My time spent in Minneapolis was lovely! I set out exploring my first day there and found so many remarkable places. One of my new found biker buddies made me promise that I’d stop at Bob’s Java hut, and I did, for a minute, but seeing how I don’t drink coffee I continued to the Buffalo Exchange. I stopped by the lively Herkimer Brewery and had dinner at the fabulous Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge. I sat at the tiki bar where my drink was served in the coolest glass adorned with tacky little toothpicks (Made me miss the Great American Grill!). Before this, with boundless energy needing physical exertion I went to Lake Calhoun. After a 3.2 mile race with my self, my biceps, triceps and forearms felt as thought they’d been set on fire. This would’ve been an awesome place to have had a handcycle. All this fun though, wasn’t the reason I came to Minneapolis.

I aim to embody wellness; I strive to live mindfully and encourage awareness of my mind, body and spirit every day. While meditation is something of my nature, I’ve always struggled integrating yoga into my life. This is mainly due to lack of knowledge. While yoga doesn’t appear completely inconducive to someone living with a Spinal Cord Injury, there has always been tons of mystery where I was concerned. I was delighted to stumble across Matthew Sanford, discover that adaptive yoga actually existed and became determined to explore it for myself someday. The mission at his yoga practice of Mind Body Solutions is, “to transform trauma, loss and disability into hope and potential by awakening the connection between mind and body”. For anyone, especially someone with a SCI, realization of the reciprocal nature of the mind and body; awareness of the ongoing exchange between the two is essential to healing and living well.

At the last minute, I was invited to observe one of Matthew’s morning yoga classes. This was a class of entirely able bodied people, but he wonderfully tied me in at any chance he could. While feeling in my legs is absent, I am fairly in tune to the sensations. However subtle, or not, this is something that Matthew stressed to become aware of. For the first half of the class he braced a block in between my knees, with at which the removal of I’d distinguish a tangible sensation. From this, I began to understand. I “observed” actively. He’d call me out when I’d lean my head forward in compensation for my imbalance. Matthew himself has a Spinal Cord Injury he’d also received from a car crash when he was 13 years old. I was struck and thoroughly amazed at his intense understanding of yoga and its interactions within the entire human body. Rhetorically, he’d ask me how he could possibly achieve such awareness, hinting that I’d have to discover it for myself.  My eyes must have been obviously pleading for his secrets. I was in my wheelchair the entire time and near the end of the class him and another awesome woman insisted that I try an adaptive Shavasana, the closing relaxation pose. My energy elevated, breathing calm, spine lengthened and aligned with my mind, with my weight fully supported, I sat. I sat like a deity. He kindly touched my hand and jokingly called the pose the Queen of Sheba, but in all seriousness I felt pretty grand. I was made a spectacle of as he called everyone out of their Shavasana, but me and I did not care. I was beaming and left feeling unbelievably rejuvenated. I could not have been more thankful to him for this opportunity. My interest was wildly sparked and I’d return for another, but very different yoga class later that evening.

This was an adaptive yoga class. The instructor gently urged me to hop out of my chair so I could more fully embody the experience and I am sooo grateful that I did! Lying down I became aware of the points of reference grounding my body to the earth; my skull, my shoulder blades, my hips and sits bones, my heels and the hardware in my back. Feeling my weight resting against my bones, I’d marvel at how the space within my body is filled with life. Some of this yoga I did with the assistance of another woman  allowing me to focus more deeply. I willingly surrendered any awkwardness, but this required a certain trust. There was initial nervousness with any resistance or tension of my lower limbs until I had the realization that yoga should be unifying rather than struggling with imperfect physical manifestation; both control and acceptance at lack of control harmoniously. While lying on my back she’d apply alternating pressure to my feet, but I’ve become unfamiliar at discerning this sensation with my paralysis. Within a few minutes, I’d acquire a very real, very tangible awareness of when this pressure was being applied and then its absence. It was a sensation that coursed through the soles of my feet, through my legs, thighs and into my pelvis. As being in a glider was the closest I’d ever felt to being a bird and flying, this was the closest I’ve felt to walking since I’ve been paralyzed. Yoga on this day was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced; such transcendence. Although living and dying simultaneously; this was a strong reminder that I am indeed alive, radiant and filled with light.

I‘ve turned over a new stone here and while for the time being I’ve tossed it back into the rushing stream, I eagerly anticipate to dive deeper and be reacquainted with yoga here in the future.

We seemed to inspire each other! (