My teacher says that it is almost always some type of pain that brings us to yoga. Whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional, it is pain that leads us to the path of self-discovery. Pain is the sign of disconnection and division between our bodies, our minds, and our hearts. Matthew Sanford’s case was no different in that respect. After a tragic car accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down at thirteen, Matthew spent years trying to heal the physical, mental, and emotional pain that stemmed from the accident. Waking is the story of how he coped with this life altering event and ultimately found peace in the practice of yoga.
Waking explores Matthew Sanford’s journey into and through paralysis in a candid and sometimes graphic way. Matthew includes the reader on the journey from his initial accident and recovery through the ongoing experiences he encounters as he adapts to his life after the accident. The story is at times heartbreaking and at others unnerving. It is an homage to his family and a memorial to the concepts of paralysis that he was encouraged to take on in the process of “recovery.” As is often the case in devastating injury, the tragedy began with the accident and continued for a long time afterward. But through his poignant and sometimes brutal honesty, Matthew shares the raw experiences that led him to his renewed life and the practice of yoga.
This story of paralysis is not one of overcoming in the way that many others today are described. Matthew Sanford has not won any wheelchair races or any gold medals in the Olympics. Rather his accomplishments have been on a much more subtle level, working to heal the rift between his mind and his paralyzed body. His insights are profound, and in many ways, contradict the traditional approach to therapy and paralysis. Matthew’s patience and persistence is inspiring, and though his story pulls at the heart until the very end, it is uplifting. Through the practice of yoga, Matthew Sanford has found the light within an immense darkening of this body and mind, and is sharing it with the world.