Balancing the benefits – yoga’s healing power has a valuable place in brain injury rehabilitation
The effects of traumatic or non-traumatic brain injury depend upon a number of factors but, in general, symptoms can range from physical and cognitive to emotional and behavioural.
Rehabilitation is crucial – not only to the survivor but also to their family, if they are to cope successfully with any remaining disabilities.
However, the benefit of yoga as an integral part of traumatic brain injury rehabilitation is often overlooked. There are many different yoga disciplines; most involve movement, pranayama (breathing exercises), mindfulness and meditation.
Scientific studies have shown that yoga can both prevent disease and help sufferers recover from a variety of medical conditions. Benefits of practising yoga regularly include flexibility in muscle and connective tissues, increased muscle strength, improved posture, prevention of cartilage and joint breakdown, spine protection, enhanced blood flow, lymph drainage and boosted immunity, increased heart rate, lower blood pressure, regulation of the adrenal glands, improved balance, and a releasing of tension in the limbs.
In addition to these therapeutic benefits to physical recovery, in terms of the cognitive and emotional and behavioural changes it is widely accepted that yoga makes you happier. Consistent yoga practice relieves depression, leads to a significant increase in serotonin levels and improves focus, co-ordination, reaction time, and memory capacity.
Yoga also has a calming effect on the body – by encouraging you to relax and slow your breath it calms and restores you, bringing peace of mind and slowing down the cycles of frustration, regret, anger and fear that are commonly felt by traumatic brain injury sufferers.
Yoga can also help you sleep better and deeper. Pranayama and meditation encourage an inward tuning of the senses that provides down-time for the nervous system and reduces stress and tiredness. They also build awareness, reducing anger by enhancing feelings of compassion and increasing the ability to step back during times of need.
By consistently quietening the mind we are reprogramming the impaired neuropathways in the brain, assisting with the mental distraction and stresses that commonly occur after a traumatic brain injury.
Bearing all this in mind it is easy to see why including regular yoga practice in a rehabilitation programme can be so beneficial and therapeutic to a brain injury survivor.
Emma Dryden. Solicitor, personal injury department.
General, George Ide, News, Personal Injury Blog