The Miracle of Yoga

How one yoga teacher taught a young woman with cerebral palsy to walk on her feet for the first time in her life.


Story by Jennifer Sandy and Rachelle Laila


Breathe in. Breathe out…and pose. For many that practice yoga, it is the calm within the chaotic storm that is their daily lives. It allows them to clear their minds, while focusing on nothing else but breathing and perfecting their form in various poses. Comparable to meditation, yoga has developed a cult like following of people who swear by it as a way of maintaining their sanity, but for one woman, yoga did so much more than give her a place of mental solace. It gave her back her life.

Gabrielle Shulman, a 22-year-old theatre arts major at Mt. San Antonio College, was born with cerebral palsy, a disease affecting body movement and muscle coordination. Because of this, Shulman spent her entire life walking on solely on the balls of her feet before enrolling in a yoga class last spring at Mt. San Antonio College.

Shulman said that doctors had told her she was doomed to walk her tip-toes for the rest of her life, and she had accepted it. That is, until she met Mt. SAC yoga instructor Jeff Hendrix, who gave her the tools to accomplish what she had been told all her life was impossible — to walk flat on her feet, with her heels touching the ground.

“Doctors told me I was going to walk on my toes for the rest of my life and I believed them,” she said. “When I tried to walk normally my whole legs would start to burn.”

Hendrix used the “chair pose,” a pose in which the knees are bent and the body is held as if sitting in a chair, to help Schulman stretch the muscles in her legs and feet until she could finally walk normally, a skill most of us take for granted.

“One day she was able to maintain all these poses. When I realized what was happening for Gabby I was kind of blown away,” Hendrix said.

As for Schulman, she now focuses on the positive results.

“It’s better to focus on being positive than to focus on things that happened in the past,” said Shulman.

While Schulman’s story is certainly remarkable, it is far from the first miracle that has been attributed to the power of yoga.

Gabrielle Shulman stretching with Professor Jeff Hendrix during a yoga class at Mt. SAC. Photo by Jose De Castro.

Humans have been reaping the benefits of yoga for nearly 5000 years, and the millions of people that have practiced it in that time know that it offers benefits far beyond what hitting the gym and simply running on the treadmill for an hour can. It not only provides physical fitness, but improves mental and emotional well being.

Arthur Boorman, 49, disabled veteran, has also experienced a life changing occurrence which he attributes to the effectiveness of yoga. During his service in the Gulf War, too many parachute jumps took a major toll on his back and knees. His injuries resulted in not being able to walk without the assistance of crutches or by pushing himself around in a wheelchair. Doctors told him that walking normally was a thing of the past –and, like Schulman, he believed it. Boorman ballooned to nearly 300 pounds within 15 years of his separation from the military, adding more stress to his disability and by then Boorman said he had given up on life.

While internet browsing, Boorman came across an article that inspired him to try yoga, instructed by former world-champ-wrestler turned yogi teacher- Diamond Page.

Boorman was rejected by other yoga instructors because he wasn’t able to stand or walk without assistance, but Page accepted Arthur’s complications and worked with him throughout his transformation.

Two months into Boorman yoga journey, Page assisted him in stretching and how to balance without the need of chairs, in three months his leg braces were finally off, in five months he was able to maintain his yoga poses without any assistance, and in eight short months of Boorman’s transformation he was not only walking, but jogging and Boorman became yet another testimony to yoga accomplishing what medicine could not.

Within 10 months, Arthur dropped more than 140 pounds- his medical complications had reversed and he was healthier than ever.

Over time, the goal of yoga has evolved from trying to “understand the world and its purpose, ” to “self-enlightenment and healing.” In a 2012 Sports Marketing Survey USA, showed that 20.4 million Americans are practicing some form of yoga. According to Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, they reported that 15 million participants who go to yoga seek stress reduction, to gain quality of life, and relieve health conditions- like back or neck pain.

The accomplishments yoga has achieved have been long appreciated through yoga’s Indian origin- The holy men of India. It has traveled through countless countries and has beome more popular than anyone could have ever predicted. For those who have traveled tirelessly to share the works of the yoga’s healing promise, like Swami Vivvekananda, Gandhi and Master Yogananda the mission still continues.

Spiritually-gifted Indian prodigy Paramahansa Yogananda who’s mission from his guru Sri Yukteswar, was to “spread to all peoples the knowledge of the self-liberating yoga techniques”. In 1920, Yogananda brought yoga to the United States to teach spiritual practices of higher being in meditation. He remained in the United States for 30 years and during his time here he founded Self-Realization Fellowship, there he lectured and gathered his followers into higher consciousness from meditation and teaching Kriya Yoga.

Practicing yoga on a consistent basis allows the yogi to not only become more physically flexible, but allows them to be more mentally capable of taking on life and all of it’s many challenges.

In a yoga article by Dr. Mercola, he stated, “Your body and your health will indeed change as you start implementing the correct lifestyle changes. As you learn new ways of moving and responding to your body and mind, other areas of your life tend to shift and change as well.”

Substance is a publication of the Mt. San Antonio College Journalism Program. The program recently moved its newsroom over to Medium as part of a one-year experiment. Read about it here.