Today I’m excited to share with you an interview with Gary Brennan, a traumatic brain injury survivor who embraced yoga during his recovery.
I had the pleasure of meeting Gary this past summer when he was a participant in an adaptive yoga class I led. It was amazing to hear Gary talk about how he discovered and benefited from yoga during his rehabilitation and I’m excited for him to share his experience and advice on incorporating yoga into the healing process – enjoy!
Q&A with Gary Brennan
How did you begin practicing yoga?
After my auto accident, my nephew and his wife suggested I try yoga as part of my rehabilitation. After doing some research on the benefits of yoga and meditation following a traumatic brain injury I purchased a Gentle Yoga practice DVD. I immediately found it to be helpful.
However, it was soon clear to me that I needed someone to observe and assist me in my practice. I have found that a class setting with an instructor is far better for me than simply following a DVD. I use the DVD now as a supplement, bringing what I have learned in class to that supplemental practice.
What benefits have you experienced through your yoga practice?
I always come away feeling better from my practice than when I started. I feel more centered, more confident with a sense of knowing where I am in time and space.
How has yoga and mindfulness aided in your healing process?
Two areas where I am challenged following a traumatic brain injury are balance and cognitive focus. Yoga has helped me greatly in both of these areas. To learn to slow down and focus on your breathing, allowing distracting thoughts just pass by has been wonderfully helpful. Working on flexibility and core strength has helped me with my balance issues. Having an understanding and awareness of what your body is feeling has been very helpful.
What advice would you give to someone considering yoga, especially after an injury or illness?
Find a class setting with a qualified instructor who has an understanding of the medical challenges you face. They can make the adaptations you need to help you continue your recovery and help you to live the best life possible. It was extremely important to me to find a class led by instructors who were also rehabilitation therapists who understood brain injuries.
We assume we need to be physically flexible, that we are expected to bend in nearly impossible positions. Expect to work within the limitations of your body. Everyone is different and has different limitations. The good news is that my yoga experience has not been competitive. Often the focus in our western culture is to be the best and to do everything perfectly. That is not the case in many eastern cultures. Rather, the focus is on the participation in the practice. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy your time practicing yoga.
What have you enjoyed the most about your yoga practice?
I have found my yoga practice to engage and benefit my body, mind, and spirit. I was pleasantly surprised by that.
Was there ever a moment in your yoga practice when you surprised yourself by doing something you did not think you were capable of accomplishing?
- Doing a tree pose with only light support.
- I have become more flexible physically than I ever could have imagined.
- I honestly didn’t know what to expect. It’s all been a surprise.
Many thanks to Gary for sharing his experience with us!
For more information on brain injury and yoga visit: Love Your Brain Foundation