Jun 09

Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence

Posted by Soliloquy in Adults with disabilities | Physically Disabled

Matthew Sanford’s life and body were irrevocably changed at age 13 when his family’s car skidded off a snowy Iowa overpass, killing Matt’s father and sister and leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. This pivotal event set Matt on a lifelong journey, from his intensive care experiences at the Mayo Clinic to becoming a paralyzed yoga teacher and founder of a nonprofit organization. Forced to explore what it truly means to live in a body, he emerges with an … More >>

Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence

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5 Responses

  • I discovered this book while searching the web for information on yoga for people living with disabilities. Through a series of clicks I landed on Matthew Sanford’s web site where I saw a photo of a young man leaning forward from his wheel chair, reaching over to adjust a student practicing a yoga standing pose.

    I learned that the author is a leader in adapting Iyengar yoga to meet the needs of the individual. Matthew’s mental awareness–as a result of a spinal cord injury–was literally knocked out of the lower two-thirds of his body. While doctors were able to keep him alive, he was not given the tools to reconnect his mind to his paralyzed body.

    Matthew describes how for years after the devastating accident, from the chest down, he experiences a “schism” or “a form of silence” between his mind and his body. During his first months in the hospital and later periods in intensive care units there was so much pain that leaving his body became a survival skill. These experiences alone catapulted Matthew into unknown territory when it comes to understanding the mind and body.

    In 1991, he began studying Iyengar yoga with Jo Zukovich, co-founder of the San Diego Yoga Studio. When they started, it was not clear how yoga would travel through his paralyzed body, and there were no examples to emulate. WAKING describes how teacher and student learned and adapted together.

    In 1998, Matthew began to share the results of their work in an adaptive class for people with disabilities. About the same time, he began teaching people without disabilities. He found that the principles of yoga apply the same way in both cases. WAKING helps the reader to understand why the author’s unique perspective is equally applicable for people who do not have his limitations.

    Matthew’s broader aim in writing this book and in teaching yoga is to infuse the importance of mind-body integration into the rehabilitation process. To this end, he offers workshops to healthcare professionals and yoga teachers alike. He uses his story to share how yoga is indeed a “waking” of the human consciousness. This is a book that can potentially revolutionize the thinking of physical therapists and anyone that works with people who are coping with past trauma and injuries. I recommend it with all my heart and soul!

    –Suza Francina, author, The New Yoga for People Over 50 and The New Yoga for Healthy Aging.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  • This is a book you will want to share with colleagues, patients, family and friends if you are in an integrative medicine healing practice. Those that “get” what you are doing will love it for its clear description of our vision. Those that don’t “get” what you are doing, may very well after reading this extremely well written, passionate story. Matthew understands that yoga goes far beyond his personal experience or any story for that matter. He uses his story to share how yoga is indeed a “waking” of the human consciousness and a responsiblity for us all. His use of humor, irony and candor make for an engaging, personal experience while pushing the reader to look beyond their personal limits.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  • I became acquainted with Matthew Sanford through a National Public Radio interview. I was taken with his voice and his experiences. I immediately bought and read Waking.

    Having had polio as a child, I went through much rehabilitation and many surgeries. Mr. Sanford’s discovery of his power to determine his medical treatment was inspiring to me. This book should be required reading for every orthopedic physician, surgeon, and therapist.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  • Being a paraplegic myself and also rehabbing at Mayo Clinic, I certainly could relate to Matts experiences with the medical community. Way to often we are confined to a limited set of therapeutic practices by doctors who refuse to consider anything outside the “normal” western approach to medicine, and who are we as mere patients to argue with them? They are the supposed experts. Matts struggles with his rehabilation efforts echo so clearly in my mind, and his eventual triumph years later using yoga techniques rather than gutting it out with the more conventional approach is a wakeup call to the medical community that there are other methods to rehabilition that should and must be considered. A well written story and an even better message.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  • I picked up this book last night off my side table to read a few pages and get a feel for where it was going. Three hours later I hadn’t moved and I didn’t stop reading until I finished the book. I kept forgetting to breathe. This book should be required reading for every pre-med student. I was horrified by the stories, not of incompetence, but of disregard by medical professionals of the spiritual and emotional needs of a young boy suffering so much trauma, day after day. The writer’s forgiveness for all that he experienced and endured is truly remarkable. Readers should note that this book not only tells a passionate and beautiful story, but the writing is simply superb. Although I read the book through in one sitting, the metaphors and deeper meanings keep bubbling up to me, like all those phantoms and ghosts that circulate through the writer’s words. This book is not going to be what you expect: Boy has accident, Boy can’t walk again, yet, against all odds, Boy climbs Mt. Everest. The boy in this book takes us on a transformative journey that is far more life affirming. It’s ultimately a true story about all of us and our inner capacity for survival.
    Rating: 5 / 5

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