I have been a yoga practitioner for a long time now. I started in my teenage years (I am in my 30s now) and became a certified yoga teacher in 2015. I was so passionate about teaching yoga because I have practiced for so long and my teachers were all Ayurveda and naturopathy doctors, and brahmacharis, the disciple (or sanskaras) was imbibed in my DNA by now. I was ready for anything! Boy! I was wrong!
One day my client asked me to teach at her organization. A school for children with visual disability. By now you (reader) can tell that I am an excitable being. I loved the challenge and I said YES! I would love to work with children. So, next day I took the blue line metro from Dwarka to Noida ( 90 minutes ride) to reach the school. I met with the principal of the school. Extremely sweet and kind lady (unlike other principals- the scary, bossy, intimidating kinds). She gave me a brief about the children I will be working with and the kind of limitations and challenges that I might face.
- Children are visually impaired and have lower IQs
- Children need body confidence. I had to teach them yoga to become confident about themselves.
- Teach in Hindi ( my schooling and education is all in English)
In the real sense of the world (meri phatt gayi thi). My heart was racing, my guards were out, monsters in my head were screaming-RUN AWAY FROM HERE and the confidence had left my body. I guess the Principal saw me turn pale and she smiled and said let’s meet the children.
I was shown the small hall on the first floor of the building. I waited at the door for children to come. I saw them climbing up the stairs, hands sliding on the walls, cautious small steps, some holding hands and lots of chatter and laughter. The sight filled my throat with a lump. Children neatly took of their shoes outside the hall and walked in. The teacher introduced me. Children were excited. I was nervous beyond imagination.
I said hello to them, introduced myself and they were all smiling. I asked them to introduce themselves, they randomly took turns. they all bantered each other and that eased me out a little.
Now I have thought yoga to young, old, flexible, stiff, men, women, children, students but they all had eyes. This excited bunch of flowers can not see me. They are smiling with their full set of teeth at me with excitement and I can not use my standard instruction with them – ‘Look at me and see how to practice’.
Day 1. we set rules- arms up, arms out, arms in front, arms at back, lock the fingers, one big step forward, hands on the hips, turn the head, tilt the head, chin up, chin down and so on.
Next few days- we learn to warm up with sukshma vyayama and chant Om
By the end of the month- children were not sliding the hand on the wall for climbing stairs, they sat with their spine straight, they learned to listen and take multiple instructions, they could do surya namaskar and anuloma viloma pranayama.
Teaching yoga to children with visual disability was a humbling experience. They felt me and not just saw me. Their questions were curiously honest about how to lift the arms and they wanted me to validate if they looked good. Hindi was not a problem. They wanted to learn English and we somehow sailed the boat together.
I will never forget those beautiful days spent with children who felt me. They knew where I was standing, they knew when I entered the hall.
Maybe you don’t need eyes to feel.