Rick Saldivar grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona where he ranched and began riding horses as soon as he could walk. From the beginning, Rick was a bit of a wild child – he would catch wild mustangs and ride them out until they were tamed enough to be sold. He remembers laughing with family members after being bucked off of the horses. As a teenager, Rick moved to Oregon where he worked as a hunting guide and honed his survival skills when he wasn’t in school. With the rest of his free time, he competed in rodeos.
“Being a young man, I would just brush off injuries as most cowboys would.”
Right after high school, Rick joined the military.
“All my life I knew I wanted to be a warrior, a soldier, and serve my country.”
As a young soldier, he attended some of the most mentally and physically demanding schools the military had to offer. Everyday in military school involved endless runs, hundreds of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and other physically demanding drills.
“These schools are designed to make you quit. You find out what you are made of, you learn to live with pain.”
Almost two years later, Rick got to his first unit, and began making a living traveling around the world, jumping out of aircrafts carrying almost 100lbs of gear. He carried everything he needed to survive in his backpack (“Ruck”). He carried it up mountains, across deserts, jungles, and some of the deadliest swamps in the world.
“For hours upon days, my “ruck” was my security blanket.”
If you’ve ever seen Rick arrive at the studio, you’ve probably seen him with his backpack on.
While in the army, Rick sustained many injuries to his ankles and he even broke his back jumping out of an aircraft. Sometimes when he was injured, it would be days or even weeks before he could seek medical attention. He became numb to injuries and pain and thrived in extreme and often dangerous situations.
After he was discharged from the Army, Rick felt says he was physically and emotionally a wreck. He felt like the quality of his life had been severely downgraded. He spent a couple of years in and out of the VA hospital recovering from his injuries. Once he was able to get back to the gym, he was at it full force once again – participating in “boot camps”, running, swimming, you name it, Rick was doing it. He even completed the rigorous race “Tough Mudder”, competing against people half his age. At this time, Rick was on pain medication and he was drinking almost every day to help him deal with his pain. Finally, one day he decided he’d had enough.
“ I was sitting at a bar and I told myself ‘I can’t do this anymore’. My days of doing boot camp and competition were over.”
He then saw people coming out of the yoga studio all sweaty and looking like “they had a beat down.” So Rick went over to investigate and talked to the teacher about the benefits of Bikram Yoga. At this time, Rick was under the impression that yoga was for wimps and said “no thanks”. A year later and still in pain, Rick decided to give Bikram yoga a try. Rick took his first class from Garland in November 2008.
“I was in for a rude awakening. Halfway through the class, the room started closing in on me, the heat was unbearable, I couldn’t breathe…“. Rick tried to leave the room, but Garland convinced him to stay.
“After I recovered and was walking out the door, not believing I just got my a$$ kicked at yoga, I heard a voice say ‘See you tomorrow!’” Rick’s immediate response was, “Like hell you will.” (Whether or not this was said out loud is debatable.)
Rick couldn’t believe that he found something that he couldn’t do – and that that something was yoga. Rick ended up coming back the next day and he eventually began a regular practice.
“I was always destined to be here, the way I’ve lived my life.”
By his 3rd year of practicing, Rick was off pain medication and had stopped drinking. He could run and swim much better, and he was started to gain more flexibility. He also says that his interactions with people have vastly improved as well.
“For the first 2 years I talked to no one, I was just in and out of the studio. Now, I’m a regular chatter box and have many yogi friends that I socialize with.”
Rick strongly encourages other veterans to practice yoga to help with injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“I still have a long way to go, but my quality of life has improved. I only wish that I had started practicing much sooner. It’s a lifelong process, and I’m proud to say that I’m a yogi.”