Army veteran, motivational speaker, yoga teacher, and double-amputee Dan Nevins shares his go-to, must-practice poses for staying grounded, focused, and connected to his body.
When you call Dan Nevins on the phone and ask him, “How are you?” He answers, “I’m living the dream!” Nevins is a yoga teacher and motivational speaker, who also became a double-amputee 11 years ago after an IED exploded under his Army vehicle while he was serving in Iraq.
In June 2015 at Yoga Journal LIVE! San Diego photographer Robert Sturman took a powerful photo of Nevins in Warrior II (above) with his prosthetic legs, which has become iconic. While he says the photo is cool, he also points out that it’s not accurate. “I don’t do yoga with my legs on,” he says. After the explosion, which also caused a traumatic brain injury, Nevins did amazing things like climb Mount Kilimanjaro. But after his 36th surgery, he slipped into a deep funk. While in recovery, he was bedridden and not allowed to do anything physical. “I couldn’t lead my team at work. I couldn’t ride my bike. I couldn’t play golf. Every other weekend, I couldn’t even take care of my then 3-year-old daughter.” That was when he understood how deeply stuck and depressed his fellow veterans can become. He knew he needed help but was afraid to ask. A close friend insisted he try meditation and then talked him into three private yoga classes.
“I tried yoga with my legs on, and it was painful. It was pathetic,” Nevins says. “She’d tell me to get strong on my foundation, but with prosthetics, it doesn’t work the same.” During the second private session, he asked if he could do yoga with his legs off. “No one ever got to see me with my legs off. They were my favorite part of my body, and they were gone. But if I was going to feel my foundation in yoga, I had to take them off.” He went to the mat, showing his teacher his true self, and did a Warrior I. “I’m on my base, which is my knees. I’m rooting down and rising up. I’m stable and not flopping around all over the place. I physically, mentally and energetically connected my foundation to the earth with what was left of my legs. This massive surge of energy shot through my body into the ground. Something lit me up. Light was exploding from my fingertips.” He says that was a transformative experience on his mat and in his life.
Yoga was a saving grace for Nevins during his recovery and beyond. So he decided to study up to Level 3 with Baron Baptiste and now teaches all over the world. He just taught for the Africa Yoga Project, is heading to Qatar in June to teach at the Al Udied Air Force Base, and is leading an upcoming retreat in Mexico. His schedule is packed—on the road 200 days a year. So home practice is crucial to him. “Home practice eliminates all of our excuses that we don’t have the time, space or money to practice yoga,” he says. “You just need your body.” He recommends dedicating a space to your practice and committing to a few minutes a day. “What’s great about home practice is that you have an opportunity to be in actual personal discovery of yourself. If you need extra time or support to get into a pose, you can do it. Poses can take a few minutes to figure out. What you are giving yourself is options. Show up for yourself on your mat. Have the mindset of being in discovery.”
Here, Nevins shares his go-to poses for staying grounded, focused, and connected to his body.