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Stroke survivor Nicola sets up virtual yoga classes for Headway Hertfordshire Main Image

Stroke survivor Nicola sets up virtual yoga classes for Headway Hertfordshire

Thu 16 Apr 2020

Community hero and six-time stroke survivor Nicola Evans has set up virtual yoga classes to encourage those affected by brain injury to stay active during isolation.

In partnership with local charity Headway Hertfordshire, Nicola has sent out videos of her practicing some of her favourite moves to help other survivors learn about the health and wellbeing benefits of yoga following brain injury. 

Nicola, now a qualified teacher in the field, said: “Yoga was such an important part of my recovery and I want to share that with the rest of the brain injury community.”

Nicola’s journey began at just age 13 when she was diagnosed with a cavernoma, a cluster of abnormal blood vessels on the brain.

The condition put her at high-risk of a haemorrhage or stroke.

She said: "I can't really remember much about my original diagnosis because I was quite young at the time. I remember being told that the location of the cavernoma made surgery too high-risk and that was a really terrifying thought."

Nicola spent three healthy years unaffected before suffering her first brain haemorrhage at 17.

Since that fateful day, Nicola has had a further five bleeds on the brain, each one worse than the last.

But she found that throughout all this, yoga was a real help mentally and physically, and it soon became a passion of hers.

Sadly, due to the coronavirus outbreak, she has been unable to attend her regular classes. But instead, she has launched her own virtual sessions in partnership with Headway Hertfordshire, the local brain injury charity.

Her involvement with the charity first started in 2014 when she moved into the local area.

By this time, Nicola had suffered six haemorrhages and felt low in mood, was socially isolated and lacked confidence in herself.

She said: “By the time joined Headway Hertfordshire I was in a grey place. I wasn’t working. I didn’t leave the flat during the day. I felt lost. I never ever went out alone as I was too scared.”

Thankfully, with the support of those at Headway Hertfordshire, Nicola has come on leaps and bounds and she is now helping to support other service users there through her yoga classes.

She said: “My favourite thing about yoga is the peace and calm it has helped me to find amongst all the chaos.

“It helped me to be in charge of my body again, to really connect with it and understand how I could become stronger and heal from the strokes.

“After being discharged from hospital with a brain injury, you can quite often feel scared and unsure of the rest of your recovery. Yoga can help give you some control back.”

John Archer, Chief Executive of Headway Hertfordshire, said: “We’re immensely grateful to Nikki for all the hard work she has put into this project and for giving up her own time to support our members.

“The impact of covid-19 on vulnerable members of our community, such as those affected by brain injury, cannot be understated. Now more than ever it’s important that we do whatever we can to help care for their wellbeing, and yoga is a great avenue to explore in terms of both the physical and mental benefits.”

Nicola hopes that through her videos and online classes, she can help other brain injury survivors at Headway Hertfordshire to fall in love with yoga and reap the benefits.

“I would love for people to learn about the benefits of yoga after brain injury,” she said.

“I love teaching people to love their body and helping them to find that body and brain connection again.”

Nicola’s classes are available to watch and join in with via her website - findingyournewnormal.co.uk

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Headway - the brain injury association is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (Charity no. 1025852) and the Office of the Scottish Regulator (Charity no. SC 039992). Headway is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 2346893.

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