Disability Friendly Yoga: Sheila Fox Tam’s story and tips on practice as a hearing impaired yoga student.
I started practicing at ‘Om on the Range’ over 10 years ago after giving birth to my first child. I felt clumsy meandering into their yoga studio post-partum with a hearing impairment but Beth made me feel right at home.
Beyond my physical concerns, I explained that I wore a hearing aid (I changed to a cochlear implant 3 years ago) and was worried the device might get wet and stop working during the heated class. Beth was very confident I would be fine and her gentle reassurances gave me the courage to try.
We did some talking to establish my boundaries:
- Would I feel comfortable with her touching my body?
- Would I do better in certain parts of the room?
- Was there anything important she needed to know about my physical health?
- Should she modify the tone of her voice?
- Would it be more helpful for me to be able to see her?
Modifications are very common in successful yoga studios and so it came very naturally for Beth to acclimate to my needs during our yoga classes. I found it helpful when she would move into my field of vision when demonstrating a pose and appreciated when she put her hands on my body to guide me in the direction of her verbal cues.
Beth was always available before or after class to discuss if there was any aspect of the class that worked or didn’t work for me and this created a trust for successful communication. Terry and I had a very similar rapport and when I asked him how he sees himself helping me he said he always keeps an eye on me and I knew what he meant.
Being underneath the watchful eyes of Beth & Terry is like feeling so cared for that you can trust yourself to let go of any insecurities you might have (in my case a hearing loss) and open up to your true possibilities. There were of course times when my implant receiver got so wet it stopped working and I went ‘radio silent’ the entire class. When this first happened a number of years ago, I wanted to crawl into a hole and leave the class immediately but now I just shrug it off and go with the flow. All I need to know is inside me and if I forget, I’ll figure out something new, a motto I have now come to live by in my daily life.
Planning for your visit
Om on the Range yoga studio admittedly is not for everyone. The studio is hot, heated to just below 100 degrees year round, and the yoga sequences are powerful and physically demanding. However, for those that find their niche at ‘Om’, as many regulars call it, it becomes a habit of life. If you’re up for a challenge, drop in and roll out your mat, you’ll be glad you found this neighborhood treasure. You just never know what you might find.
Keep in mind this is a very demanding style of yoga. You should always call ahead to ask questions and make sure this is the right type of practice for your physical health and always make sure you are being supported by the advice of your doctor.
What to bring?
- Light clothing (men usually go shirtless and wear shorts or a swim suit, ladies usually wear a yoga top/yoga pants…you do sweat a lot so less is more)
- Yoga mat
- Towel (beach-sized towel or yoga towel to cover your mat so you don’t slip as you sweat)
- Water bottle
- A set of dry clothes to wear home!
In A Nutshell
Om on the Range (map)
3759 N Ravenswood Ave #125,
Chicago, IL 60613
Tel: 773 525 9642
CTA: Irving Park or Addison Brown Line 2 blocks away
CTA: Bus #9 Ashland is 4 blocks away
Plenty of street parking. Bike racks available inside the building
About the Author
Sheila Fox Tam is an RYT (registered yoga teacher) and is currently working to finish up her licensing requirements to become an LMT (licensed massage therapist). She’s had a hearing loss since the age of 10 in both ears and after years of wearing hearing aids, underwent surgery for a cochlear implant in her left ear.
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