Teaching yoga to the deaf community has been an incredibly humbling experience – Haleigh Forbes

Yoga For People Heroes Series 
Haleigh Forbes
I moved to SLC, UT when I was 22 from Baltimore, MD. I love traveling and spending time outside. In addition to practicing and teaching yoga, I work for a yoga clothing line. I live here with my husband, our son, and our two dogs (all of them happen to love the outdoors too!) I also write for MindBodyGreen online, and have a wild affection for elephants and Costa Rica.
For me, Yoga is sanity, strength, love and devotion. Yoga brings worlds together, whether it is my own mind and body that need to come together, or different people and cultures. Yoga keeps me sane and genuinely happy. Yoga is a great source of strength, both physically, spiritually and mentally. My practice is a devotion to myself; past, present and future. And my teaching is a devotion for those that take my class.

I wanted to be involved with something that has nothing to do with money. All day long we are surrounded by money and what money can provide us. As a volunteer yoga teacher, my only responsibility is to provide yoga to the community, free for everyone, because yoga should be  open to everyone.
When Santosh offered me the experience to teach at a Deaf Community Center, I jumped on the opportunity.  I had been wanting to get involved with a volunteer program, and I knew this was going to be a challenging experience. I researched everything I could about teaching yoga to deaf and hard of hearing students. When I teach yoga, I never come prepared with a set sequence, because I like to get a feel of the energy and what needs to be practiced. However, teaching my first deaf yoga class, I knew it would be a train wreck if I didn’t come with a plan.  You are forced to think about things, you never have to otherwise. The fact that many poses, leave people in a position where you can’t see the teacher. So you can either only practice poses, where the focus is forward, or come up with a way of getting the students attention while they are not looking at you. I thought about every single aspect I could, not being deaf myself, and went to class with a hope and a prayer, and a smidgen of confidence.
What I hadn’t considered, is no matter how terrible I was at teaching deaf people yoga, they were just happy I was there, willing to try. The class went surprisingly smooth, with only a few hiccups. I learned that my initial attempt to use the interpreter as little as possible, was not going to work and I conceded.  Maybe in time, we will establish a rhythm with this group, and we won’t need to interpret as much, but until then, I am glad she is there. Even the students would often stop and ask me questions about alignment, or the breath. I thoroughly enjoyed how interested they were in the experience, and they all came back for the second class! That goes down as a success.
Teaching yoga to the deaf community has been an incredibly humbling experience. You can get into a rhythm as a yoga teacher and how you teach. This class has forced me to think about how I explain every little detail of every pose. How can I explain it in the most succinct, yet descriptive way? Which direction will they be looking 5 breaths from now, and how do I get their attention back? What is the English translation for this pose (because I am certainly not going to make the interpreter  translate sanskrit)? What is the sign for tree?
I know that this class is making me a better yoga teacher, both for the deaf, and those that hear. Part of practicing Yoga as a lifestyle is devotion. I get to devote myself to this community, and to this particular practice, and it fills me with gratitude. Gratitude for this life, and for what I get to share with others, and for what I learn from others. I am truly grateful for this experience and for Yoga For People.