I have no recollections of normal hearing…
A high fever fried the auditory nerves when I was a year old. A powerful little hearing aid processes sound for the few functioning nerves in my left ear. The right ear is dead. I learned from an early age to make use of what I have.
Thanks to my family’s determination, I grew up speaking in five languages. They encouraged me to read lips. They taught me how to appreciate music and play the piano. They enrolled me in gymnastics when I pointed at the TV showing Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10 in the 1976 Olympics. My gymnastics teacher incorporated yoga in the classes. One day, my grandmother showed me a yogi on TV. I imitated his postures and was hooked. Through physical movements that require awareness and concentration, I learned to listen to—and with—my body.
For more than eleven years as a yoga teacher, I have been listening to other people’s bodies. Stress in their tight shoulders. Fear in their tight hips. Their locked knees betray their legs’ desire for grounding security. Their weak core muscles yearn to fly. Their breath expands and retracts their ribs. The bliss on my students’ post-savasana face.
My students know their teacher is profoundly deaf.
My name is Amy Dara. One thing you should know about me is that I have a hearing loss. If you are faced down or turned away from me, and you need to communicate with me, please feel free to come out of the pose to a comfortable point so that I can read your lips.
I speak these words calmly with a smile. My students sense their teacher’s confidence. She is comfortable in her skin. Leading by example while guiding my students through the yoga practice, I encourage my students to be thankful for what they’ve got.
Every year in my classes, during Thanksgiving week, the yoga students hear the song, Be Thankful For What You’ve Got by Massive Attack:
You may not have a car at all
But just remember, brothers and sisters,
You can still stand tall
Just be thankful for what you’ve got
What you’ve got may surprise others. Many eyebrows raise upon hearing me speak to a foreign student in their native tongue. I smoothly run the wooden mallet around my Tibetan singing bowl’s rim to coax my students out of savasana. After class, students ask what cool song played on my iPod. Occasionally, a student attempts to communicate with me through sign language.
You know more sign language than I do, I smile apologetically.
I do not rest on my laurels. Living with deafness means facing daily challenges and frustrations. I work harder than my counterparts to prove myself equally—if not more—capable and knowledgeable, especially where seeking work is concerned. The telephone continues to be a loathsome necessity, exhausting to use since I cannot read the lips of the person on the other end of the call. The recent technological advances facilitate communication for people with a hearing loss. I always appreciate people’s thoughtfulness in contacting me through e-mail or a text message. I am especially grateful when my employers and clients look past my hearing loss to utilize my valuable skills to help everyone heal and grow.
To quote Mark Ross, Ph.D., when someone in the family has a hearing loss, the entire family has a hearing problem. But must we view one person’s deafness as a problem? Why not turn it into a positive entity, and lead by example to encourage people to accept themselves for who and what they are?
What you’ve got may surprise yourself. Be thankful.
Amy Dara Hochberg, E-RYT, BSPT, MS-HPM, has been teaching yoga in five languages in three cities for eleven years. More information about Amy Dara’s work can be found at www.amydara.com.