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Thought on Paralysis & Spinal Cord Injury

Here below, read a yogini’s reflection on paralysis brought upon by spinal cord injury. 

Of the boy paralyzed in the football accident: he exists between two worlds. A dualism: the separation between the body and the mind, is exhibited. It is difficult sometimes to think that such a tragedy as paralysis exists. It is hard to deal with; hard to fathom.

In ways that humans do not fully understand, nerve impulses travel through our brain, spinal cord, and muscles, allowing us to move. Your head itches, so you lift your hand and scratch it. You don’t go, “I need to use this muscle to lift this part of my arm, then contracting this muscle this way to move the fingers. I need to send a nerve signal from my brain to my spinal cord!” All of the muscles just move together; it just happens. No doubt it is the same when a child learns to walk. It is instinctive: one foot in front of the other. Step, balance, swing, repeat. We control the movement of our bodies, yes, but our inner emotions, desires, and feelings also do, in a somewhat involuntary manner. When we feel happy, our eyes light up and we laugh. When stress and tension hit, our facial muscles tighten. Our body movements are connected to our inner feelings. We take for granted these amazing connections within the design of our bodies. Our bodies and our minds are connected in complex ways. No…they are very simple ways, aren’t they.

Handwriting is another example: the way we are feeling inside is reflected in the stroke of a pen. Handwriting experts can tell a great deal about someone from their pen strokes. It’s in the same way the painter’s brush stroke makes a moving piece of art, and the same way that rhythmic  movements across guitar strings make music. All of these depend on motion, a movement of the body. There is a story being told, from inner feelings to the outside world. The language, the means of communication, is motion. This requires movement of the body, of course. It can be a tragedy to have it taken away. Freedom of movement is part of our human existence. It is part of our consciousness. Movement is part of who we are. But it is not a right to be taken for granted. Many live without it.

It is a great mystery sometimes to think that this most unfortunate injury exists. It is a tragedy that we are designed with a cord running down our entire back which, if damaged, leaves one unable to more or even have feeling below the affected area. It seems a glitch in nature that it is even possible. It is strange to think about. These unseen electrical impulses control the movements and functions of our bodies, and are so connected to our inner soul. Maybe it’s because you can’t see the spinal cord during everyday life, that it is more of a mystery. If, say, your hand gets cut off, then sure, you lose functionality of that hand. But the fact that there is one spot on your body that in a split second can render your entire body useless, this is something different. Is there a different system of nerves for involuntary vital organ activity? How can it be that the stomach can still crank away and digest food but the muscles directly beside the stomach cannot be moved voluntarily?

Our own bodies are simultaneously the most natural, familiar things in the world. They are also infinite mysteries. Does yoga help us to understand them more fully? Experience them more fully? Does science? How much will science eventually tell us about our own bodies? Will we eventually “know” everything?

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Event marketing manager and yoga instructor, I curate dance music, marketing, and yoga culture.

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