Would you know from looking at this picture of Matthew Sanford practicing yoga that he is disabled?
Matthew is paralized from T4 downward due to a tragic car accident that occurred when he was just 13 years old. Yet not only does he go on to practice yoga but actually is a yoga teacher.
In his book Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence, Matthew Sanford describes the tragic event that changed the course of his life forever. He speaks of the numerous and painful surgeries that he endured and how his mind-body connection not only helped him through but opened him up to his new physical body.
"The splendor and subtlety of living is most apparent in the conscious prescence of the silence"
He describes his journey through yoga as "backwards". Most westerners move through the asanas or poses to get to silence, Matthew's silence allowed his mind to guide him into the poses which his body could not feel.
" alignment and precision increase mind-body integration regardless of paralysis. The mind is not strictly confined to a neurophysiological connection with the body. If I listen inwardly to my whole experience (both my mind's and my body's), my mind can feel into my legs".
Even though Matthew may not be able to physically do every pose it does not hinder him from teaching to students of all levels.
"I can "feel" the pose, feel how the physical instructions are intended to amplify, guide, and direct the flow of energy. When I teach, I give instructions and then I observe not just whether the physical actions are occuring, but also whether the intended energetic release is happening through the student's mind-body relationship. If the energy of the pose is not flowing correctly, I can often adjust the student and enhance his or her experience."
"...follow the energetic flow of a pose which allows me to see and feel the corresponding physical movements. This helps me to feel the heart of yoga despite my limited access to its physical movements. I can feel the pose's inner workings, its focus."
These two quotes above to me are the mark of an amazing teacher. I find that I utilize the mind-body connection of assuming my student's action in my own body to visualize and sense what is going on in their body and then make changes accordingly. It really matters very little when teaching what or how a pose or exercise looks or occurs in my own body.
I truly found his book and story inspirational. It is a story not only about movement, but about your outlook on life, the stories we tell ourselves to get through trauma, the amazing power of our minds and thoughts, and moving through life without limits.
To quote Matthew W. Sanford:
"Is yoga going to make all of my hardship go away? Of course not- my life is going to be hard. But without these difficulties, I would not be who I am."