We spoke to Dave Mulligan, a Henshaws service user who has sight loss to find out why he is taking on a 900 mile walk along the length of Britain, fundraising for Henshaws.
The life-changing impact of yoga for visually impaired people; Diane’s Story
Yoga has amazing physical and mental health benefits for anyone, but can be particularly beneficial for visually impaired people, as the building of core strength can help reduce the likelihood of falls. Diane shares her story of how yoga has changed her life, and yoga teacher Rosanna provides advice for anyone feeling nervous about giving it a go.
After working for 16 years as a midwife, Diane’s life changed forever. Whilst chatting with her family eight years ago, Diane described feeling ‘a bit odd’. She doesn’t recall much more about what happened next. After quick intervention from the emergency service, Diane was diagnosed with a brain haemorrhage and was operated on immediately. It became apparent after a few days that Diane’s vision had been affected, and it was confirmed that she had severe and irreversible sight loss.
Diane was then introduced to Henshaws and the support available for people living with sight loss in Liverpool. She wanted something to challenge her mind, so she joined the Braille group and enrolled on a computer course. She says:
“Henshaws helped me get back into some kind of routine. I had retired from work, so coming here has been really useful. You can feel lost after retirement, and you don’t what to do with yourself. Coming to Henshaws has given me an extra purpose.”
During these visits to the centre, she was encouraged to try a yoga session, which was the beginning of a whole new experience. Yoga is an ancient form of exercise which can increase flexibility and muscle strength, and help to improve posture and alignment. Diane was aware of the physical benefits of yoga, but it was the benefits to her mental well-being that she found to be equally beneficial. Diane enjoys the meditation aspect at the end of the session, which teaches her to breathe properly and helps her to focus and clear her mind.
“No matter what life throws at you, and no matter how busy your life is, when you go to yoga your worries and woes disappear for that hour, and you only think about the moment you are in. After my weekly sessions, I feel uplifted - both physically and mentally. It feels like I’ve been stretched and lengthened – in a good way! – and the relaxation has most definitely improved my sleep pattern.”
Henshaws Yoga Sessions are run by Rosanna, a qualified yoga tutor, and the classes are adapted so that each move can be followed by verbal instruction alone. Rosanna explains the moves simply, stage by stage until members achieve the pose, and giving additional support when needed to help the ‘yogis’ achieve the position.
Rosanna (@Rosanna_Yoga) kindly shares her top advice for anyone wanting to start the ancient form of exercise below:
Advice for someone with a visual impairment who wants to try yoga but is unsure/nervous
1. Give it a go even if you’re unsure/nervous, the class is adapted to suit your needs and partly performed in a chair/levels that you can access.
2. Clear verbal instructions are given so you can follow without needing to see the instructor/yoga poses. Rely on these instructions and sensations you can feel in your body and mind.
3. Forget the ‘gym yoga’ sessions you’ve seen or heard about. This is not a strenuous workout, but a gentle stretch for everybody. We perform yoga breathing exercises and relaxation techniques too to feel stronger, fitter and calmer.
4. Have fun with it! You’re often surprised at how much you can achieve. Let the mat be a place of peacefulness and enjoyment at the same time.
5. Celebrate your personal progress – when you’re able to stand on your toes with arms raised, focus your mind on the present moment by connecting with your breath, stretch all the aches and pains in your back feeling better.
Henshaws Yoga Sessions for visually impaired people are held every Monday in Liverpool and Manchester. For further information or to book your place, please call Henshaws on 0300 222 5555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Explore our other blogs on exercise
We can't do it without you
Henshaws rely on voluntary donations; our work just wouldn’t be possible without people like you. Your support empowers local people living with sight loss and a range of other disabilities to increase their independence, achieve their dreams, and go beyond expectations.