By Marty Klein
Last week I was a keynote speaker at a conference in Austin, Texas, where I got to talk about the benefits of yoga and movement to a wonderful group of orientation and mobility instructors from all over the state of Texas. The experience was fun and enriching, and hopefully they all learned a few things from me and my presentation.
The participants were warm and friendly, as was the staff from the Texas School for the Blind and visually Impaired. My challenge was not just to show them how yoga has helped me reclaim and sustain a healthy body over the years, but to impress upon them how important it would be for their visually impaired students to embrace yoga. “It all takes place, right there, on the yoga mat,” I enthusiastically told them. “This little two foot by six foot piece of rubber has made it possible for so many blind people to feel safe, as they slowly integrate the gifts of yoga into their lives.”
To be honest, I don’t know how effective I was in getting my point across, but I did my best. One man came up to me after one of the break out sessions and told me that he was inspired to start a yoga program. He said he hoped to be in as good a shape as I was when he reached my age. Others asked questions about how to teach yoga to little children who don’t really want to sit still. I told them to play more with the blind child rather than to try to discipline the kids into rigidly following them. “If you can get the kids to have fun while learning a few yoga postures, well you are basically doing well. Kids might not want to learn yoga at a young age, but they all love to move their bodies.
Another woman asked about the conflict between yoga and religion. Some people believe that yoga is a religious practice, and if they get into yoga they may need to give up their religion. I told them that is not true at all. Yoga is a wonderful practice that helps the body and mind stay vibrant. But yoga is not a religion. I explained that you can call it whatever you want. It’s all about body awareness, and the focus is on health and well-being.
Except for a nasty cold and a frustrating time at the airport, I really enjoyed the conference. There are some wonderful people in Texas who are doing meaningful work for the blind and visually impaired. They do not make a lot of money, yet they are committed and compassionate. When I left Austin I felt humbled and a little sad to say good-bye. I love getting the opportunity to share what I have learned.
Marty shared this letter after speaking for the Pre-Conference of SWOMA; you can find out more about Marty and his yoga program for individual who are blind and visually impaired by visiting Marty's Web site at http://blindyoga.net