At the age of 13, Matthew Sanford survived an automobile accident that claimed the lives of his father and sister. Paralyzed from the waist down, he spent years living with his disability until he discovered that by cultivating a mind-body approach, he could change his body, his spirit and his life. Dr. Oz talks with Matthew about his book Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence and his belief that connecting with the body can be transformative.
Well-intentioned doctors told Matthew any sensation he felt in his legs was phantom feeling, but he believes they were only seeing his injury on two planes—physical and psychological/emotional. The real injury he lives with, Matthew says, is a mind-body injury; knowing every day that he can't be on his feet. Hearing healing stories at the outset of his rehabilitation could have made a difference. "I was shown all the things that could go wrong with my body, but not enough was said about what could go right, what was still there, what was still alive in me," he says. He now leads a group that trains medical and rehabilitation staff to offer more support and positive feedback to patients requiring acute care.
Practicing and teaching yoga has led Matthew to a new understanding of his existence. "Yoga helped me reclaim my whole life," he says. "I had a very athletic childhood—I had to overcome my disability, my paralyzed body. I lost the joy of being in my body." The principles of yoga don't discriminate against age, body type or disability, making it possible for anyone to live more vibrantly and fully in their bodies, Matthew says. "My fundamental guiding belief is that mind-body awareness and integration is transformative, but it's ordinary. It doesn't need to be miraculous," he explains. "When you start listening to your body at a different level, things start changing."