Healing a TBI at the Speed of Mother Nature
Daily Routines – Dinacharya for Brain Health
Abhyanga ( oil massage) for Healing Body, Brain and Spirit

Ayurveda is a sister science to yoga that teaches us to live life to the fullest and to create and maintain vibrant health by keeping in rhythm with Mother Nature. “Ayur” means life and “veda” means wisdom and it is by following this ancient road map of life wisdom.

Ayurveda has been a cherished companion for me while healing my Traumatic Brain Injury and I hope to inspire you to do incorporate some of these ayurvedic principles for your own healing.

Bethany Cantin is a vibrant and inspirational yoga therapist and ayurvedic practitioner who, after 15 + years of guiding others to deepen their connection to life, found herself struggling dearly to hold on to her own connection to life due to a traumatic brain Injury (TBI) and Post Concussion syndrome (PCS) after a bad car accident in the winter of 2015 that brought her life and career to a complete halt.

She has spent over a year slowly healing her TBI primarily through the Eastern modalities of yoga, pranayama, meditation and ayurveda, to nurture and support her healing along the way. She has also found great value in Western therapies like vestibular, speech and occupational.

Her experience with this life altering TBI has inspired her to devote this next stage of her career to helping others navigate the waters of PCS and TBI with support, ayurvedic wisdom, patience and grace.

Bethany offers Ayurvedic consultations, private yoga and meditation sessions (in person and via Skype) for TBI / PCS survivors and their caretakers. She is also writing a book entitled. Healing your Traumatic Brain injury at the Speed of Mother Nature.

Healing Your Brain at the Speed Of Mother Nature

As a teacher of yoga, meditation and ayurveda, a career I have cherished for over 15 years, I am often telling my students “ I teach what I need to learn”. This statement has never been more applicable than it has been this past full year of slowly healing from a TBI.

My once vibrant, multitasking, superhuman, energetic being, was bed ridden for the better part of a year. In the early months of recovery I thought, because I was a supremely healthy, yoga practicing, kale smoothie drinking, yogi health practitioner, that I would heal my TBI in a few weeks, multi-year-long recoveries were for someone else.

This mind set went completely against everything I had been teaching for 15 years. Sure, it was optimistic to believe in recovering quickly, but it was not respectful of the magnitude of injury itself and only led to great despair I was not better after a week or a month, or even a year.

My brain was seriously injured, speaking and walking were very hard tasks. I would mix up words constantly every few minutes, calling light bulbs lobster pots, for goodness sake. Being around more than 3 people at a time was crippling for my brain. A trip to the grocery stores and all the stimuli of shapes, sizes and colors that came with it would leave me in a puddle of tears in the car and sometimes bed ridden for days (you all know the symptoms), my brain needed time, and lots of it, to heal.

Recovering from a TBI can be likened to planting a tiny seed to grow an apple tree. That seed is vulnerable. It needs to be tended to daily with nourishment and love. It needs to be protected from rough times, like bad weather, and above all it needs consistency and patience.

If at the first sign of growth we pulled on the lime green sprout bursting out of the ground, to hurry it along, we will only kill it and we would have to start again, by planting another seed. If we shouted at it to hurry up, it would only wither from the impossibility of the demand. It can take years of perfect nourishment and commitment to an apple tree before it will ever bear fruit. The same is true for healing a TBI.

I encourage you to look at your TBI in the very same light. We are all unique and each TBI is different. We all heal at our own pace, but one thing is true for each of us, we need to respect the speed of Mother Nature. She knows you want to heal and she is on top of it. The body wants to heal. What she asks of you is to respect her speed, wisdom and grace and to be as committed to optimal health along the path as best you possibly can.

I look forward to sharing many ayurvedic guidelines to help you down the path of healing over the next few months.

Daily Routines – Dinacharya for Brain Health

In ayurveda, all healing modalities are explained in relation to the rhythms of Mother Nature. The universe, just like our individual selves, loves cyclical rhythms. Just as the Moon orbits around earth every 28 days, and the earth rotates around sun every 24 hours, each year has 4 seasons, and every 365 days we have a new calendar year.

Our bodies and every single cell in within them operates this way as well. Our bodies have similar cyclical rhythms that we must pay attention to if we wish to heal and maintain good health. Staying aware of these rhythms, such as our sleep patterns, digestive cycles, water intake and optimal food intake, will give you the support to function at your best while healing from a TBI. It can give you a greater sense of clarity, vision and purpose on the road to recovery. To truly get in the groove with Mother Nature try some of these daily routines, called dinacharya. We can’t change everything overnight. Slowly incorporate the ones you are most drawn to, incorporating them into your daily routines at the speed of Mother Nature.

• Wake up just before sunrise to give the body a chance to harmonize with the rhythms of the day. This is the most satvic (pure, clear, light, spiritual) time of day, and is the best time for meditation, gentle yoga, and setting intentions for the day. Intentions such as I am going to stay positive and eat mindfully all day, or I will find the strength to take a shower, or set loftier goals like starting an art project or going to work.

• Drink a cup of warm water first thing in the morning to awaken and cleanse the digestive track. Occasionally add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a mini liver cleanse. To awaken your system with something pure, like H20, tells your body you are supporting it in flushing out toxins. Drinking pure water continuously all day each day is greatly important in healing a TBI.

• Inspect your tongue for signs of toxins (called ama, a white coating, especially on the back of the tongue). Use a tongue scraper gently each morning. The markings and coating on you tongue is a great indicator of your overall internal health. If you have a significant white coating, it means you have undigested food in your colon and toxins in your system. The colon is represented on the back of the tongue, if that area is very white, it means that your colon needs some help and cleaning up your diet is a great idea. Commit to eating healthier food, less white flower and refined sugar and more veggies and grains, for example. You will notice the tongue change to a healthier pink the healthier you eat and digest your foods. If you eat a pretty optimal diet already and still have a white coating, it is a sign you are not digesting your food properly, and we need to strengthen your digestive fires by setting a rhythm your body can trust around when you eat, not just what you eat.

• Eat your meals throughout the day in rhythm with Mother Nature. When the sun is highest in the sky, that is when your own digestive juices are at their peak and we want to eat our biggest meals of the day then too, between 11-1pm. In ayurveda we say “we are not what we eat, but what we digest”. To assure healthy digestion of all your meals - for optimal immune function and over all health - follow these guidelines.

• Eat breakfast between 6-8am, breakfast is “ breaking a fast” from the night before, and should be a medium sized meal, one that is nutrient rich and easy to digest (like oatmeal, eggs or a green protein smoothie). Lunch should be eaten when the sun is highest in the sky, and should be the biggest meal of the day. Supper is a word meaning “supplement” and dinner should actually be the smallest meal of the day. This can be a challenging routine to embrace, so just do your best. Keeping in mind, if the body is not busy digesting a big meal while you are sleeping, it can use all of its good energy to work at healing your brain while you sleep. Simply put, let lunch be your biggest meal each day, breakfast is the second largest, dinner is the smallest.

• Sip water throughout the day. I strive for a gallon a day. Helps heal the brain. Drinking water is especially important at mealtime as it supports the healthy digestion of food. The optimal amount of intake for each meal should be roughly 1/3 water, 1/3 food and 1/3 empty space. This promotes healthy digestion.

• Try to get to sleep before 10pm, as this promotes the deepest sleep and guarantee that you’ll have adequate rest if you are to awaken with the sun rise.

• Practice meditation, yoga and pranayama each day to keep you connected to your body, mind and spirit in an optimal way.

 

Abhyanga ( oil massage) for Healing your Body, Brain and Spirit

One ayurvedic daily routine, called dinacharya, that I find helps with healing my TBI, is a warm oil massage called abhyanga. A daily abhyanga nurtures your, skin, muscles and tissues, releases toxins from the body, soothes the nervous system, lowers the production of adrenaline and provides excellent nourishment for the brain.

The skin is the largest digestive organ in the body and anything you put on your skin moves through your entire system, including your brain. In ayurveda we believe anything you put on your skin should be something you would feel good about putting in your mouth.

Coconut oil is an excellent choice for your abhyanga, as it is known to have many healing benefits due to the healthy fats the brain needs and the MCT (medium chain triglycerides), which have superior therapeutic effects for those healing from a TBI.

Personally, each season I change oils. I use sesame oil during the cold winter months, as it is heavier and warmer, medium oils, like avocado and almond, can be used in the spring and fall and the lightest and coolest of the oil spectrum is coconut oil, which I use in the warmer summer months.

Doing a daily abhyanga is incredibly healing for the body, mind and spirit. It provides a continuous feed of good fats to the body and brain and helps people feel more grounded, connected, calm and present each day. It is not just for those healing from a TBI, it is equally important to help care givers who are balancing the demand of the changing environment around you.

Try it once, you will love it! Commit to taking 10 minutes or more to apply and massage the oil slowly. You can warm it by placing the glass jar in warm water in the sink. Make sure to take slow deep breathes while applying the oil, using firm long strokes on limbs, slow circular motions on all joints, and spend plenty of extra time on the hands and feet.

Start with the arms and legs and move towards the heart. Let the body absorb the oil for 15 minutes (as it takes 2-3 minutes for the oils to move though all 7 layers of the skin). During this time, perhaps sit in meditation, do breath-work or make a healthy meal and then wipe off any excess with a warm washcloth. If you do this practice regularly, be extra careful to clean up oil in shower so it is not slippery for your next shower. I squirt inexpensive shampoo in the tub and swoosh it around with my foot to clear away any extra oil.

On days when a full body abhyanga is not possible, try massaging just your feet with oil for a few minutes, taking slow deep breathes as you do so, and then put on socks and start your day. We have over 7000 nerve endings in each foot, and massaging the feet alone will sooth your nervous system and still offer healing benefits to the brain.

If you suffer from insomnia, a common TBI symptom, it is advised that you rub sesame or coconut oil into your feet before bed for a few minutes ( and then put socks on so you don’t harm your favorite sheets) as it has a calming effect and can lull you to sleep.




Contact Bethany at Bethany@theyogafoundation.org
or at 617 967 1100 to register or for general questions