SCI Superstar: Matthew Sanford

When Matthew Sanford was 13 years old, his entire life changed. He and his family were traveling along an icy road at Christmas when the car skidded, killing his sister and father. He, his mother and brother survived, but Matthew was left with a spinal cord injury.

Matthew however hasn’t let a diagnosis of paraplegia confine him, especially when it comes to his body. He is one of the most well-known, is now the most well-known, yoga teacher with a disability. From founding a successful yoga non-profit to being one of the most dynamic speakers you’ll ever meet, read on to learn about the Zen-filled yogi, Matthew Sanford. Read this entry

Learn to love your entire body with yoga

How can you not love something that’s a part of you? When you’re disabled, the overriding idea is to eschew parts of your body that don’t work and focus on the parts that do, but that can be detrimental to your emotional and mental health. And this is exactly why I’ve grown to love yoga.
Yoga is much more than just Downwards Dog and one upping everyone in the room, it’s about restoring the mind-body connection. Yoga embraces the idea that our bodies and our minds are intertwined physically and metaphysically, and nothing not even a disability can erase this.
A disability however does make it harder to tap into the mind body connection, and is exactly why adapted yoga is so needed. Read this entry

Two video-fied extremes of ‘adaptive’ yoga

“Wheelchair yoga?” Nah, I’ll take the term “adaptive yoga” any day.

Getting out of your wheelchair and onto the mat is one of the best things about an adaptive yoga class. An “out of the wheelchair” yoga class is more like it.

The following two videos – one of a crazily agile paraplegic, the other a high level quadriplegic who needs assistance when practicing – show how no matter your level of spinal cord injury, you can still get out of the chair and do yoga.

The first video comes from our member Wheelz04.  He is a T6-8 paraplegic and is totally into yoga. Since he has full upper-body movement (times a million), he’s able to transfer himself onto the mat and put himself into dozens of poses (he’s so strong he can even walk on his hands!). In fact, there’s a chance he might be the strongest person in a wheelchair I’ve seen.

Adaptive yoga teacher training recap

Twice a year I have the opportunity to help out with adaptive yoga teacher training weekends at my yoga studio Mind Body Solutions, a great non-profit. My yoga studio is one of the few yoga studios in the country that teaches adaptive yoga and they were the first to teach it in fact. My studio was founded by this amazing guy: Matt Sanford

As you can see, Matt uses a wheelchair. He was paralyzed in a car accident when he was 13 years old and discovered yoga in his 20’s while living in California. He decided to found a studio in the early 90’s to teach to others what he figured out himself, and Mind Body Solutions has been slowly growing since.

I had the opportunity to get into his class through a local rehabilitation facility and have been enjoying adaptive yoga for the last three years. And understatement of the year – it’s made a huge difference in my life, especially in my day-to-day quality of life and being able to feel comfortable while having to sit several hours in my wheelchair (usually 15+ hours. say hellooo to major back pain).

People from all over the globe have been wanting to try the yoga being taught at this studio. I’ve received emails from folks with disabilities asking, Where can I go to learn this??  Sadly, not many places. Adaptive yoga should be available everywhere, not just here in Minnesota (and the good news is that it’s slowly spreading, with great studios popping up in Denver, Philly and others).

This is why Mind Body Solutions started hosting adaptive yoga teacher training weekends to teach the basics of how to teach yoga to someone with a disability, to able-bodied yoga teachers from all around the world.