Janet Brazil’s life has been impacted since the day an impaired driver struck the passenger side of the vehicle she was travelling in with her friends after a weekend getaway. That was 40 years ago.
Brazil was 18 years old. She was severely injured and sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). After laying in a coma for two weeks, Brazil awoke and was told she would need to rehabilitate for years and even then, the TBI would affect her the rest of her life.
“Brain Trauma is like a train being derailed," said Brazil, who faced years of chronic pain and weakness, anxiety and depression. She eventually relocated from the Maritimes to Alberta where one day, she saw a poster for free yoga class at the library.
“It just seemed to be a bunch of people standing and not moving. It didn’t look like there was any strength building," Brazil said.
Brazil did join the class, which focused on breath work, stretching and yoga poses, and found that afterwards, her breathing was bright and clear. She was surprised there was a lot of subtle strength building involved too.
“I knew something had changed and it was for the better. I clung to yoga for dear life and never looked back," Brazil writes in her book, Heal Your Brain Faster, Empower Your Mind Through Yoga--a look at living with a TBI and how yoga has influenced her journey. (At janetbrazil.ca and amazon.ca)
Brazil’s yoga practice has seen a few mentors over the years, including Dr. Sharma, an 80-year-old practitioner from India. Brazil says Sharma was mentally sharp and practiced yoga every day, even walking in frigid weather to teach yoga class. After soaking up Sharma's wisdom, Brazil eventually became a yoga teacher too, completing online and in-person training while battling memory issues.
Brazil also found Networks Activity Centre in Edmonton, an organization that supports brain injured adults through community and opportunities to live (create) a meaningful and productive life. Brazil taught yoga at the centre, and her classes were a big hit. When the pandemic started, Brazil moved her classes online.
“The students were also brain injured, so I could feel what they were going through. And at the end of every single class, this one student would always say he felt ‘100% better”, said Brazil. “And that was the best thing to hear.”
Always keeping her sights on ways to keep motivated, Brazil saw an opportunity to join a free bootcamp on how to write a book; a place to get direction and follow-up and work on her writing.
“I had always thought about writing a book, but it seemed just too much for me to take on," she said. "My daughter has helped me immensely. She said ‘oh, mom. I think if you let me come on board we can do this together.’ And she was the emcee at my book launch!”
The book, launched in October 2021, tells of Brazil’s journey, how yoga has influenced her life and how it can be beneficial for anyone who would like to give it a try--even skeptics--as Brazil once was.
“I needed healing…and this was my healing.”
Yoga geared to seniors is offered at kerbycentre.com (Calgary) and in Edmonton through edmonton.ca/programs_services/for_seniors/recreation.