Reveca discussed. "I'm in a wheelchair," she finally said into the phone. She never thought she could do yoga. A friend finally coaxed her to contact TriBalance Yoga with the promise of warmth in the hot yoga studio. Reveca's body had been extremely cold-sensitive since the car accident in 1994.
"Come on in," Corey replied. "I'll work with you one-on-one."
She arrived and Corey, who had assumed that she was paraplegic, was surprised but "not taken aback" to see that she was quadriplegic. Undaunted, he welcomed her into the studio and asked about her injury.
Reveca told him about the harrowing moments of the car accident that changed her life when she was thirteen. Her family was driving home from a vacation in Mexico, and she was asleep in the back seat. She awoke as the van was flipping over. "We were all very surprised that everyone made it alive, because it was a pretty bad accident. My brother had a big cut on his face. My songer sister flew out the back window, but it was nothing. Baby brother was one year old, and nothing happened to him. My mom held on to him and that pretty pretty protected him from anything. Because of that she got pretty beat up. "She broke her hip and then she got a gash on her face. My dad was fine too. I was in the back sleeping because of car sickness medication. I had no seatbelt on. I broke my neck and then the middle of my back. "
"I'll be honest," Corey said. "I'm probably going to learn a lot more from you than you are from me. But if you're willing we'll give it a shot and figure out what works for you."
"How much is this all going to cost?" She asked.
"Nothing," Corey said. "Let's get into the studio."
Corey treated her into the studio and began working with her on basic breathing and postures.
"He was not afraid of me," Reveca says. "A lot of people I worked with seemed afraid of the disability, and were very cautious with any move. I'm not going to break. When I left TriBalance and my body felt so good and I thought, 'I'm coming back.' My whole body was relaxed … Just from being out my chair. You can imagine, you've been sitting for a couple of hours and you want to get up and stretch. But I usually sit my chair pretty much all day until like 11 at night, so just getting out of the chair really really good. And the breathing – I do not know how to explain – it was really hard. All my abdominal muscles are not there. It's something I still struggle with. But I was very, very relaxed and I thought it felt good. I think a lot of pain was coming from tightness of the muscles and so being able to release that released a lot of my pain too. "
TriBalance hot yoga helped Reveca recover comfort and mobility that she thought long gone. She had spent three months of intense rehab and then three years of outpatient mobility, working on the basic activities of living: bringing her hand from the table to her mouth, brushing her hair, washing her face. She had struggled with but not yet mastered transfering in and out of her wheelchair when the physical therapist said, "You're not going to get any better."
"I was pretty much crushed," Reveca says. "I thought, 'I've been doing all this and I'm not going any get any better? This sucks.' But I was always doing stuff at home. I was not going to therapy but my dad bought me weights. Every night for years he would do a range of motion on my legs to keep me moving. " A few months of yoga cave her more range of motion and strength in her arms, and more control in her core and balance. She can now sit without leaning on anything – and she can shave her legs. "My legs were really tight. A couple of weeks after I was being working with Corey, I was wearing that skirt. But I forgot to ask my attendant to shave my legs. I was thinking, 'I'm going out with these hairy legs!' I was home alone, I just grabbed my leg and I was able to lift it up onto the counter, and I could shave my own legs. "
Within a few months, she was Army crawling as well. "I put her on the floor on carpet tiles and I put on pads on her," Corey says. "I wanted her to pull herself across the floor on her forearms because that's functional, that's practical." She was not able to do that, but if there was a fire in the house and nobody was home, how could she get out when she Was not able to transfer yet? … She started crying which is very rare for her; she was very frustrated. I said to her, 'We can continue just doing things that are easy, that you're good at that You already know how to do, but that's not what either of us agreed to. ' And she said, 'I'm going to do this.' In three weeks, she was able to pull herself more than six feet on the floor. "
"I do not normally cry or break down in the front of people, and it was awesome because I was able to," Reveca says. "I had a great support system … but in having that support system with me … I also felt a responsibility to be okay in front of everyone." Yoga created an emotional transformation in her as well. "I was able to okay with showing my emotions and showing when I have with the bad day, but it felt okay to have bad days and to let it go when I need to."
Part of this change came from Corey's staunch refusal to let the wheelchair or the injury dominate her identity. During their first session, Corey asked, "How do I pick you up?"
"You can pick me up like a baby," she said.
This nagged at Corey for days, and he bought it up when she came back. "Do not ever say that again," he said. "You're not a baby. If you want to say 'sweep me off my feet' or whatever that would be a lot better, because you're not a baby and nobody needs to pick you up like a baby. A grown woman. "
Reveca thought about that for a moment. "My uncle said that once," she said. "That he'd pick me up like a baby. It hurt at the time but I did not really think about it."
As her practice grew, so did her confidence. "We did the one-on-one for a while and
Then he said I was ready for a class. He kept on saying 'The energy is the class is so different' and I thought 'Whatever, it's probably not going to be that different.' But it is, it's very different in the class. "
To Reveca's surprise, the other students did not notice anything different about her. Corey never brought the wheelchair into the yoga studio. "I did not want her to be defined as someone in the wheelchair because it's not who she is," he explains. "She had an injury to her body but her personality, her mind and all of this is all intact." I really do not want her to be defined as that; she's defined enough. " Corey would carry her into the room while the other students were in Frog or Downward Facing Dog, and carry her out again after class. "Sometimes people would see her in the wheelchair after class and you could see how surprised they were."
"I was thinking, 'I'm not going to be able to do stuff that everyone else is doing,'" Reveca says. "But I realized it's not what everyone else around you is doing, it's what you are capable of doing, and being okay with that. Yoga has really let me say 'I feel like this and that's okay, that's how I feel.' I've taken more ownership of my feelings … being able to trust other people, trusting Corey and to move my body for me … I have also been more confident about myself … To trust people and make friends with other People. "
"With everyone that comes into yoga," Corey says, "It's not just learning the pose, it's learning how to use what you have." I knew that she had the strength and the will to do it, so I wanted to work with her On how to use her body in ways that she was told that she could not. She was told that she's paralleled, she's been told that she's a quadriplegic, and to me – I do not know what that means. Look at anyone as a diagnosis because it's what somebody else said about them. That does not define who they are to me. Just because she's quadriplegic by someone else's standards, that does not mean anything to me because I do not know what Her body is capable of. It was an awesome experience to watch her grow – not just physically but her confidence in herself and to not be limited by what other people have told her. I think too often people are limited by what people told them, And you do not have to believe it. It's your decision to believe it. "
Reveca is now in school studying nonprofit management. She currently runs a nonprofit organization called Backbones, which introduces others to the healing power of empathy. "It's for people that had spinal cord injuries, and connecting them with people," she explains. A person with a spinal cord injury can contact them, and they will match them with another person who has the same level of injury. They also match friends and family members of the injured with other friends and family members. She is particularly excited about running events where people in a variety of roles can meet and talk. "At events people are more open to talk to people ask questions … My goal is with when I'm learning to be able to build this organization. It's only a year old and it feels good, get a big strong volunteer program going We do not focus on a disability, we focus on everyone's human ability; it's what people can do and think that's really important. Now that I'm aware of it, like I feel I am looking at things little bit differently. "