For my yoga student, Brittney Olberding, one night changed everything.
While driving late one evening several years ago, in her senior year of college, Brittney struck a disabled vehicle on the side of the road, causing her car to roll down an embankment.
Brittney lay motionless in the wrecked vehicle, unattended for hours, only to be found early the next morning by a tow-truck driver who had come to recover the car left on the road. She sustained a traumatic brain injury called cerebellar ataxia, which is an injury to the cerebellum causing motor system dysfunction. For a year and a half, Brittney worked to learn to walk and move fluidly again through both intensive inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation.
As part of her treatment, Brittney enrolled in an adaptive yoga class offered through the San Diego Community College District’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) program. Participation in this program sparked a regular yoga practice for Brittney, which ultimately served as a catalyst for her to go back to school, though she knew how challenging it would be.
As a fourth-year nursing student at the time of her accident, Brittney never lost her passion for wanting to help others live better, but she knew that in order to do so she would have to also have to continue her own personal self-care.
Brittney enrolled in my vinyasa yoga class, which explored the pairing of physical poses (asana) with breathing techniques (pranayama). Initial hesitant about this style of practice, Brittney later shared with me that the mindful movement exploration ultimately helped to shift her perspective about her yoga practice, herself, her injury, and life. Below, she offers three profound ways yoga can help anyone overcome adversity:
1. Love yourself.
Yoga offered Brittney both physical and mental benefits, allowing her to accept herself and others with an entirely new perspective.
“After my accident, I struggled with depression,” Brittney said. “But yoga helps me to get up and moving, strengthening and stretching my body while clearing my mind and continually allowing myself to accept what I can do and cannot do and to be completely okay with that. Yoga allows me to find contentment in the present moment, which is so valuable. My physique comes secondary to this feeling of peace, love, and self-acceptance.”
2. Offer hope to others.
Given the profound impact yoga had on her life, Brittney felt compelled to share the gift of yoga with others.
“I never would have seen myself as a yoga student, much less now a yoga teacher, but my accident brought me to enjoy the serenity that is yoga and to appreciate how transformative the practice can be,” shared Brittney. “Yoga taught me to live in the present moment and to celebrate what is possible today. I have found that challenging my mind and body through yoga has really brought hope and abilities to my life personally and to the lives of the people I work with.”
3. Shift your perspective.
If at any point in life you find yourself struggling to overcome adversity, take Brittney’s advice about how yoga can offer you a new perspective.
“Yoga is not merely crazy poses. The heart of yoga is to get your mind out of itself and just to be present in life as it is right now, because life is beautiful.”
Author: Jessica Matthews
Editor: Catherine Monkman