Tag Archives: Adaptive yoga

SCI Superstar: Mary-Jo Fetterly


“If you can breath, you can do yoga.” This is one of the awesome quotes Mary-Jo Fetterly likes to share when she’s teaching yoga. A yoga teacher for over 20 years and an adaptive yoga teach for nearly 10, Mary-Jo, of Vancouver, Canada, came upon the world of spinal cord injuries from a skiing accident 10 years ago.

Since her accident, she’s decided to look at her injury as a project in healing, something her background in natural therapeutics could potentially heal. Initially a C4-6 ASI A complete spinal cord injury, Mary-Jo’s techniques have helped her regain use of her arms and even her hands, when doctors were sure it was impossible. Read on for her incredible story.

Why she’s fearless

Mary-Jo was raised by one of the first yoga teachers in North America. Naturally, she started doing yoga at a young age. When she grew up, she had two daughters and went on to become a lauded vegetarian chef and yoga teacher. But in 2004 when she was 46 years old, Mary-Jo was in a skiing accident, and completely severed her spinal cord.

At first, like we all do, she thought her life was over. With two teenage daughters, Mary-Jo wasn’t sure what was ahead, but she quickly learned yoga techniques could help her through this tough period, realizing right away she didn’t have to stop doing one of the things she loved the most. “Movement is life,” she says.

Even after the moment she was injured, Mary-Jo used pranayama to strengthen her breathing while waiting for medical personnel to arrive. Once she came home, in addition to PT she made sure she was very consistent with her stretching, listening to her body too.

She also used a combination of physiotherapy, acupuncture, Ayurveda medicine, hydro therapy and forgoing traditional medicine as part of her at-home therapy program, in addition to traditional outpatient PT and participating in activity-based restorative therapy, like going on the walking treadmill Locomat whenever possible.

Mary-Jo was so impressed with her body, she wanted to share it with the world. In comes Trinity Yoga, her yoga studio that teaches both able-bodied and disabled students. Her yoga studio has certified hundreds of teachers across Canada. Mary-Jo also works part time as a therapist and a dynamic facilitator.

What’s next?

It’s been almost 10 years since her injury, and Mary-Jo has already blazed an amazing path in the adaptive yoga world. She now has a video channel where she shares her at-home adapted yoga techniques, showing the world adapted yoga can be done anywhere, as long as you have a willing set of hands to help (a caregiver, your SO, family member or friend).

Mary-Jo has become an expert training PCAs how to help with her at-home yoga program, which is one of the best things she shares in her videos. Knowing how important daily stretching is, her “at-home” yoga tips for wheelchair-users can’t be beat. Watch one of her videos

If you’re interested in learning yoga from Mary-Jo, she teaches adaptive yoga at the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre and at ICORD; SCI rehab facilities in Vancouver (private sessions are available too). When she’s not doing yoga, Mary-Jo is either hanging with her daughters, her beloved dogs or horseback riding or swimming. Showing the world her injury hasn’t stopped her one bit is something she lives for, and she does it fabulously.

How has adaptive yoga helped you? Share your story below!

– Her site: Mary-Jo

– Follow her on Facebook: Mary-Jo

– Her adaptive yoga studio: Trinity Yoga

Photo courtesy of Connectra

Watch the videos!

How yoga helped me rehabilitate after a spinal cord injury

Mary-Jo Fetterly : A Day in the Life

Adaptive Yoga Basics-Introduction to the At-Home-Yoga Sessions with Mary-Jo

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, 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.

What’s next?

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!

Matthew Sanford in the Volvo for Life Awards Documentary

Interview with Matthew Sanford from Conscious.tv

Matthew Sanford speaking on the importance of yoga for the Reeve Foundation

Clip from Matthew’s yoga DVD Beyond Disability