BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Award-winning author and yoga instructor
Matthew Sanford will visit the University at Buffalo April 26 to
discuss his groundbreaking teaching methods, which approach the
discipline from a perspective that creates new levels of awareness
and lead his students down previously unexplored avenues of
understanding concerning the mind-body relationship.
For nearly two decades, Sanford, a T4 paraplegic, has taught
yoga, not just as a health strategy, but with techniques that he
says can move consciousness in ways that have the capacity to
change people's lives.
Sanford's 10 a.m. presentation, A Mind Body Approach to Healing
and Recovery" will take place in Diefendorf Hall on the South
Campus. A reception will immediately follow the free talk, which is
open to the public.
Afterward, he will meet with UB students and the Student Affairs
Book Club in the Student Union for a 1 p.m. discussion of his book,
"Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence." (This event is by
invitation only.) Sanford's visit will conclude with "Opening Yoga
to Everyone," a weekend training session on the UB North Campus for
registered yoga teachers and professionally licensed health care
Information about Sanford and photos of him are available at http://www.matthewsanford.com.
His use of yoga as a means of such exploration is the result of
Sanford's personal life-changing moment. At 13 years old, he was
paralyzed from the chest down in an auto accident that killed his
father and sister. Doctors told him that his spinal cord injury had
broken his mind's connection to most of his body. But Sanford would
discover that yoga established a different kind of connection, one
that not only elevates consciousness, but is within everyone's
Following his injury, Sanford said he spent 12 years listening
to doctors who were telling him what could go wrong with his body,
before he started to understand what was still there and could
still go right.
His goal is to get people more involved in the healing process
for both physical and emotional injuries while understanding that
recovery is as much an art as it is a science. It's a difficult
mindset to achieve, but he says understanding that the unthinkable
is possible is inherently part of what he knows.
Susan Mann Dolce, assistant director of accessibility resources
at UB and an occupational therapist who was introduced to Sanford's
work after reading a magazine article, was intrigued, but
originally skeptical of Sanford's claims.
"I bought his book, Waking, the day after defending my
dissertation," she said. "I may have been tired, but I finished the
book in one night.
She talked to occupational therapists and yoga teachers who
didn't think Sanford could accomplish what he was claiming.
"I went to the Midwest Yoga Conference in Chicago and took one
of his classes," she said. "It was amazing -- 120 people were there
taking instruction from Matt as he effortlessly moved into and out
of his wheelchair."
Mann Dolce says reading Sanford's book and participating in that
class were the beginning of Sanford's continuing relationship with
UB, going back to 2008 when the university started its Universal
Design Yoga program. Many of Sanford's techniques have been melded
into the program, but over the last four years, feedback has been
offered in both directions, with Sanford contributing to what UB
offers, while the university has informed Sanford's programs about
the concepts of universal design.
"Yoga is the beginning of the process," said Mann Dolce. "But we
are also interested in creating models for teaching the community
how to develop programs in universal design -- programs that are
inherently accessible to anyone who wants to participate."
Mann Dolce says the Universal Design Yoga program at UB builds
on accessibility by creating a physical environment and an
attitudinal environment that is welcoming, safe and comfortable.
She points out that universal design concepts have also been added
into Sanford's yoga videos, which are now captioned. His yoga
classes, meantime, originally developed for people with paralysis
are now open to advanced traditional students as well as beginners
with physical limitations.
"We all live on a continuum of abilities and disabilities,"
Sanford says. "The principles of yoga apply to all people, to all
Mark Shaw, a UB senior in the interdisciplinary social sciences
program, who is the Western District board member of the Brain
Injury Association of New York State and was also seriously injured
in an auto accident, said Sanford is an inspiration and his
programs are a great benefit.
"This is how I relax," said Shaw. "For me, the yoga classes take
away the things that are bothering me."
Mann Dolce said that point is critical, since stress, along with
anxiety and depression, are the three biggest impediments to
Sanford's UB visit will also provide the final segment of
footage for a soon to be released Universal Design Yoga training
video being produced by the UB Office of Accessibility