After a car accident left him partially paralyzed, Matthew Sanford discovered that yoga could make his body feel whole again. Now he teaches others how to feel well again after injury.
You’re deepening your experience, right? By inward and outward connecting. Good, and keep stretching up.
AS A YOGA INSTRUCTOR, MATT SANFORD TEACHES HIS STUDENTS THE STANDARD POSES:
Grab your elbows behind your back.
AND EMPHASIZES THE CONNECTION THE BETWEEN THEIR BODIES AND MINDS.
So we’re gonna get that space, that feeling and sensation of space. It feels good.
NOT THAT UNUSUAL FOR A YOGA CLASS UNLESS YOU CONSIDER THAT MATT IS PARALYZED FROM THE CHEST DOWN.
My paralyzed body didn’t stop talking to my mind, it changed its voice. And a lot of what I’ve done with yoga and what I do with mind and body is learn to listen to a different voice.
MATT WAS YEARS 13 OLD WHEN HIS WORLD CHANGED FOREVER. A CAR ACCIDENT DURING A FAMILY TRIP TOOK THE LIVES OF HIS FATHER AND SISTER. AND LEFT MATT WITH A BROKEN BACK AND NECK. HE WAS IN A COMA FOR THREE DAYS.
I woke up slowly, I was very, very touch and go for a period of time. It took me a while to figure out all that was going on, and really even though you say, you’re never going to walk again, that even takes days, weeks, years to figure out what that actually means.
HIS CAREGIVERS URGED HIM TO FOCUS ON STRENGTHENING HIS UPPER BODY AND IGNORE HIS LOWER BODY.
I’m laying there and I tell the doctors that I feel sensation in my whole body and they say, “No, no.” They told me they were like phantom feelings. As if my legs were amputated. An amputee looks under the covers and goes, whoah! You know I don’t have legs. And they told me to forget about that level of sensation.
SEEKING TO FEEL WHOLE AGAIN, MATT TOOK HIS FIRST YOGA CLASS AT AGE 25. FINALLY, HE’D FOUND A WAY TO RECONNECT WITH HIS ENTIRE BODY.
Even when I have my arms over my head, I need to push down thru my sits bones and my feet as I stretch my arms up. Even though I can’t do that physically. It’s my birthright to be in my whole body.
TODAY, AS A YOGA INSTRUCTOR, MATT HELPS OTHERS WHO ARE DISABLED CLAIM THAT SAME BIRTHRIGHT.
SAMANTHA: There was definitely a part of me that thought: How is yoga really gonna help me? But as I began working with Matt, I learned better techniques on how to breathe better and feel all the way down to my back ribs even though it’s not something I may be able to feel, I know I could begin to feel the sensation feel a little bit.
MATT ALSO TEACHES THOSE SAME TECHNIQUES TO STUDENTS WHO ARE NOT DISABLED, HELPING THEM RECONNECT WITH THEIR BODIES.
CHRISTINE PAUL IS A FORMER GYMNAST AND DIVER WHOSE ATHLETIC PAST HAS LEFT HER WITH INJURIES.
CHRISTINE: To tell you the truth, I used to hate my body. Now, it’s almost like I can use my body. And I can use it to feel good. That’s just a 180-degree change.
MATT: If you can’t do mountain climbing anymore or do something like play soccer all day long at 45 years old because you’ll wake up the next day and hardly be able to walk. You’ve got to find a new way to live in your whole body.
NOW MARRIED AND A FATHER OF TWO, MATT SHARES THAT MESSAGE IN AN AWARD-WINNING BOOK HE’S WRITTEN, A MESSAGE, HE SAYS, THAT APPLIES TO US ALL.
Regardless of your age, regardless of your physical and mental condition, when you’re living in your whole body in an integrated way you’re happier. You feel more joy. Life’s easier and better. So you need to start listening to your body.