No one has explored the asana as thoroughly or as profoundly as Sri BKS Iyengar, at least not in recorded history. That is reason enough to pause. Even more than that, he developed a rigorous and disciplined method to pass down his realization. That is a reason for gratitude. My debt goes further. I am someone who could have been easily left behind. Paralyzed since the age of 13, I found Iyengar Yoga at 25 and have been practicing for 23 years. (I have not studied with Sri BKS Iyengar in person, as traveling to India is very difficult for someone in a wheelchair.) No other style of yoga possesses the depth, precision, adaptations, and knowledge to welcome my paralyzed body into the world of the asana. It turns out that Iyengar Yoga’s revolutionary approach to alignment, precision, props, and adjustments transcends my severed spinal cord.
Through Iyengar Yoga, I gain access to living sensation within my paralysis and have gained glimpses into the ‘unseen’ unity of the Universe. Sri BKS Iyengar transformed my disability into a conduit for my salvation. My life’s work and that of my nonprofit, Mind Body Solutions—working with people living with trauma, loss, and disability—all of it is made possible because of his fervent life and dedication. There is no way I can ever repay my debt. There is no way I can adequately honor his influence. What I can do is strive to help others in the way that he has helped me. Today and for the remaining days of my life, I am humbled, honored, and proud to call myself his student.
Matthew Sanford is the Founder of Mind Body Solutions, a nonprofit known for adapting yoga for disabilities and training healthcare professionals.