There hardly exists a symbiosis between my ears and new experiences. And what I mean by that is when I start or learn something new at my age, my hearing loss is first and foremost my biggest concern as a possible barrier to success. Whether that means retaining information, missing social cues, or the act of listening. Like most individuals with moderate to severe hearing loss, my brain works overtime to process not just sounds, but the information flowing through my body. It can result in feelings of defeat, insecurity, and exhaustion. Or I can adapt, continue to be open and up front about my lack of auditory skills, and power through with the knowledge I have always had by my side: that making excuses is not an option.
So, in January, when I finally decided to transition from a 10-year fitness regimen that had hit a plateau to enter the world of yoga, I quickly realized the small, peaceful yoga studio that I joined in my town wouldn’t just be my Shangri-La, but also a completely new experience my hearing would have to contend with.
There’s no allegory in the situation I found myself in. I suffered a minor ski injury in November that hindered my ability to work out for two months, so by the second week in January my urge to get out of post-Christmas lazy fuckery had long since peaked. I badly I wanted to jump right in and try yoga. I knew it was for me. Plus, at the onset I could see the female-to-male ratio was way off kilter and the stereotype ringing true for meeting attractive women garnered an extra plus in my decision. It was either I suck it up with low-talking teachers, quit entirely and go back to working out with lifeless, metal machines, or strategically navigate the waters my course had chartered into.
It was tricky from the start. I had never done yoga before and the first few teachers talked softly. I followed every pose by sight. Add the early darkness of the winter into the equation and I was basically flying deaf and blind.
Thankfully, this particular studio employs dozens of teachers and offers a variety of schedules. The flexibility in my job allows me to work remotely, so I feel fortunate to be able to go to a Tuesday afternoon class if I so desire.
I soon discovered I’m pretty good at yoga, and flexible. I picked it up quickly. More importantly, I narrowed down the best-sounding teachers — which happen to be some of my favorite in regards to their specific practices — and typically attend only their classes.
Then something happened.
Nothing bad, but a little reaffirming.
One of my top three sounding teachers — and she projects amazingly well when she instructs — moseyed over to my side of the room during her full Saturday morning class. We sort of have a rapport now since we bumped into each other at Target and I met her adorable kids. I’ve learned to feel comfortable in allowing a teacher like her to adjust my pose — if you want to call it that — when I’m doing something wrong or something doesn’t seem quite right.
Anyway, she came over to help me with whatever I was doing. She started whispering. She was standing right next to me and whispering instructions, which means I should have heard what she was saying. But I didn’t. So she physically adjusted me to correct the pose.
A recurring question that comes up amongst friends and peers from time to time is how my hearing loss differentiates and reacts between tone and volume. This comes up when I might complain how a certain music recording sounds (poor, excellent, small intricacies, shoddy or overloud remastering… I do notice them all) or the environment we find ourselves in. This particular scenario with my yoga teacher was purely environmental and I have been dealing with it my entire life. I knew she was saying something to me, but even at my age my brain couldn’t piece together the words. I really wanted her to project in her normal speaking voice, but decided to tell her after the class ended.
(Hearing loss can not only be a barrier to learning and flourishing in new experiences, but more importantly, developing relationships with actual humans!)
My teacher approached me after everyone had left to ask if she could show me what I was doing wrong. She also expressed concern that I might have felt uncomfortable when she attempted the adjustment during class. I quickly reassured her that was not the case as I simply couldn’t hear what she was saying. I gave a very brief background of what I was dealing with in regards to learning yoga with hearing problems and that I quickly overcame the issues like I’ve done in so many other areas of my life. She responded kindly, “I’m so glad you told me!”