BY: JULIA RENAUD
During this sunny time of year, the days are long, the weather is warmer, and the flowers are wonderfully fragrant and in bloom. The true question is: do you take the time to smell the roses? Fortunately for us, Occupational Therapist, Yoga Tnstructor and the owner of Empowering Mind & Body, Kristina Borho, brought her mindfulness and encouragement to lead May’s Community Meeting about chair yoga.
A whole lot of positive energy filled the room at this month’s meeting and Kristina’s passion and compassion kept the group intrigued and asking for more yoga therapy tips and techniques. She encouraged all of us to live in the moment and to engage with body, mind, and breath during the session, as well as in our daily lives.
I was lucky enough to be one of the many participants at this very special community meeting and I am happy to share my experience with you!
One of the first things that Kristina told each person to do was to set an intention for the session. Intention setting, as I learned, is a very powerful way to gain perspective on how you’re feeling, and to recognize where you may need to focus your energy in order to feel better. Like Kristina, I decided that my intention for the following hour would be to find patience – something that I am slowly but surely learning – and definitely something that does not seem to come easily to me; allow me to digress.
I am known as a goal-setter and I have the ruthless determination to persevere to achieve any goal I set my sights upon, regardless of how much work it will take. Since my most recent concussion three years ago, I have had to face the fact that, while goal setting can be very helpful for some things, recovering from post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is not really one of them. PCS, like many brain injuries, is an unpredictable road that has its ups and downs and twists and turns much like a roller coaster. It also has the capacity to turn even the most realistic of goals on their head; hence my need to force goal-setting to take the back seat (as difficult as that is), and instead to persevere at being patient with the path that I’m on!
Chair Yoga Exercises
I believe I can speak for the group when I say we all need more yoga, chair or otherwise, in our lives! For this reason, I would like to share some of my favourite chair yoga poses that Kristina coached us through. I have given each of them a name so they’re easier to remember.
As you go through the poses, keep in mind our word of the night, elongated. What I mean by this is, for each pose, sit nice and tall, like there’s a string attached to the top of your head, pulling your head toward the sky and keeping your spine nice and long. Also, try to remember to think about the intention that you set earlier!
Down to Earth Neck Stretch:
- Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, and your arms dangling at your side
- Breathe in while turning your head to look over your right shoulder
- Breathe out while tilting your head down to look at the floor while keeping your head turned to the right
- Switch sides
- Sit tall in a chair, place your fingertips lightly on your shoulders
- Rotate your shoulders in backward circles
- Rotate your shoulders in forward circles
- Try to coordinate your breath if you can – breathe in when your shoulders rise, and out when they fall (this part can be tricky!)
- Sitting upright in your chair, place your right hand on your right hip, breath in
- As you breath out, side-bend your body to the left and toward the floor
- Inhale as you come back to centre
- Switch sides
Kristina concluded the session with a brief body-scan meditation, thoughtfully conducted to take the mind away from all of the stressors of daily life, and instead to bring focus to various parts of the body, one by one. Doing a body scan is a great way to connect with how your body is feeling. I find it especially helpful in understanding the severity of my PCS symptoms and use it to check in with how my brain and body are handling the tasks that I am asking of them.
Generally, a simple way to compose a body-scan is to either go from head to toe, or the other way around. This helps to relax the mind while ensuring that you aren’t skipping over any important body parts that may require your attention. Your meditation can be as long or as short as you want, the key is to remember to remain relaxed and non-judgmental. If your mind drifts away to a thought unrelated to the task at hand, simply acknowledge that your attention has drifted, and regain focus on your body scan. At first this may seem really difficult, but try not to get discouraged!
With time and practice (in my case, a whole lot), you will begin to notice that your ability to keep your attention on the meditation will improve.
I was able to feel how Kristina’s yoga therapy was able to change the energy in the room from buzzing and a bit chaotic, to happy and relaxed. By the end of the meeting, the group shared a true sense of togetherness, and isn’t that so important in brain injury recovery!
If you or someone you know is living with a brain injury, remember that these things can take time to heal, and you are never in this alone. So, take the days as they come and on your next walk or roll, don’t forget to take in that fresh air, and take the time to smell the roses!
Next Community Meeting: Wednesday, June 27, 6 – 8 p.m.
Everyone is welcome!
Julia Renaud is a very talkative ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. When not chatting someone’s ear off, Julia can be found outside walking her dog while occasionally talking to him, of course!