As the month of May comes to a close, the inaugural Great Canadian Yoga Stretch is also wrapping up. I had a chance to talk with Sue Marsh-Woods at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (who initiated the fundraiser, and to which all proceeds will be contributed) about their current pilot project, yoga classes for vision impaired people.
“CNIB is expanding our services to include more in the area of wellness,” Sue told me on the phone from Toronto. “We’ve found that yoga is a good physical activity because it works well for people who can’t see. Visually impaired people can lose their alignment and the concept of their bodies in physical space. But yoga helps them become centred in their bodies.”
Susan also noted that living with vision loss can be stressful for many people, and the psychological benefits of yoga can help them find a little piece of mind.
The seed for the idea was planted when a yoga teacher approached CNIB’s executive director at an event. Since then, CNIB has been trying to network with yoga communities to provide classes for visually impaired people, and to develop ways to integrate people without sight into already existing classes.
“The pilot project is still very small,” said Sue. “We’re starting with an hour and half long class every Friday, with a volunteer teacher from the community. There are 4 or 5 regular students, older women, and they’re loving it.”
Informally, it appears that the project is a success. The plan is to continue offering classes at CNIB headquarters and then work on partnerships within the yoga community, to create a welcoming space for people with vision impairments.
If you’re a yoga teacher who would like to be involved in this kind of initiative in your community, you’re welcome to contact Sue at the CNIB for ideas and resources: sue.marsh-woods [at] cnib.ca
And there’s still time left to get involved with GCYS! There are a number of events happening across the country this weekend and next, in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, Charlottetown and St John’s. Come on out!