How to make yoga accessible for people with visual and hearing impairments

Man assisting seated man with yoga position

My interest in teaching Special Needs Yoga started when my second son was born with Global Developmental Delay – an event which shaped my life and my yoga journey. I realised the potential for Yoga to enrich the lives of people with sensory impairments, and I’ve observed the therapeutic benefits that help many individuals.

I’ve taught Yoga for 20 years at Sense’s TouchBase South East community hub in Barnet. In 2014 I was invited to deliver sessions in Central London as part of Sense’s sports project, Sporting Sense. With new funding from Sport England, these sensory yoga classes continue, and are attended by people with Sensory impairments from all over London.

When teaching Yoga, I believe in looking beyond the impairment to the unique potential of each individual. The practice will be modified in accordance with their needs, and yoga is adaptable so people are taught in a safe and caring way. It’s important to meet people where they’re at in the here-and-now, and teach with trust and compassion.

Man assisting woman with yoga position

My approach to people with visual impairment is to speak with a clear and audible voice, and to limit external noise so instructions can be followed easily.

With hearing impairment, it’s important to be clearly visible with consideration of lighting, position and clarity. Where people are deafblind, the use of touch and vibration are used, and hand on hand support helps people feel the poses.

A typical session would incorporate mobilising joints, limbs and muscles, and include a forward and back bend, a lateral bend, spinal twist and balance using props as necessary. Breathing exercises and relaxation are also used at appropriate times.

Yoga builds confidence and connections

Yoga provides people with an opportunity to detach from their normal day. It’s pleasing to watch students embrace yoga with passion and enjoyment. As they progress, I have observed students practice with care, trust, confidence and a connection with themselves, and those around them.

Yoga provides a perfect antidote to address impairments by inviting change, adaptation and growth on all levels including motor, sensory, emotional, immune and psychological. It reduces stress and reactivity, and helps people to move from survival mode to inner safety, calm and coping.

The physical benefits of Yoga include increased flexibility and mobility. It assists someone who is disconnected, to become more self-aware and acquire a deeper understanding of their body and the environment. The poses can be adapted to different situations, which means yoga is inclusive to everyone, using props such as chairs, blocks and bolsters to aid practice.

People report that yoga makes them feel more healthy and fit, has helped with issues like depression and anxiety, and leads to increased self esteem and confidence. The students have interacted well as a group and keep in touch socially for an overwhelming sense of well being.

Find out more about Sense’s accessible sports and activities, including yoga, which is currently running in London and Peterborough.

Author: Richard Kravetz

Richard Kravetz has been teaching yoga to adults, children and individuals with Special Needs for over 14 years, including sessions at Sense's TouchBase South East, and most recently, Sense's 'Sporting Sense' free and accessible sessions, which are made possible by new funding from Sport England.

4 thoughts on “How to make yoga accessible for people with visual and hearing impairments”

  1. Wonderful article! As a yoga teacher I wanted to know where I could get some training in teaching yoga for hearing impairements. I currently have one class member without hearing, and she is very interested in me leading a class for some of her colleagues locally, who are also hearing impaired. Grateful for any advice.

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