Paralyzed Yoga

FRESNO, Calif.

"It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1978, and we just hit ice going over a bridge, and our car tumbled down the embankment. My father and sister were killed," Matthew Sanford recalled to Ivanhoe.

Doctors told Sanford he'd never feel his lower body again.

"They know my spinal cord has been severed," Sanford said.

So he devotes his life to proving them wrong.

"That level of sensation is present in the mind-body relationship. It's not going to make me walk again, but it's crucial to a full recovery," Sanford said.

From his wheelchair, Sanford has become a certified yoga instructor -- teaching others just like him and showing them how to feel their bodies once more.

Samantha Drost was paralyzed by a wave while swimming. Traditional therapy taught her to forget her legs and focus on what she had left. Yoga helped reconnect her brain to her body.

"I was more aware of where my feet were and my legs were, and the people that were helping me noticed they didn't have to lift as much," Drost told Ivanhoe.

To put some science behind his work, Sanford took part in a Rutgers University study. Doctors took MRI scans of his brain. As they squeezed his ankles, his sensory cortex lit up in the same way it would in a non-paralyzed person -- meaning the brain recognized the pressure.

"My paralyzed body still has an energy that flows through it. There's still a life force there," Kevin Bjorklund, who practices yoga, told Ivanhoe.

Bjorklund fell off a tractor at age 3, and he's been paralyzed from the chest down ever since. He says yoga helps his breathing and eases fears of falling.

"There are universal principles in yoga that don't discriminate," Sanford said.

Sanford started a non-profit company called Mind Body Solutions. He travels the country training other yoga instructors and speaking to health care leaders about incorporating yoga into traditional therapy.

Mind Body Solutions
(952) 473-3700

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