When you think of yoga, what images spring to mind? Lithe supple Swami’s doing headstands and downward dog? People forming the lotus position, stretching salutations to the sun, or literally bending over backwards? Yoga is not something I would have usually associated with disability but knowing Reveca Torres has changed all that. I first met Reveca many years ago in Eugene Oregon, and yoga is just one aspect of life in which Reveca, who has a C5-7 level spinal injury, expresses herself.
Reveca and I met around a campfire kitchen in the forests of Oregon. I remember how gently spoken she was, her love and passion for all things artistic, how curious she was about others around her, and how to get the best out of navigating the world of disability.
In the years that have passed, it does not surprise me that Reveca has used her interest in people to establish a very successful non-profit organisation “Backbones” for peer led support of those with spinal cord injury.
She has embraced living a life that challenges stereotypes, and doing yoga is just one aspect of a life lived to the fullest that people may find surprising.
Join me in learning more about Reveca, a disability advocate, artist and designer, to find out how she uses her creativity and passion to build connections and provide support to others.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Reveca Torres. I am 37 years old and I live in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois in the USA
What has been your journey of disability?
I was in a car accident at the age of 13 and injured my spine at the C5-7 level. I am an incomplete injury so I have sensation and slight muscle activity below my level of injury. I use a power wheelchair most of the time and drive a minivan (super cool)
Are there things about you that people misunderstand because of your disability?
I think people misunderstand that first I am a person, a woman, an artist, etc. it is just so common for people to assume what I can’t do instead of focusing on my abilities. Also, many people don’t understand how much discrimination we face and micro-aggressions on a daily basis and how frustrating and exhausting it can be so they can play a big role in caring and helping change stereotypes. But most importantly, people misunderstand what a full life someone with a disability can live – yes we have challenges and sometimes life can be tough, but I live a normal, ordinary life and have ambitions, dreams, struggles just like the next person.
Who inspires you? Where do you get inspiration from?
Women who are exceptional, women who are average, women who are ambitious and who find their voice. I think women are a force – resilient and creative. I am very inspired by people who are kind and take the initiative to make a change even when it seems impossible or it can be a scary thing to do.
Which three words would you use to describe yourself?
Creative, grateful, introspective
What’s one thing that someone has taught you that completely changed your life?
Yoga! It has changed the way my body feels, what I feel, my health…and even more importantly the way I feel about myself, my disability and body image. It helped me start loving myself
Who or what has been the most significant influences on who you are today?
My family – they are a crazy bunch and I am who I am because of them
Two high school teachers- one who insisted I was a leader and join school activities when all I wanted was to be a broody & moody teenager. He was so irritating at the time but I am grateful today. The other taught me how to sew with an adapted sewing machine and helped me realize I didn’t have to abandon my creativity and art because I had a disability.
Corey my friend and yoga instructor who pushed me to work harder physically and also to be compassionate to my body and mind
A girl I went to college with – her face would light up when she talked to you and she was genuinely interested and saw the amazing in everyone. It made me shed judgemental tendencies and try and see the best qualities in people and celebrate them.
What’s one thing about you that surprises people?
I’m not that surprising 🙂 I like to try a lot of random things so people sometimes are surprised at things like I went surfing and scuba diving, or I like to pretend to play the harmonica, I have designed many tattoos, I can design, sew and construct you a tailored suit if I wanted to (I don’t want to) – see not that surprising… also, I guess people sometimes think I am quiet and timid but I am not a pushover, I just talk when it’s necessary 🙂 so sometimes people don’t expect that
For what are you most grateful today?
My family – I am always grateful we all survived the car accident and that it didn’t break our family apart. In fact, that event brought our family together and we are really close so I am very grateful for that because that is not the case for everyone
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Give zero f*&^s about what everyone else thinks and be yourself. I spent too many years caring and I missed out on a lot because of my fear.
Do you have one crazy funny story you can share?
Well living with a disability automatically means you have crazy, absurd and funny moments…I guess I’ve had some moments with my vehicles. I was locked in my own van on my prom night because my prom date left the keys in the car and I couldn’t reach them or the door to unlock it. Another time someone parked in the yellow lines next to my van so my friend was helping pull out the van so I could get in. He messed up accelerator and brake hand-controls and hit me with my own van – I sprained my ankle and the doctor told me not to step on it 😐
Is there something that you would like people to know about you or about people with disability that they might not know?
I want people to know we need to continue to fight for disability rights and we need everyone to participate, disability or not. And if you are not familiar or are intimidated, get informed, ask, get to know someone. It starts with a conversation. We are just people 🙂