My wife, Sarah, coming originally from Boulder Colo. has a bit of an edge on me when it comes to things new-agey. While I feel silly constructing an altar and lighting candles for meditation, in the land from which she comes, all of this is required before one can register to vote.
Of course I am teasing. We are just as touchy-feely here in New Jersey. It’s just our accents that make us seem tough while we are sizing you up for cement shoes, which is why I didn’t flinch when Sarah suggested I give yoga a whirl. She thought it would help me keep flexible.
So I went with her to a class. It didn’t go so well. I wish I could insert a joke here that would tie back to cement shoes, but the truth is, I had to chalk it up to my disability. Mostly, the fact that I walk with a cane doesn’t get in my way. But every now and then obstacles pop up.
Yoga seemed to fit into the obstacle category — that is, until I heard an interview on the radio with yoga instructor Matthew Sanford. I was impressed with his understanding of the connection between mind and body. He talked about yoga and what it offered him in a very clear and pragmatic way.
Sanford is a paraplegic who lost half of his family in the car accident that put him in a wheelchair (more on that later). This was someone I could learn from and he has a lot to teach others as well. He has tips for soldiers, healthcare workers, seniors, people with disabilities, or it seemed from our long conversation, just about anyone.
His knowledge goes far beyond yoga, but for now I would like to start simple, as he did on the phone with me. The following is just to illustrate what yoga feels like. When I told Sanford about my unsuccessful attempts in a yoga class. He went right to work. Off the bat, he wanted to prove that everyone can do it.
“Are you sitting down right now?”
“Okay. Slump your shoulders. Let the center of your chest drop. Feel what you feel right now? Make your sitting bones like butter. Now make your sitting bones more sharp. Lift your chest at the same time and notice how you feel different. Can you feel that sensation?”
“Make my bones like buttah?” I thought to myself. I needed one more example. He obliged.
“Lean back in your chair. Have your legs out a little bit, like what we do for relaxation. Notice what you feel in your legs, right now. Sit up straight and don’t lean against the back of your chair. Press down a little bit on your inner heels. Do you feel the difference in your legs? That is the core of a yoga pose.”
Ahhh…yes…I did feel what he was talking about, kinda’ like kicking off a pair of cement shoes.
I will be staying in touch with Sanford and — over the course of the summer — I will be sharing with you some of the insights of a very spiritual man.