By Keith Mitchell
In my personal transition after leaving the National Football League, meditation and yoga have served me and my purpose for living. I was permanently sidelined from my career as a professional linebacker after a fatal spinal cord injury left me suffering from paralysis from the neck down. I was diagnosed with a spinal contusion, my c2-c4 are fused together, that also left a nice size bone spur that impinges on my esophagus.
It is when I am truly vulnerable that I am in my ultimate power (my mantra). This statement means so much to me because what I thought I knew I was finally at a point to reflect and evaluate. In this place of reflection I realized where I am and recognized my way of hope to heal.
I grew up in a Christian home, my father is a preacher but I found hope through the practice of meditation. I realized my hope in believing that the Creator had gifted me the tools to make use of to save my own life.
We have the opportunity to heal and nurture our bodies through breathing. We actually breathe 21 thousand breaths a day. What makes yoga so interesting when we speak of detoxifying our bodies the twisting and some cases awkward positions are purposely putting us in the vulnerable postures.
Here we can address certain issues within the body to heal. In these postures we can establish the relationship with our bodies to absolutely serve ourselves appropriately. By establishing practices like this we become mindful of how we use our bodies, who we allow in our spaces, and that all the things we “consume” absolutely matter. The dynamics of neglecting self is very interesting because we can have an idea of trust, compassion, or even patience from other people but yet we are not even able to give these components to ourselves.
In the 6 month period of practicing Yoga, I began to thaw out as if I was literally a piece of meat that had been frozen for a long period of time. I began to feel my nerves reconnect as if I was starting a car that had been left over a time period after enduring extreme below freezing temperatures. Not only did the paralysis of my body begin to dissipate but the paralysis of my mind, heart and my soul. I began to feel free, the imprisonment of being the football player and not the individual was finally gone, through my practices of yoga and meditation I have found ways to nurture and build the individual of Keith Mitchell up and now I hope my story will inspire others to find themselves outside of all the identities and masks we create to survive in this world ... ultimately to help them find the inner peace I have attained through my practice.
Keith Mitchell: “I have played as a linebacker in the NFL for the New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars and was named for the Pro Bowl.My NFL career ended short when I suffered a paralyzing injury during a game. I saw many people’s injuries lead to defeat and a life plagued by unhealthiness, both emotional and physical trauma. I found the practice of yoga was helping me to relearn how to walk. Yoga has not only helped me move again, it opened my mind, body and soul to so much more. I trained at the White Lotus Yoga School and am a 300-hour certified yoga instructor. After experiencing the transformational power of yoga I wondered why aren’t more athletes and people doing yoga! I created the Keith Mitchell Yoga Co to express my passion, my story, the knowledge I had acquired, and my unique approach to yoga applied to custom crafted workouts.”
To learn more about Keith Mitchell, click here.
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This article appears in:
2014 Catalyst, Issue 7: Veterans Health Coalition