Yoga and Recovery from a Traumatic Brain Injury.

Yoga and recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury

Table of Contents

Part 3 of our Naturally Healing Traumatic Brain Injury Series

A few months ago, I took a fall that resulted in a mild to moderate traumatic brain injury. The concussion was exacerbated by a bleed in the frontal lobe of my brain. The whole thing felt surreal! One moment I was taking my grandson out to lunch, and the next I was being whisked off to spend a few days in ICU. 

At the time I felt pretty good. It wasn’t until I got home (maybe when the meds wore off) that I began feeling very tired and sore. A range of symptoms presented over the next several weeks. My body was sore from the fall, and I was exhausted with a lingering headache. Other symptoms like anger, resentment, dizziness, and sensory sensitization came up and healed over the course of my recovery.

I was lucky! Traumatic brain injuries can range from mild and moderate to severe. Some people are comatose and unresponsive for weeks after the event, taking years to heal. Other mild-seeming head injuries can turn nasty with long term negative effects. One woman I know has been working with the repercussions of what they called a “mild concussion” for four years now. Hitting your head can be a big deal. 

For more information on Traumatic Brain Injuries in general and possible symptoms, please read the first two posts in this series

  1. Natural Solutions for Traumatic Brain Injuries part 1 for details about Traumatic Brain Injuries, symptoms, the medical description, prognosis and first aid.
  2. Natural Solutions for Traumatic Brain Injury part 2 for information about long-term recovery using wholistic and herbal protocols.

During my recovery, I incorporated a full gambit or resources including modern medical intervention, rest, herbal therapies, diet, gentle exercise and yoga therapy.

What is Yoga Therapy?

Therapeutic yoga or yoga therapy is a unique application of yoga in which the therapist meets the student where they are in the moment. Yoga Therapists are specially trained in yoga as an ancient holistic, healing modality. They work on multiple levels of the system, treating the whole person, not just their symptoms or diagnosis. All practices are custom designed, non-invasive, progress over time, and complement allopathic and alternative healing modalities.

Yoga and Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery

Everyone experiences a TBI differently. Because the level of severity and symptoms vary widely, the same methods do not work for everyone. Each approach is unique, based on individual need. The yoga therapist takes into consideration how the injury is affecting the student functionally, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Much depends on their prior level of health, and medical background. Each person is distinct, even when they have the same diagnosis. 

My Experience

Rather than getting into a lot of hypothetical information, which may or may not be useful, I am going to limit this discussion to what worked for me.

It’s hard for me to open-up about my yoga practice. Why? It is sacred to me, and it works. I have a positive relationship with my teacher, who knows me well. She understands what is likely to work for me and what isn’t. I know that if something doesn’t work, we can talk. She always acknowledges my feelings and needs, and meets me where I am. From this supportive base, I am able move forward slowly, making positive changes in my life. 

My overall goal is more than health. Yes, being healthy is important, but authenticity, improved relationships and living with a close personal relationship to my higher power are my ultimate goals. Talking about my practice makes me feel vulnerable. It might not be right for someone else; but it is right for me.

Start with Rest and Relaxation

After an intense jar to the head, rest is the most important thing. Take it slow. Limit your physical and mental activities. Taking several small breaks throughout the day helps decrease the most pressing symptoms and supports the healing process.   

What a pleasure to watch the elm in the front yard leaf out a little each day. I’m not sure I’ve ever taken the time to slow down and truly experience one of life’s magnificent cycles. Inspiring to say the least.

Progressive relaxation

Yoga and recovery from Traumatic Brain InjuryThis is the practice of paying attention to each part of the body, asking how it feels, feeling it, and then releasing, softening, relaxing, and letting go. 

In my practice, I began with my feet and moved step by step to the top of my head. By the time my head was asked to release, I was calm, and comfortable. The pressure in my head, along with other symptoms like headache, mental unrest, and body pain had settled and I was able to rest.

I practiced this kind of progressive relaxation 2 times per day for about 6 weeks. Sometimes when I overstepped my ability and was forced back to the couch, I practiced it again. I loved it then and still practice it from time to time when tension runs high through my system.

Gentle Exercises including āsana (yoga poses)

My body was sore for 2 or 3 weeks after the fall. Not just my head, but my back, hips, shoulders, neck, and arms all hurt. There was no bruising, but I sure felt like I got hit by a bus. 


Gentle walking really helped. When you walk, your body has a natural gait that puts everything back into place. The arms, legs, and hips all move back and forth in an easy and natural way. Walking on a flat or easy trail helps with everything from digestion and immune health to pain management and brain health. 

walking. Yoga and recovery from TBI

These were short, easy walks out in nature. Being in nature always helps me connect with my higher power, to know and understand we are all connected.

Yoga Postures

The yoga postures (called āsana) that I practiced where very gentle. At first, they were all lying down, many with my feet up on a chair. They were targeted toward relaxation and smooth movement of the back, hips, shoulders, and neck. Once I started feeling a little better, the practices progressed slowly, following my progress. Now, mostly recovered, I am working in a completely different direction than I thought I was going a few months ago, both in my yoga and my life.

Please contact me or a qualified yoga therapist to talk about what yoga practices are appropriate for you. No matter where you are in your journey, yoga can meet you there.

Listen to the quite voice

So important! There are several voices talking on the inside at any given time. Some are louder than others. We want to calm everything, enough to hear the quietest voice. This is NOT the one saying “you can do it. You’re almost done, just a little bit more, Or you’re just being lazy.” If you hear that voice, ignore it. Wait, practice relaxation, and journal until the quiet voice comes. You’ll know when it arrives.

Things that are not helpful and are to be avoided

Avoid anything that jars the head or neck or that doesn’t feel good. I avoided twists, forward bends, deep back bends, and deep breathing (including dancing and chanting) for 2 or 3 months. Only the gentlest breath observation felt ok. I can do all the above now, 5 months later and am feeling better, stronger, and more balanced than ever before. Everything takes time. Don’t rush it. 

As Healing Progresses

As healing progresses, appropriate yoga practices and exercises can be added. This is important. So many people want a prescription for a yoga practice. “This pose for that condition.” Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending upon how you look at it, yoga doesn’t work that way. Progression and healing through yoga is personal. An individualized yoga practice, whether for healing or personal growth and wellness, considers you as a whole person. We are more than our diagnosis or set of symptoms. Tools and practices are added or changed as needed.  Past practices are used as a stepping-stone to further progress.

Stay in contact with your doctor.

Modern medical professionals have access to tools and tests that we, as patients and holistic practitioners don’t have. Follow your doctors advise. Do the tests they want to you to take. They’re goal is to identify and treat complications before problems arise.

Contact Annie for More Information

Feel free to contact me for more information about how yoga and yoga therapy can help you or someone you.  

Read More


The statements and ideas presented here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. They have not been evaluated by the FDA. All ideas presented are for the sole purpose of education. To help you take control of your own health. If you have a health concern or condition, consult a physician. We suggest that you always consult a medical doctor before modifying your diet, using any new product, drug, supplement, or doing any new exercises.

These statements and products have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. If you have a health concern or condition, consult a physician. Always consult a medical doctor before modifying your diet, using any new product, drug, supplement, or doing any new exercises.

Herbs taken for health purposes should be treated with the same care as medicine. Herbal remedies are no substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you are serious about good health, you’ll want to combine diet, exercise, herbals, a good relationship with your doctor and a generally healthy lifestyle. No one of these will do it alone.

This information is designed to be used as part of a complete health plan. No products are intended to replace your doctor’s care, or to supersede any of his/her advice or prescriptions.