LOVE YOUR BRAIN
AFTER KYLA PEARCE’S BROTHER
IN-LAW, Kevin, a professional snowboarder, experienced a career-ending traumatic brain injury during one of his training runs in 2009, his entire family got a sudden crash course in this type of injury (more than 2.5 million people sustain one each year) and the hardships that come with them. They learned that traumatic brain injuries can cause deeply challenging physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms long after patients receive medical care, including poor balance, attention deficits, and anxiety, which can result in feelings of isolation and depression. What’s worse, while traumatic brain injuries typically receive extensive care in the weeks immediately following the trauma, as time passes, friends and family are often unsure of how to best offer continued care and support.
Three years ago, as Pearce was finishing her 200-hour yoga-teacher training in Dharamsala, India, her husband, Adam called with some news about his brother: Kevin was finally finding a sense of peace, accomplishment, and vitality through yoga and meditation. “Adam said, ‘Let’s bring this feeling to everyone with a traumatic brain injury. Can we? Should we?’”
As Adam supported Kevin on his continued path to recovery, he recognized the great need for creating a community for others impacted by traumatic brain injuries. This compelled him to found the Love Your Brain Foundation, which brings brainhealth programs to traumatic brain injury survivors. Pearce—a yoga teacher, doctoral student at Dartmouth College, and senior director of the Love Your Brain yoga program—supported the mission from the beginning.
Eventually, Love Your Brain partnered with Dartmouth College to conduct an eight-week yoga study involving 30 people with traumatic brain injuries. The study found that participants who practiced yoga experienced significantly greater improvement in quality of life compared to the control group. These findings informed the development of Love Your Brain’s six-week yoga program, which is now being integrated into 24 partner studios across 14 US states and one Canadian province. “We partner with studios that are geographically close to a rehab facility for traumatic brain injury patients, so that the program is available to them, for free, as a next step for outpatients,” says Pearce. Each class follows a similar structure: 10 minutes of breathing exercises to calm and focus the mind; 45 minutes of gentle yoga to improve strength and balance; 15 minutes of guided meditation; and 20 minutes of discussion based on empowering themes.
“The gap in care following inpatient services and rehab is a major issue for those with traumatic brain injuries,” says Pearce. “We offer research-driven physical, emotional, social, and spiritual support for this community. After all, yoga is a practice of honoring our inner experience without resisting or grasping. Learning how to do this can help those who’ve experienced a traumatic brain injury regain a sense of purpose, which is critical to the healing process.”