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Jennifer Atkins, the yoga instructor for Stephens and Schmid’s research, has long known the positive effects of adaptive yoga, observed in the older adult participants at her yoga practice.

“I’ve seen how adaptive yoga can bridge the gap between the brain and a disability, and now we get to prove that”

“I’m honored to continue my collaboration with CSU and OT’s Jaclyn Stephens and Arlene Schmid in providing evidence for measurable physiological and neurological changes in those living with movement disorders.”

Adaptive Yoga for Adults with Acquired Brain Injury

Research Objective: Individuals with chronic acquired brain injury (ABI) often have residual functional impairments and limited access to services that could address these impairments. Fortunately, adaptive yoga has shown potential for improving functional impairments, like balance and quality of life, and is becoming more available in community settings.  We conducted a feasibility study to: 1) determine if we could recruit and retain local adults with ABI for an adaptive yoga intervention and 2) evaluate if we could acquire high-quality neuroimaging data from a subset of adults.  


Design: Single arm intervention feasibility study.


Setting: University research laboratories and a classroom. 


Participants: Twelve adults with chronic (≥ 6 months post-injury) ABI. 


Intervention: An eight-week adaptive yoga intervention conducted in-person with supplemental online material


Main Outcome Measures: 

  • Resting state neuroimaging: functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) evaluating functional connectivity of neural networks at rest.  

  • Task-based neuroimaging: functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) evaluating neural activation during six balance tasks adapted from the Berg Balance Scale. 


Results: Nine of twelve participants completed all or nearly-all yoga sessions, two had scheduling and transportation issues, preventing regular attendance, and one withdrew due to unrelated illness; 12 completed self-report assessments. We successfully acquired high-quality rs-fMRI data from six participants before yoga (maximum with budget) and five participants after yoga, and fNIRS from ten participants before yoga and seven after yoga. Preliminary results indicate improvements after yoga.

Conclusions: Our results suggest an adaptive yoga imaging study is feasible; next steps are warranted. Thus, we are designing a pilot randomized control trial that includes fMRI and fNIRS. Notably, this future study will have key modifications to support participants’ scheduling and transportation needs.

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