Posts Tagged ‘accessibility’
My favourite radio show, Speaking of Faith (public radio’s conversation about religion, meaning, ethics and ideas) have rebroadcast their 2006 interview with the highly inspiring yoga teacher, Matthew Sanford. I believe the show will be broadcast on public radio in the US on Sunday morning (May 30), but it’s available on their website as well.
Matthew Sanford was in a car accident when he was 13, breaking his back – among countless other bones in his body – and losing the use of his lower body. He later discovered, and went on to teach, yoga. He also published Waking, a memoir about his experience and teaching. Krista Tippett, the host of SOF, is a wonderful interviewer and she draws the best out of her subjects. They talked about the mind-body relationship, grieving, the languaging around “disability” and “ability,” and the core silence in all of us.
This is what she had to say about the experience in SOF’s weekly newsletter:
For over a quarter century, as a result of a car accident that killed his father and sister, he has been in a wheelchair. Yet I’ve rarely sat across from a person so alive, a body so palpably whole and wholly energetic as his. He has knitted his mind and body back together again over a quarter century, wresting wholeness through layers of cultural denial.
As we speak, Matthew Sanford makes me aware of the seamless cooperation of my mind and uninjured body, a synergy most of us take completely for granted. I stand up and walk as soon as the desire crosses my mind; I gesture with my hands to illustrate an idea I am passionate about; I shake my foot as my own engagement in conversation rises.
This kind of fluid connection was severed in Sanford. Yet as he struggled to come to terms with his body’s new realities during years of recovery and violent corrective surgeries, he encountered another kind of mind-body connection that our culture practices instinctively, reflexively. We celebrate those who battle adversity, triumph over obstacles, beat the odds. We love the 80-year-old man who runs a marathon, the injured hero who never gives up pursuing the technology that will enable him to walk again. This is the mind-body connection translated as a battle of will over matter.
This month is the first annual Great Canadian Yoga Stretch, a fundraising and awareness building campaign for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. It operates in a manner similar to many fundraising campaigns: participants set their “stretch goal” (anything from finishing their first yoga class to mastering a difficult pose) and ask their friends, coworkers and relatives to sponsor them as they work to achieve it.
The objective is to promote the healthy benefits of yoga and to raise money for research and programs for people with vision loss and blindness. All the funds raised will go towards fostering health and wellness in Canadians with vision loss, including nutrition counselling, independent living skills training, and fitness and exercise programs.
“I was born blind in one eye, so this event spoke to me,” said ambassador Will Blunderfield, a Vancouver-based yoga teacher and musician. “As a baby, my mother knew that there was something different about me. I had surgery when I was two years old to correct the blindness in my right eye.”
While I was scrolling around the GCYS website and researching the event, I came across some resources on yoga for people who are partially sighted or blind. I realized that I had never even considered the challenges that somebody without sight would face in a yoga class. As a yoga teacher who teaches in my community and believes in making yoga accessible to all, I was very humbled.
Talking with Will, I saw that he had a similar realization. Even though he has “recovered” from blindness, thanks to the research and programming of organizations like CNIB, he has never had partially sighted or blind people in any of his yoga classes.
“Doing events like this make me realize that yoga isn’t as accessible as it could be,” he said. “It makes me think about how we can work to include everyone.”
Will had some ideas for ways to open up the practice. “As a musician, my classes are very sound-oriented. I do my best to give clear, easy-to-understand alignment cues, and once students are in the pose, I use a lot of “feeling” and “descriptive” language (for example, “like an eagle in flight,” “triumphantly lift your heart as you lower your shoulders”). Being clear with our alignment cues and using visceral descriptive phrases I think is key for leading classes for people with vision impairment. Also encouraging the whole class to soften/close their eyes can be a unifying practice, encouraging all of us to listen more closely to both the instructions and the breath.”
I realize that the GCYS isn’t about raising money so blind people can do yoga; it’s not as simplistic about that. It’s about raising awareness about healthy living, and raising funds for a variety of programs and research for vision. However, the event has succeeded in challenging my assumptions about the accessibility and availability of yoga, and seeing that there is another population who may be in need but can’t participate because of barriers.
What you can do:
- It’s not too late to register for the GCYS!
- Check out some GCYS tips for yoga practitioners and specifically for the vision impaired.
- Make a donation to the CNIB.
- If you’d like to sponsor an individual, EcoYogini has taken on the challenge and is blogging about her experience.
A recent NY Times article profiles a new movement in yoga ~ donation-based classes. They profiled Yoga to the People, which is apparently at the forefront of this movement. Here’s what they had to say:
Yoga is definitely big business these days. A 2008 poll, commissioned by Yoga Journal, concluded that the number of people doing yoga had declined from 16.5 million in 2004 to 15.8 million almost four years later. But the poll also estimated that the actual spending on yoga classes and products had almost doubled in that same period, from $2.95 billion to $5.7 billion.
“The irony is that yoga, and spiritual ideals for which it stands, have become the ultimate commodity,” Mark Singleton, the author of “Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice,” wrote in an e-mail message this week. “Spirituality is a style, and the ‘rock star’ yoga teachers are the style gurus.”
Well, maybe it is the recession, but some yogis are now saying “Peace out” to all that. There’s a brewing resistance to the expense, the cult of personality, the membership fees. At the forefront of the movement is Yoga to the People, which opened its first studio in 2006 in the East Village on St. Marks Place, with a contribution-only, pay-what-you-can fee structure. The manifesto is on the opening page of its Web site, yogatothepeople.com: “There will be no correct clothes, There will be no proper payment, There will be no right answers … No ego no script no pedestals.”
One more thing: There are no “glorified” teachers or star yogis. You can’t even find out who is teaching which class when, or reserve a spot with a specific instructor. [Yoga's New Wave, NY Times]
As most of you know, I am a big fan of donation-based – or “pay-what-you-can,” “contribution-based,” or as I prefer, “pay-what-you-wish” – yoga (read just how subversive and awesome I think it is here). I am all for dismantling the dominant hegemony of rock star teachers, expensive class fees and designer clothes/accessories/products. However, I’m not convinced that YTTP (which, with studios in NYC, Berkeley and San Francisco, is evolving into a bit of a franchise), offers a better model. Continue Reading
We all know yoga is a life-long practice, but every now and then we can use a little inspiration. CNN just profiled some of “America’s oldest workers” and among them is 91-year-old yoga teacher, Tao Porchon-Lynch of White Plains, NY.
“I’m not going to give up,” she says. “I’m going to dance and do yoga for as long as I live.” She has been teaching yoga since the 70s and has certified 400 teacher trainees. Watch her strut her stuff on the yoga mat and the dance floor in this great video clip.
Last year, Australian yoga “supergran” Bette Calman, age 83, made waves around the interwebs with her crazy inversions, pink nylon track suit and pearl earrings. Personally, I can’t get enough of these kinds of stories. The more diversity I see in the yoga world, the better! And not only do I want to still be rocking the asanas when I’m an octogenarian, but I hope I have the youthful glow and stylish coiffe of both these ladies!
So y’all might have noticed that I’ve been avoiding any mention of the Olympics. First of all, I just can’t keep up with all the athletes who do yoga as part of their training routines (and YogaDork is doing a great job of covering that angle). Second, I don’t really care about major sporting events (with the exception of the FIFA World Cup, which I love) or big displays of nationalism and corporate sponsorship. And third, as a BC girl who has watched the province transform in the years leading up to the event, I have some ethical problems with the Olympics (look to The Tyee and The Dominion for excellent alternative coverage).
Nevertheless, I think it’s great that Lululemon has jumped on the Olympics cheer bandwagon and has been offering free yoga classes all over Vancouver since the beginning of the games (working their way around copyright/trademark restrictions by using “cool global sporting event” instead). Apparently, over 11,000 people have taken advantage of these classes. As a Lululemon store manager notes, “Yoga is a big part of the city’s culture. Yoga has made Vancouver mellow.” (Interesting ~ I thought it was the strong BC sweetleaf.)
She also reveals some little known facts about the yoga culture in Vancouver, which has an estimated 20,000 regular practitioners, most of them female. Apparently: “There are yoga mats that indicate if the person is single and available. But in Vancouver, people also signal if they’re available by using a certain kind of shopping cart at Whole Foods. It’s that kind of city.”
Wha, seriously? Are there any Vancouver-ites who can attest to the accuracy of this claim? And does anybody out there know the yoga mat code for single and available?
[via USA Today]