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Sign Language Yoga Classes Now Offered in NoMa

by Andrea Swalec — March 26, 2015 at 1:30 pm 0

Yoga classes designed for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are new in NoMa.

Instructor Darcy White will offer yoga sessions in sign language every Saturday at Yoga NoMa, providing guidance deaf people often miss in ordinary, inaccessible classes.

“It’s difficult to read lips in a yoga class,” she said during a web chat with Hill Now. “This class is an opportunity for the deaf/HH [hard-of-hearing] community to have 100 percent access to yoga instruction.”

Deaf since childhood, White, 34, began taking yoga classes when she was a graduate student at American University, coping with stress and back problems from lugging around a laptop. She started teaching American Sign Language yoga three years ago because she knew other deaf people also were struggling to understand every instruction.

“I’ve NEVER experienced a yoga class where I could hear what the teacher was saying,” she said. “It’s always been 100 percent relying on the teacher demonstrating poses, providing me with hands-on adjustments and watching other students in the class (which is sometimes a bit tricky if practicing next to someone who is new and not familiar with the poses :-))”

To make yoga accessible to deaf people, she gets creative — using non-verbal cues and making up some signs to describe poses like Warrior and Downward Dog.

“I typically pound on the floor (lightly), or gently dim the lights when I want [the students] to come out of a pose,” she said. “I also set up the room so that everyone can see me. If someone can’t see me, communication is lost.”

When deaf people attend an ASL yoga class for the first time, some say they had no idea they were missing key instructions in inaccessible classes.

“I’ve had … deaf students who’ve been doing yoga for a while [say] that they didn’t realize they were supposed to pay attention to certain alignment cues,” White said.

The class is open to all, but voice interpretation is not provided, said White, an Iowa native who lives near Dupont Circle and works for a public policy group. The sessions are scheduled for Saturday from 11:30 to 12:45 a.m. and cost $12 each.

White will teach other ASL yoga classes at Breathing Space Family Yoga, at 1123 Pennsylvania Ave. SE starting April 6. Those sessions will be offered Monday from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m.

Yoga NoMa, the area’s first yoga studio, opened at 1200 First St. NE in October, as Hill Now reported.

Photos courtesy of Darcy White

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