Teaching Ashtanga to the blind — and studying the effects

We’ve pointed readers in the direction of Pam Jeter — forgive me, Dr. Pam Jeter — before. She and Bobbie went to Tulum together for Tim Miller’s workshop there and both studied with Diana Christensen. We even ran into Pam during our weekend in New York for the Robert Moses/Eddie Stern workshop.

Pam is studying the effects of yoga — and Ashtanga specifically — on the blind. She’s in Baltimore now, and a local studio there has a quick Q&A with her:

So your research is the first of its kind?

Yes, to my knowledge.  My specific research evaluates yoga as therapy for symptoms related to vision loss, such as balance impairment and stress.  Despite the fact that the blind population is increasingly seeking out yoga as a treatment for stress, anxiety, and overall physical and emotional well being, it has not been systematically studied for safety and efficacy in this clinical population.  Many people have asked, “Why do we need research? I know that yoga makes me feel good.”  Research is important for working with clinical populations.  For example, we hope that in the future, insurance companies that require evidence of effectiveness will provide coverage for those that need the healing benefits of yoga the most.  Yoga therapy and research is growing and the medical community is getting more involved but funding is still hard to come by.  I am so thankful for this opportunity and for my supervisor who has taking a strong interest in my research and has really helped support me through this whole process.

Why did you specifically choose Ashtanga for your study?

Ashtanga is an integrated system of asana, movement and breath.  Ashtanga is very accessible to any population when taught with its traditional intent, practicing movement with steady breathing.  If you lose the breath, then the posture is incorrect.  In this sense, practicing asana becomes the vehicle for teaching proper breathing techniques.   Strength and flexibility come as a result of regular practice.   We are also taught to cultivate inner focus through our ‘drishti’.  For blind students, instead of a visual focus point, they can use the sound of the breath as their Drishti to cultivate inner focus.   When it comes to visually impaired conditions, we all want to find a cure but we also need to focus on the many symptoms related to vision loss.

Click the link to find out more, including why she’s doing this research.

Also, if the past few days have seemed a bit better than usual, Tim Miller has some astrological reasons why that might be in his post this week.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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