This Yoga Program Helps Brain Injury Survivors Heal
In 2010, Kevin Pearce’s life changed.
While training for the Vancouver Olympics, the professional snowboarder suffered a near-fatal traumatic brain injury (TBI). Suddenly, Pearce’s goal wasn’t winning gold—it was recovering.
That process, remembers his brother Adam, wasn’t easy. “The resources available for outpatients are very limited,” Adam says. “We realized that we needed to create some of type of organization that could support people on a more in-depth level.” From that realization came LoveYourBrain, an organization that seeks to improve the lives of people who have suffered TBIs, helping them recover physically, mentally, and emotionally.
One of LoveYourBrain’s hallmark programs is TBI-friendly yoga, inspired by the “incredible results” Kevin saw when he took up the practice. The program has nine partner yoga studios in five states, and recently welcomed Asana Charlestown as its first Massachusetts studio.
Asana has signed on to offer LoveYourBrain’s six-week workshops—which are free for TBI patients and caregivers—as well as TBI-friendly classes, which are also open to the general population. Johanna Hynes, the owner of Asana, says her hope is to bring the healing powers of yoga to a new sector of the population.
“Yoga has the power to be a reset button on many levels,” Hynes says. “You can walk into a room having had a gray day, and you spend a little while focusing on your breath, getting blood flow, changing the shape of your body, and all of a sudden there’s a noticeable difference in your mindset.”
Kyla Pearce, director of program design and evaluation for LoveYourBrain Yoga and Adam’s wife, says there’s also science to suggest that yoga can have a real impact on the TBI community.
“People are better able to cope with their stress, they’re more self-aware, they can actually modulate their reactions to challenging or stressful situations,” she says. “There’s some research showing that yoga and mindfulness practices can improve attention control, and with TBI, that’s also incredibly helpful.”
LoveYourBrain classes begin with a breathing exercise, then move into 45 minutes of gentle flow. From there, they transition into a guided meditation and a structured discussion. Each session, Kyla says, focuses on a theme meant to help TBI survivors build resilience.
“A TBI is not typically an injury where you think about returning to where you were before,” she explains. “Usually there’s life-long changes, so it’s really about adapting and coping and building ways to be resilient and move forward.”
For Hynes, the partnership is also a way to build upon goals she’s always had for Asana: making it a place for community, and a place that touches students’ lives.
“I feel incredibly grateful to have been in the right place at the right time,” she says. “I love community. I’m just so glad that we can offer something to everyone.”
Asana’s next LoveYourBrain workshop will run from October 15 through November 19. Classes are Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., at 20 City Square, Charlestown. Register and learn more at loveyourbrain.com.