Updated: Sep 9, 2019
As a took a survey of my students in the summer class, I couldn't help but notice that one student was sitting quietly on her mat, with her cane not too far away. "How am I going to be able to each a visually impaired student? I've never done this before." were the thoughts racing through my head. I soon came to realize that vision is not necessary on the mat.
For many students, a yoga teacher demonstrating is a must. However, as teachers, we are taught to be descriptive in our cues, watch our students as they move through each asana (pose), and adjust as necessary. Unfortunately, in the midst of one student watching the other, that connection to actively listen, and be present in the moment is lost. However, that is not the case for those that are visually impaired. These students are easily able to turn their focus, and attention, inward, holding poses that are generally difficult for others (e.g., vrikshasana - tree pose), and sitting quietly, longer, in stillness for meditation. While there is always the occasional "Am I doing this right?," it's not any different from a sighted student asking the same.
Having a visually impaired student taught me two valuable lessons:
1 - Be more descriptive in your cues so students are less inclined to look at others and focus more on the asana.
2 - Focus inward - sight is not necessary on the mat.
The most profound purpose of yoga is to quiet the mind, slow the breath, and focus our attention inward to understand the subtle beauty of our soul and our connection to the Divine. When we are able to look past the designer yoga pants, $100 mats, and stop comparing ourselves to the student next to us who has mastered the astavakrasana (eight-angled pose dedicated to Sage Astavakra), only then can we truly embody the second line in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras:
"Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah” ("Yoga is stilling the fluctuations of the mind”).