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, if not 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.
Why he’s fearless
The journey of discovering the healing power of yoga with the mind-body relationship didn’t happen overnight for Matthew. When he was finally able to, he moved out to California in the 1980s, and that is where he met Jo, a yoga teacher that would transform his life. Matthew at first didn’t even think yoga would be possible for him, but Jo proved him wrong, showing him how to open himself up to the teachings, and yes modify poses along the way.
Soon Matthew was doing his own yoga practice at home, but he wanted to share all of the yoga amazingness he was experiencing with other people with disabilities. So after moving back home to Minnesota, he began to teach adapted yoga in a now famous Monday night class (that’s incredibly hard to get into btw) at the Courage Center, a huge rehab facility for people with disabilities in Minneapolis, MN.
And even though it’s 20 years later, Matthew is still teaching that very same class, showing people of all disabilities, from vent-dependent quadriplegics and stroke survivors to newly-injured veterans and amputees, the amazing things that can happen when you home in on the mind-body relationship through yoga. Watch his class at the Courage Center
Matthew’s studio, Mind Body Solutions, has also partnered with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, creating some very cool how-to videos on adaptive yoga so they can be shared online. Adaptive yoga is hard to find in most cities, even in NYC and L.A. Matthew and his studio even created a 1 hour in-chair yoga video, Beyond Disability, thanks to help from the Reeve foundation. Watch a clip
And in 2008, Matthew was the winner of the Volvo for Life award, where he won $100,000 to improve his nonprofit, and improve it he did. The studio has exploded in recent years with yoga teachers and healthcare professionals from all over the world flying to learn from Matt and learn the principals of adaptive yoga. Matthew wrote a book, Waking, where he documents his journey with discovering yoga.
Other than staying busy teaching yoga to both disabled and traditional students at his studio in Minnetonka, MN, Matthew flies all around the world speaking on the topic of the mind-body relationship and how it’s often overlooked by the medical field. He is slowly changing minds one speech at a time. Check out his site to learn more about his speaking
What I love most about Matthew, as someone who’s taken classes from him personally, is how he pushes you and understands exactly what you’re going through. He believes in the healing power of yoga, perfecting the internal pose/not the external, and boy is he right. And when it comes to people spinal cord injuries, we can understand this notion completely.
Have you tried adaptive yoga? What are your favorite poses?
Watch the videos!