A growing science has begun to document the benefits of yoga and meditation for TBI rehabilitation, including psychosocial, cognitive, and physical improvements. Wherever possible, we draw on evidence-based practices to inform our program. To help you stay informed, we have compiled a list of the studies we have found to be the most influential.
HAS LOVEYOURBRAIN EVALUATED ITS YOGA PROGRAM?
This unprecedented research is one of only a few studies to explore the benefits of yoga for the TBI community. Researchers interviewed 13 people with TBI and 3 caregivers who had participated in LYB Yoga. Participants reported improvements in strength, balance, flexibility, and attention control, and a greater sense of belonging, community connection, and ability to move forward with their lives. Participants reported ongoing use of tools (e.g., breathing exercises) to cope with negative emotions and stress. About half of participants sustained relationships built during LoveYourBrain Yoga and felt more capable of accessing other activities in their community. Our results show that LoveYourBrain yoga led to diverse and meaningful physical, psychological, and social health benefits, which suggest that it may be an effective mode of community-based rehabilitation.
Alongside Dartmouth College, LYB conducted a pre-post evaluation of an 8-week gentle yoga program for people with acquired brain injury. This study included 31 adults with ABI who were allocated to yoga (n = 16) or control (n = 15) groups. People who participated in the yoga program experienced significant improvements in their overall quality of life (measured by the valid and reliable TBI-specific Quality of Life after Brain Injury scale), as well as a more positive sense of themselves and their capabilities and their ability to manage negative emotions. We used the results of this study to inform the design of our current yoga program curriculum, which is based on the science of resilience.
Here is a quote from one of our study participants:
“The program has already made a big difference in how I feel. My mind feels clearer and I feel more calm. I am getting more sleep at night and waking up less in the middle of the night.”
WHAT IS THE EVIDENCe?
Memory, self-efficacy, and quality of life (Azulay et al.,l 2013)
This pre-post study evaluated the effectiveness of a 10-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program tailored for mild TBI. The MBSR program included a series of mind-body practices, specifically body scan (i.e., systematically scanning the body with awareness), walking meditation, sitting meditation, and yoga. Participants included 22 individuals (11 men, 11 women) who were within 7 months post-injury and ranged in age from 18 to 62 years. The MBSR program involved enhancement of attentional skills, in addition to increased awareness of internal and external experiences with an attitude of acceptance and non-judgment.
Clinically meaningful improvements were noted on measures of quality of life (Cohen's d = 0.43) and perceived self-efficacy (Cohen d = 0.50) with smaller but still significant effects on measures of central executive aspects of working memory and regulation of attention.
Strength, balance, and endurance (Schmid et al., 2015)
In this study, 3 TBI survivors participated in an 8-week one-on-one yoga program. Participants were on average about 19 years postinjury. Each yoga class was 1-hour in length and offered twice a week, and became progressively more challenging. All yoga sessions included breathing, yoga postures (seated, standing, and floor), and 10 minutes of guided meditation/relaxation.
Participants experienced more strength, balance, endurance, and flexibility. All participants reported that yoga had a positive impact on their life and improved their recovery.
Mental fatigue and information processing (Johansson et al., 2012)
In this study, 19 individuals with TBI or stroke were randomized to participate in an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program or as no-treatment controls. The MBSR program included weekly 2.5-hour long group sessions and home practice for 45 minutes of gentle yoga, body scan (systematically scanning the body with awareness), and sitting meditation.
Participants experienced significant improvements in mental fatigue (MFS) and in neuropsychological tests (i.e., Digit Symbol-Coding and Trail Making Test), with specific focus on information processing and attention.
Attention (Cole et al., 2015)
In this pre-post pilot study, 9 Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a history of mild TBI with chronic cognitive complaints participated in an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.
There were significant improvements in participants’ attention control immediately following MBSR and largely sustained improvements 3 months after completion. There were also significant reductions in PTSD symptoms immediately after MBSR, which were also sustained 3 months following completion.
Physical and emotional wellbeing (Silverthorne et al., 2012)
This study investigated the respiratory, physical, and psychological functioning of 10 individuals with severe TBI (6 men, 4 women) who attended weekly chair-yoga classes as compared to 4 no-treatment controls (3 men, 1 woman).
The yoga group experienced improvements in several measures of respiratory functioning and physical and emotional well-being over 9 months. The control group also had positive trends in physical functioning and general health, but they did not experience improvements in as many outcomes as the yoga group.
quality of life (bedard et al., 2009)
This pre-post pilot study examined a mindfulness-based stress reduction approach to improve quality of life among individuals affected by TBI. The intervention comprised 12-weekly group sessions including insight meditation, breathing exercises, guided visualization, and group discussion. The intention was to encourage a new way of thinking about disability and life to bring a sense of acceptance, allowing participants to move beyond limiting beliefs.
They found significant improvements in quality of life among the 10 people who participated in the intervention, while no improvements were found among the 3 people in the control group.
cognitive function (McMillian et al., 2010)
This randomized controlled trial offered a brief (4-week) mindfulness intervention for individuals affected by TBI. This study found no differences on objective or self-report measures of cognitive function, mood or symptom reporting. Researchers postulate that the brevity of the intervention may explain the lack of effect.