no longer do yoga.
After months of vertigo, dizziness and balance issues, cognitive problems, short-term memory loss, and the pain of my physical injuries, I was at the end of my rope. I felt like I would never find any relief, and worried that the TBI would leave me permanently impaired and unable to ever do physical exercise again.
I consulted with a neurologist, chiropractic neurologist, as well as the National Balance and Dizzy Center. I was encouraged to attempt some physical movement, as it would eventually help my body work out its kinks and stabilize my balance issues. It seemed counter intuitive at the time; however, I was desperate to have some sense of normalcy and routine in my life.
About fifteen months after my accident, I took private lessons with my yoga instructor in an attempt to find poses I could do—poses that wouldn’t trigger my vertigo or cause tension in my neck or sternum/clavicle area.
My instructor taught me how to use a chair or wall to support myself in standing poses so I didn’t feel like I was going to fall. We found five poses I could do with modifications that didn’t cause any problems or flare ups, including: Tree, Mountain, Cat/Cow, Puppy Dog, Forward Bend, and Seated Spine Twist.
Within about six weeks of doing these five poses every day for 10 minutes, I gradually added Down Dog, Plank, and Warrior for a breath. My vertigo and dizzy issues seemed to almost completely subside, and my balance was coming back closer to what it was pre-accident. Now with modifications I can do many of the poses I used to do. I still can’t do any back bends or tip my head backwards, but I am on an amazing road to recovery, thanks to yoga.
I urge anyone with a TBI or other injury to try to incorporate yoga into your daily routine. If you think, “I’m not flexible, I can’t do yoga,” you are absolutely wrong! If I can do this, I know you can too.
1. Listen to your body. Don’t do anything that hurts or causes you pain. Mild discomfort is to be expected if you haven’t stretched your body in awhile, however, if it actually hurts, listen to your body. Don’t do that particular pose, or modify it to fit what your body is capable of. If a pose triggers vertigo, try modifying it so that your head doesn’t have to move, or else move on to a different pose.
2. Connect your breath. Oxygen is critical for brain health, and yoga helps you connect your breath to your movements. Take strong, deep inhalations, and allow the out-breath to help you get deeper into the pose and deeper into the now ~ releasing all negative thoughts and emotions.
3. Modify poses. In the beginning I could only do 5 simple, basic, stretching poses. I had to use a chair or wall to hold onto for balance. I couldn’t do any poses that required my head forward or backward. Don’t feel obligated to do every pose in a series, do what you can do and go at your own pace. Yoga is an individual “sport” and there is no one to impress other than yourself.
4. Believe in yourself. I know it’s a challenge when you haven’t been able to do physical exercise in months, but I finally took the plunge and I know you can too! Yoga has SO many health benefits, and I truly believe in you and your ability to get moving and start feeling better. Let go of the resistance that is holding you back, and allow yourself to move forward in your recovery! Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you!
TAKE THE YOGA CHALLENGE!
Yoga Today is one of the leading providers of online yoga classes, and they are gifting the world with 16 specifically designed and sequenced classes to connect or reconnect people with the deep power and benefits of yoga!
This FREE online course of 16 classes is available until February 16, 2016, and for those who finish all 16 classes, Yoga Today has some exciting gifts to give you – just for giving yoga a try!
Additionally, Yoga Today is launching a new philanthropic initiative in 2016. For every membership purchased, they will give a free month of classes to someone suffering financial hardship.
After 10 years, thousands of classes and 350,000 followers, executive producer Kim Whitman wanted to give something back.
“The past decade has been one of tremendous growth for our company, and we just decided to do something a little special for our current community and prospective students,” she said. “This course is like no other we have ever created. The course is designed specifically to tap into the power that comes with the start of the new year and to give people a boost to embrace what lies ahead. The course helps people look deep and turn on their own personal power.”
You can start the YOGA CHALLENGE here:
Amy Zellmer is a professional photographer and author located in Saint Paul, MN. She suffered a traumatic brain injury in February 2014, and is currently advocating to raise awareness about the severity of concussions and TBI. She released her first book “Life With a Traumatic Brain Injury: Finding the Road Back to Normal” in 2015. www.facesoftbi.com