Sign Language Yoga Studio Empowers People Who are Hearing Impaired

Signing yogis’ classes are transforming many lives.

Aug 6, 2020

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Yoga, an ancient art that combines breath work and stretching, originated in Ancient India some 5,000 years ago. It has since spread across the world to many cultures, using postures to enhance physical, mental, and spiritual health. In the last few years, yoga has been “stretching,” offering classes dedicated to the hearing impaired.

The majority of yoga classes are based on a model in which students learn by listening to their teacher’s instructions. As many yoga positions limit the ability to see the teacher, hearing-impaired participants who rely on lipreading or sign language are left on their own during a class.

In the past ten years, hearing-impaired yoga instructors in the US and the UK have started to offer visual yoga classes. As these are only available in a few locations, there is still a great need. 

Recognizing this desire for yoga classes that are accessible to people who are hearing-impaired, one British yoga studio is determined to help fill the lack.

Bethaney Mouzer, a yoga instructor and certified British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter launched Sign Yoga in 2019, with the goal of bringing yoga to people for whom the practice may have previously been off-limits.

Mouzer, who was born to non-hearing parents, is used to straddling two worlds. While she is not hard of hearing, her first language is BSL and she identifies as being part of the hearing-impaired community. After becoming a yoga teacher in 2015, she fielded requests from many people who were interested in yoga, but struggled to find teachers to accommodate their needs.

In an interview with the blog The Limping Chicken, Mouzer said, “I talked to the [hearing impaired] community about yoga and always had the same response – that it’s difficult to access due to communication barriers and not being able to follow the teacher.”

At first Mouzer started out small, holding single-day workshops at local studios in Birmingham and Worcester, where she signed continuously throughout the classes. The sessions were an immediate hit, and Mouzer began posting classes online via a Facebook page called Sign Yoga. Finally, once there was enough demand, Mouzer also started teaching in London.

Today, Sign Yoga is a mostly online venture, with live Zoom classes and pre-recorded lessons accessible to students, as well as occasional in-person classes held in local parks. Mouzer has also hosted intensive yoga retreats for her students and ran a Deaf Accessible Yoga Teacher Training workshop in May.

Breish Rowe, who is hearing impaired, spoke to Soul Talk News about how the Sign Yoga retreat she attended transformed her life.  “I left that weekend feeling calmer than I have in a long time,” she said. “As someone who struggles with anxiety, I can say that I’ve finally found something that works for me, that has literally changed my life.”

Mouzer is especially conscious of many aspects of access that people from the hearing community may not have considered. “Some places have an intercom, which is an automatic barrier for a deaf person as soon as they arrive,” she said to Positive News

“If any community’s going to stand up for diversity and accessibility, it should be yoga,” she added. “In an ideal world, I just want deaf people to be able to go to a yoga studio and feel confident, comfortable – and just enjoy what yoga is all about,” Mouzer told Positive News.

 
 
 
 
 
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In the UK, there are now rock-climbing classes, martial arts, tennis lessons as well as signed yoga classes. Thanks to the dedication of Bethaney Mouzer and other teachers,  the yoga world is becoming more flexible and the hearing impaired are reaping its amazing health benefits.

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LAUREN MARCUS, CONTRIBUTOR
Fascinated by storytelling since childhood, Lauren is passionate about the written word. She’s a freelance writer who has covered everything from the latest developments in tech to geopolitics. When she’s not writing, Lauren is interested in genealogical research and family folklore.