We snagged a moment with Adi Amar to peek into her recent affiliation with Love Your Brain. If you’re familiar with YogaToday, you recognize Adi Amar, one of the original yoga teachers who offers endless insight into the yoga practice, streamed online to you, anytime anywhere.
LoveYourBrain‘s mission is essentially improving the quality of life of people affected by traumatic brain injury (TBI). Kevin Pierce, professional snowboarder and co-founder of Love Your Brain, sustained a traumatic brain injury while training for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Kevin was at the top of his game when the tragedy struck, and he then entered a lengthy road to recovery. This time period brought to light an opportunity to support others while transforming the experience of traumatic brain injuries and the road to recovery all together. With his brother, Adam, he created a source of inspiration, education and awareness in the movement Love Your Brain. Through yoga, meditation and mindfulness programs, Love Your Brain is improving lives, creating community and optimizing health for everyone they reach.
“We believe that yoga, mindfulness, and community are essential to transforming the wellbeing of people impacted by traumatic brain injury (including concussion).” – LoveYourBrain
Luckily, we now have Love Your Brain’s affiliated studios throughout the country providing tools to optimize brain health and foster connections with yourself and with others who have experienced TBI’s. Adi’s Teton Yoga Shala is now one of these studios, launching LYB’s programs this April.
What we also discovered in our conversation with Adi is that trauma to the brain is more common than most people probably realize. It turns out that you don’t have to be hurling yourself off of cliffs to hurt your head.
EVERY 11 SECONDS SOMEONE SUSTAINS A TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY!
CAUSES of TBI’s:
- Falls – 40.5%
- Other/unknown – 19.0%
- Blunt trauma – 15.5%
- Motor vehicle accidents – 14.3%
- Assaults – 10.7%
- Main causes of mild TBI
- Blast (common military injury)
It’s important to recognize that even a slight concussion is considered a TBI and that all TBI’s manifest in different ways. They can be tough to recognize. We encourage everyone to please learn more about TBI’s HERE.
Love Your Brain Interview with Adi Amar
YogaToday: How did you initially came to love the practice of yoga?
Adi Amar: As a teenager I was first attracted to yoga after my mother’s car accident. I needed tools and techniques to deal with the mental and emotional ramifications of such a traumatic event. It became necessary to find an outlet to process heavy emotions and feelings that were coming up that I simply did not have the tool kit to manage at such a young age.
Though this process, I found that the reason I was so vulnerable to this particular happening was because of previous intense trauma lying dormant until stimulated by this current event. My mother’s accident, and then yoga, became an opportunity to learn how to neutralize my nervous system. The “fight or flight” response was in full play and I was in need of a method that would rectify my physical, mental and emotional state for where I was at that time in my life. Yoga become the way forward.
What attracted you to Love Your Brain?
I met Ramsey Pierce when she visited Jackson Hole seeking yoga studios to align with Love Your Brain. My studio was a fit as our mission is to meet every person who walks through the door exactly where they are. We focus on using props and modifications as well as have history of working with other disabilities and limitations. We strive to accommodate “every body”.
I was further inspired to work with them as my son sustained a head injury at only 5 years old. This alerted me to the consequences of this type of trauma and the alarming fact that many people may not even realize they have experienced it.
You recently dropped into the Love Your Brain TBI-specific yoga teacher training with some of your teachers. Tell us about that.
Yes. The timing and synchronicity of my son’s head injury and later meeting Ramsey simply directed me to Seattle with a few other teachers for their training to prepare Teton Yoga Shala to further accommodate people with TBI’s.
Their program highlights four areas of focus:
• Gentle yoga
• Facilitated conversation
I found this to be so well balanced and integrated into one program which very much aligns with what I strive for at Teton Yoga Shala.
LYB has created an incredible community of people who understand one another. TBI’s often leave people feeling isolated due to both cognitive and physical effects that can lead to emotional experiences such as irritability, sadness, anxiety, denial, depression, and lack of self-efficacy. These injuries can leave people lonely and feeling “stuck”. Much like in life, being seen and heard are basic human needs. The program and community include facilitated conversations that address these needs.
Love Your Brain’s evidence-based program is showing that people suffering from brain injury have the ability to rewire their brains creating new neural pathways toward healing. Doing this work within community is a key ingredient.
Essentially, I chose to affiliate because their intent is to meet people where they are. This is what Teton Yoga Shala strives for – to accommodate each individual, each body, in a specific manner that addresses their current physical, mental and emotional state.
How do you feel YogaToday and Love Your Brain are intimately connected to one another and the practice of yoga?
Living in a community full of brave athletes, there is a good chance that many people are unknowingly walking around with a brain injury that has been unattended. This is so unfortunate because it can be confusing and unsettling.
YogaToday and Love Your Brain both offer the yoga practice which holds many tools and techniques to gently rewire our neural pathways to benefit those with TBI’s and/or any limitation – physical, mental or emotional – as that is exactly what yoga and related practices do.
All too often, athletes alongside many of us in modern society, do not want to slow down. They don’t want to miss out on a day of skiing. What’s scary about that is that it’s recurring impact to the brain that is most detrimental to long term brain health. If we don’t take the time to slow down, we simply aren’t able to repair, heal and return to a balanced state.
With TBI’s and all other limitations, we know that deep down, people want to find balance, live a more peaceful existence and ultimately feel great. A lot of times, they just don’t know how. With yoga, we learn to neutralize our nervous systems so that we are acting from a place of healthy response versus reactivity. YogaToday offers a plethora of gentle yoga, meditation and breathing practices, so it’s an excellent place to start.
With a TBI, whether from falling on the ski hill or from a car accident, you have the added community of LoveYourBrain locally and nationally to support you in cultivating the strength, flexibility, adaptability and resilience to rise to this challenge and progress.
If one has never tried yoga, even better.
YogaToday offers numerous classes for the beginner such as Begin with the Basics and Yoga Basics – Turn Your Attention Inward. Tune in to practice gentle yoga, meditation and breathwork which are all appropriate practices for those suffering from TBI’s.
We know that the practice of yoga benefits proprioception, the understanding of where our body is in space. Simultaneously, it cultivates an awareness of internal and external stimuli and how we respond. LYB’s program focuses further on interoception referring to the process of stimuli coming from inside of the body such as heartbeat, thirst, hunger, breathing, or other textural sensations, which can be altered with TBI’s.
Yoga reinforces the mind-body connection which is essential to enhancing both proprioception and interoception. This reinforcement supports anyone in better understanding and managing how we react, or better respond, to both external and internal stimuli.
Beautifully, LYB additionally creates a safe place to honor the space and time that it takes to heal from brain injuries. We should cultivate more of this in the world toward any trauma, large or small, which is what yoga supports.
What are your hopes for the future in terms of TBI’s and yoga?
With both yoga and traumatic brain injury my hope is to create more awareness so that we can heal through these ancient and revered practices to overcome any limitation.
When life challenges us, it changes us. We must step up and show up even if that means coming to class and lying in savasana the entire time.
We take steps toward creating these new neural pathways through these practices that provide ways to build resilience to anything life hands us. Resilience is how we rise to meet our challenges. It’s not IF we will face challenges, it’s WHEN.
Gathering tools, techniques and creating community – this is how we move forward with purpose and thrive. To me, this is the purpose of yoga.
The effects the LYB communities and their evidence-based programs have on the individual, their families, friends, peers, and careers is exponential. With support through the following, the benefits are ten-fold:
• Self-regulation and self-control
• Support for depression, anxiety, any feelings of isolation or falling victim to one’s circumstances
• Support in taking responsibility to grow and evolve beyond injury
• Integration back into community
It’s beyond gratifying to see that their evidence is showing the practices of yoga, meditation, breathwork and cultivating community are truly beneficial. My hope is to see all of these practices and communities grow. Everything is connected. With this awareness, we can all support one another in moving beyond any type of limitation in life.