I love yoga! Not only is it fun, but I find the health benefits to be extraordinary. My yoga practice saved me from real injury during a fall last year, and I think that it, combined with meditation, has helped calm the severity of my tinnitus. I recommend yoga to everyone I meet — whether they have hearing loss or not!
But sometimes people with hearing loss are skeptical. They wonder, “How will I be able to follow along in class if I can’t hear the instructor? or “Will my hearing aids stay on during the postures?” Or “Will the classes be too loud?” These are all real concerns, but ones that can be offset by choosing the right class with an understanding instructor.
I practice Bikram Yoga, which takes place in a heated room. I like it because it is quiet — no music or other distractions. The teachers do not demonstrate the postures, but guide the class with their voice, often wearing a microphone headset so they are heard throughout the room.
The class is identical every time, so I always know what posture is coming next, and there are mirrors in the front of the room so I can easily see when the class is moving in and out of a posture. But the heat is not for everyone.
I have also attended other types of yoga classes, some with more success than others. How much I enjoy the class always comes down to the quality of the instructor, my familiarity with the postures ahead of time, and my ability to just relax and go with the flow. My hearing loss is usually not a big factor, unless I let it be.
Here are my tips for practicing yoga with a hearing loss.
BEFORE YOU START
1. Do your research. Yoga has gotten so popular that there are likely several studios in your town. Visit them and ask the manager to recommend classes and instructors that avoid loud music, and that tend to repeat the same series of postures in each class. Tell them about your hearing loss — there may be other students in the same boat. Ask which classes attract students with a broad range of ages and abilities — this will make class less intimidating.
2. Take an intro class or a few private lessons first. Most studios offer new student workshops on a monthly or more frequent basis. This is a great way to learn the basics in a smaller setting where hearing will be easier and one-on-one attention is the norm. Familiarity with the postures will give you confidence before heading into a group class. If new student classes are not available, you can always try a beginning yoga DVD at home to learn some of the basics.
1. Talk to the teacher before class. Tell the teacher at the start of class about your hearing loss and ask for the best place to set up your mat based on where the teacher will be spending most of his or her time. This knowledge will also allow the teacher to give you extra assistance if you seem to be missing something.
Expert tip: There may be a line to talk to the teacher. Many students will discuss physical limitations such as an injury or illness with the yoga teacher before class — you discussing your hearing loss will not appear odd at all.
2. Set up your mat in the middle of the room. Here, you can watch people in front of you if you don’t hear the teacher’s instructions AND you can see other yogis behind you or to the side if you are doing postures where you are not facing forward.
3. Go with the flow. Hey, it’s only yoga! Who cares if you are behind in transitioning from posture to posture or your postures don’t look ready for competition. This is about your health and mental wellbeing and nothing other than that is really important. Plus, it gets easier the more you do it. Don’t expect perfection early on.
4. Be persistent. The first class you try might not be the one for you. Try another class or a different instructor or even a different style of yoga. It’s kind of like trying out hearing aids or princes — the first one you kiss might not be a good match.
Yoga is not for everyone, but if you are interested in trying it out or maintaining a regular practice, don’t let your hearing loss stop you. Not only are the physical benefits of yoga (stronger muscles and improved flexibility) important, the mental benefits are also numerous. Yoga at its best, combines physical postures with a philosophy of patience and self-acceptance, which can come in very handy when dealing with the day-to-day frustrations of hearing loss. I know it does for me.
Readers, have you tried yoga?
Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
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