Yogi Rob by Yogi Rob Bispo
I was burned on July 25th 2003 by a hot water heater malfunction in the basement of my restaurant. I lost 97% of my skin, the largest organ on our body. As I lit the match I heard a ‘Swoosh!’ and was ignited; I know I had one chance to escape. I took a big breath, closed my eyes and headed for the six-foot ladder, that led to the hole in the floor. As I started to step on the ladder, a spirit grabbed me. The latter turned into a stairwell and up I came. I felt this was my mother, who died many years before this accident.
I ran out the back door engulfed in flames, frantically looking for water of any kind, and then heard a loud voice inside my head command “Stop Drop and Roll!” This refocused me and I put myself out, then ran to the bar a couple of business down. I burst in and told the bartender to call my Dad, even gave her his number, and said call 911. She did and then told me to leave her bar. I couldn’t understand why. Later I realized my clothing was burnt away and black, and, charred skin was hanging off of me like ghoulish monstrous make-up. I knew it freaked her out.
I ran back outside and my dad was pulling up the alley in his Volkswagen; I was relieved to see his face and thought it might be the last time I ever did. As he came running towards me, I noticed my skin melting off of my outstretched arm. “Don’t touch me…” I said as I passed out.
When I woke up after more than two and a half months in a coma, all I could move were my eyes. I was pissed to say the least. At first I wanted to kill myself but soon realize none of my nurses would help me with that; I needed help with everything. I spent 4 months in Legacy burn unit then was transferred to good Sams for rehabilitation.
Three weeks later, although I was still wheelchair bound and wrapped like a mummy, I was told ” you’re good to go.” fortunately, my sister is my angel and took me in. I had a home nurse come in the morning everyday for a few months to help change bandages. 3 times a week a physical therapist came to get me moving. She was a genuinely nice person but I still hated having her show up. Physical Therapy was difficult and painful; I force myself to do it but didn’t like the workout.
My doctor told me I would have to stretch and keep stretching for the rest of my life if I wanted to have any quality of life. My mother and my daughter had taught me the healing arts of yoga many years earlier. I didn’t know much about yoga, I just remembered it worked and it made me feel better. So I started practicing yoga again to stretch the tight skin grafts that dripped and pinched my body.
After the accident, I spent the next 7 years practicing yoga for 6 to 8 hours a day; and all of the healing arts. And although I practice them all from time to time, yoga is my passion. Yo go to restore my confidence beyond all expectations.
And after you heal yourself you want to help others. As it is with a lot of yoga instructors, it has been a struggle for me. M
ost of us don’t make a whole bunch of money, but we love our work. Things were becoming stagnant in my yoga career. Then I hooked up with Portland burn survivors (PBS) and they sponsored a webpage for my practice. It has helped me get farther into the yoga teaching community.
As a burn survivors, I live with chronic pain and I know firsthand what it feels like to be physically weak, painfully inflexible and visibly disfigured.
However , my parents taught me that anything is possible. I teach yoga because I know it can transform your body and restore health, confidence and self-esteem. I am committed to passing on the lessons all of my teachers so generously shared with me. Teaching yoga in Salem is how I share my gratitude for a second chance at life.
It doesn’t matter if you are a burn survivor, in a wheelchair, or trying out for the Olympics. I started out at Ground Zero and I’m willing to help anybody rebuild their confidence, self-esteem and strength. Yoga takes care of that void in my soul and makes me feel whole. I have so many friends now I am blessed.