Burst Fracture (Spinal Injury)
In 1991, I fell from a 3 story building while serving in the Marine Corps. The result was a "burst fracture"of the 1st lumbar vertebra creating severe damaged to my spinal cord. Soon after complications arose and I became a "complete" paraplegic, meaning loss of all function at and below the injury site. Two 6"rods were implanted to help stabilize my spinal column..
In 1999 I was introduced to wheelchair tennis and had been playing for a few years and in 2003, I joined the International Tennis Federation Wheelchair Tour..
The 2006 season ended the first week of October in San Diego, Ca. I drove up to visit my wife Alison Tavares, she was just finishing week 4 at the teacher training in Los Angeles at the old HQ. Immediately upon seeing her I was struck by how straight and how strong she was standing! There was an energy about her that was undeniable! Whatever this yoga was giving her, I wanted it too!.
When I got home, I looked at the pictures on the website and did my best to accomplish the postures. When I started I could not hold my arms over my head for Half Moon without falling over. My knees would not bend in Fixed Firm. My elbows would not straighten in Locust Pose. Just thinking about a backbend would topple me over and here I'm supposed to be semi-professional athlete?
As I began practicing the yoga, things began to improve. In matches, I would recover from long points much quicker, my strokes were improving … this was great!! As a result, I started to spend more time doing yoga rather than playing tennis. On April 1, 2007 I had an epiphany, "this tennis is getting in the way of my yoga". This occurred to me while I was in the middle of tossing the ball for a serve in a tennis tournament in Florida. For the last 6 years, my life revolved around tennis. When I got home,Alison and I did a week of doubles. At the end, my body felt electrified and so calm at the same time.
On Jan 1st 2008, at the suggestion of my studio owner Nicole Deacon of BY Paradise Valley, AZ, I began my first 60 day challenge! That is when I saw some amazing changes happen. Prior to Yoga my feet and ankles would swell up if I was sitting for too long, but towards the end of the challenge I saw veins on the tops of my feet!! My circulation had improved so much that the veins would be visible not only in class but all the time! My body began to hum. The numbness and pain in my hands was gone. And I lost 36 lbs.
Two years after I started the Yoga I was able to touch my hands palms together in Eagle and touch my head to the floor in Fixed Firm. In Feb 2011, I got to my feet for Pada Hastasana! For the first time in 20 years my legs held my weight without any kind of brace. It felt like my head was going to explode at least my eyes would pop out of my head …something!.
Little by little I could see strength and vitality building where for so long there was none. Since starting my yoga practice my health has improved 1000% along with just about every aspect of my life. Thank You Bikram..
I have been asked often, "How did you come up with the modifications to do the postures?" My answer has always been, "It's in the dialogue."