I love yoga. I have been doing yoga consistently for about two years now. It has helped with my asthma, as well as gaining muscle and stamina. The benefits are so great and varied, you shouldn’t be afraid to start yoga, even if you are hard of hearing like I am. Here are some of my tips for starting yoga for hearing impaired students.
I have complete hearing loss in one ear and moderate loss in the other ear. This means I can usually “pass” in most everyday situations. I situate myself to the left of the group or person I am talking to and avoid very noisy places. No rock concerts for me!
It may seem like yoga could be the worst type of workout if you are hard of hearing. Many times you won’t be able to see the instructor’s lips if you rely on lip-reading. Also, many instructors use a soft voice at times, to help students relax. In addition, they may move around the room and not always demonstrate the pose. It seems like the odds are stacked against the hard of hearing for knowing what is going on in yoga!
Several times in class, I have noticed myself following the instructor’s movements, only to realize they are mirroring the class. This is when they use the opposite side of the body than the class in order to better show the pose or movements. Even though I heard the instructor say “left”, I saw them use the right side of their body. Since my mind is so used to prioritizing visual information over audio information, I followed their movements instead of their verbal instructions!
But really, yoga is playful and all about practicing. So it’s okay when you get something off. We are all on our own journey to become better.
1 Talk to your instructor before class
Just give your instructor the low down on your situation. I’ve never come across an instructor who wasn’t open to chatting and making accommodations. Some ground rules you may want to discuss:
- Are you open to the instructor offering physical modifications or guidance?
- Should the instructor move back to the front of the room to demonstrate poses?
- Would it be better for the instructor modify their tone?
- Does the instructor have a physical cue they could give to signal start and stop?
If you are afraid you won’t hear the instructor during times when eyes are closed, ask them if they could ring a gong or tap you on the shoulder to open your eyes.
2 Arrive early to claim the optimal spot
For me, with hearing loss on my left side, I choose a spot on the left side of the room. Also, I try to get in front of the mirror, since then I can get a good view of a lot of people in the class. If you have an equal amount of hearing loss on each side, try for a post in the middle of the classroom. That way, no matter which direction the yoga practice takes you, you always have someone in view to follow.
If you arrived later, try to situate yourself next to someone who you know is a veteran. You’ll be able to follow them when you get lost.
3 Choose a class where the poses are always the same
There are many types of yoga instruction where the sequence of poses is the same, sometimes a repeated sequence with minor modifications throughout the class, and sometimes an entire class that is the same set of poses week after week. If you can memorize the series before class (perhaps ask the instructor for a private lesson to learn the series), then you will always know what to do next.
4 Go with the flow
Remember, even hearing practitioners will often be lost in class and looking around for what to do next as well. Everyone is attempting, and everyone is focused on their own practice. Yoga does not judge.
5 Do what’s best for your practice and well-being
When a pose gets too tough, many instructors advise taking child’s pose or a modification of the pose. It’s no different when the class gets mentally tough. If you find yourself getting frustrated and feeling like you can’t keep up, take a breather and focus on your breath. Doing things a little differently from the rest of the class is okay. Your yoga practice is your practice, not anyone else’s.