In the first part of this article, I shared some of my own experiences in teaching yoga to people who are blind or have varying degrees of vision loss. Through the application of Yoga I have witnessed an increase in their confidence, both in movement and daily living, but it wasn’t until I started to introduce the therapy balls for self-care massage that I observed significant changes in their body awareness. As this population is often unable to “see” their body, the therapy balls have provided an opportunity for them to discover, map and explore various parts of their anatomy. Some parts of their body may feel familiar, whereas others can seem disconnected or foreign; much like the difference between navigating well known surroundings such as their home as opposed to a place they are visiting for the first time.
I previously mentioned that balance is a primary concern of my students with vision loss. After all, our feet connect us with the ground and developing a stable foundation provides an opportunity to step forward with greater confidence. Many of the students have mentioned that they wear footwear pretty much all of the time as they are never sure of what they might step on. Moreover, many with vision loss suffer from diabetes, which is in fact one of the primary causes of vision loss itself and can be accompanied by nerve damage, often beginning in the extremities. As a result, footwear is not only functional but also worn for safety and to help prevent injury.
Through the use and application of therapy balls on the soles of their feet, the students immediately felt the freedom they were now provided from their constrictive footwear and their ability to explore and register the tactile senses of their feet was remarkable and incredibly well received. For example, after exploring one foot initially, I will have them check-in and assess any changes they feel and this is where “a-ha” moments have been felt and shared. Feedback of feeling “more contact with the ground,” “wider,” “stable,” and “feel I am standing taller” are just a few of their comments. One student shared a discovery from her home environment after utilizing the therapy balls and reflected upon how she could now feel changes in texture between standing on a wooden floor versus a tiled floor, whereas as previously she was unable to distinguish such nuances.
In addition to listening to the comments and feedback from my students, I have also directly observed some positive changes. For example, I have observed that with improved awareness, they now stand with more equal weight distribution over both feet and in turn, take their steps with more stability and assertiveness which has been of great benefit with standing exercises and also getting up and down from the floor. The positive improvements do not stop there; posture is also much improved and overall body confidence soars as a result. After listening to their feedback and personally witnessing such improvements, it makes total sense and is of no surprise, that rolling their feet with the use of therapy balls, is now their most common and specific exercise request.
One other key area that I would like to make mention of, is that the use of the therapy balls has clearly highlighted asymmetries in the bodies of many students. When examined further, this can often be traced back to their use of a cane, or holding the harness of their guide dog on a predominant side whilst carrying items such as bags or groceries in the other. These were asymmetries that they were often unaware of previously, but can now piece together to help them understand why they have felt various aches and pains or tension in certain areas by utilization of therapy balls and associated exercises.
There are many more aspects of therapy ball use that I could expand upon here in application to my students, but to keep this blog somewhat contained, I would like to highlight one last interesting observation. During the many years I have been teaching yoga to the blind and low vision community, I have observed that they often unconsciously tense up their facial muscles. While this occurs predominantly in students with complete blindness, it is nevertheless prevalent in most low vision students to varying degrees.
I’ve tried various techniques throughout my teachings to help release this tension, but it has been through the use of the Coregeous® ball that I have seen the greatest improvements. Initially and as I often do, I practiced exercises on myself after having attended a workshop with Jill Miller at the Yoga conference in Toronto. Realizing how relaxed and “zoned out” I felt both during and afterwards, I knew immediately that I had to introduce this to my students.
To begin, I started guiding them with a gentle shearing technique along the jaw and front of the neck. Somewhat surprisingly, the next thing I noticed was how they began to roll the inflatable ball across their entire face without guidance from me. Enlightened by this, I encouraged them to continue and proceed with what felt right. The energy in the room became rather introspective at this point and they all looked completely relaxed. I knew immediately that I was onto something great for my students. Though it takes time to change old habits and create a new normal, I continue to build upon these positive results and I’m always open to trying different methods. I am very much looking forward to taking the Yoga Tune Up® Breath and Bliss Immersion to further learn and share more down regulation techniques with my students. Perhaps a further article will be forthcoming!
What a fantastic idea: rolling feet and face for the blind. But not just for the blind. I tried it, and discovered MUCH more sensation and relaxation in both face and feet after rolling. I am particularly struck with how it helps remove that social mask we all were at times to fit a self image, or to fit requirements we perceive from the outside world. Freedom from “masking” is something all people can use. Thanks for these wonderful ideas.
Really enjoyed these two blog posts, thank you. It’s interesting to learn of all the different impacts beyond myofascial release that the ball work brings in these students, truly allowing them to embody their body.
Love yoga tune up balls, especially in the morning when l wake up l roll out my feet and gets my body moving . Movement is freedom! That is my sankalpa.
As I have aged, I have noticed that it is difficult for me to balance with my eyes closed. I wonder if any of your techniques could help me with that.
It’s awesome that you are sharing this practice with the low vision and blind community! I never thought about using the Coregeous ball to shear along the face and neck before. I’ll have to give it a try. Also, remarkable results from your students. Being able to differentiate the type of floor your student was walking on after using the therapy balls shows a huge step in proprioception.
So great to read this article and how the ball work has positively affected your sight impaired students! I have an elderly group that have all manner of impairments and lot of body blind spots but they love the texture and sensational relief from the therapy balls and the corgeous ball and how this is helping them to map their bodies and bring back sensation.
What great insights and what a gift you brought to your community of students! I love that you gave them the space to explore what felt good for them. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for sharing your experience Sue! It is really inspiring to share the ways to use RMM balls and techniques.. Reminding that gentle, slow steps can be the parts of the strongest progress. Seeing the results so fast and hearing all those good feedback means a lot.
It’s incredible what we take for granted can be so significant to someone else. This post opened my eyes to new ways the YTU balls can be used to help different groups in the community! It’s incredible!
I did not use much of coregeous ball compare to other balls. After reading this article, I will reread the information on the The Roll Ball Model for the coregeous ball. I am ready to smash my face to the ball.
This was so incredibly fascinating to me! It’s really amazing what happens when we become “a student of our bodies”! I didnt know that people with vision problems have to wear shoes all the time. I didn’t even think about it. Wow! The amount of things we take for granted in our bodies and lives is huge. Thank you for this information! Thank you for what you do! And thank you for reaffirming how amazing the therapy balls and YTU truly are!
The YTU therapy balls are the best. We often want to go for the harder balls, but sometimes less is more and I am always amazed at how much impact that soft Coregous ball packs in.
WOW! I had never even considered how amazing rolling would be for the visually impaired! Since Tune Up therapy balls are like eyes for the body I can only imagine how much they help visually impaired students SEE! Thank you so much for this article. This is yet another way Yoga Tune Up connects us all…because we are all connected just as our body is all connected.
This is so cool! I hadn’t really considered all the ways our bodies have to compensate for loss of one type of sensory input and that heightening the sense of touch could have so much impact. It makes so much sense! Thanks for sharing.
Must say that this post is my favorite that I have found in the blog section. I think its so incredibly amazing that these life changing results and changes can come from some mild therapy ball work. The level of proprioception and interoception that was gained for this community is amazing, especially with the blind/low vision population that has no way to sense their external body visually. Great post
Thank you for a great article and sharing your observations. Its inspirational to be able to help others with limitations.
I am grateful to you for sharing this wonderful experience that your students are having. I enjoyed trying using the Coregeous ball to relax my jaw and neck and can see the benefits it can have for my students as well.
Great read. My grandmother in law is suffering from macular degeneration. She has just moved into a new space and is often feeling disoriented. It would be great to offer her these gentle but effective techniques for increasing awareness in the feet (she is always in shoes) and releasing tension in the face.
Never really thought about linking foot balance to vision.. Great article and eye opening
Thank you Sue for your blog. This blog reminds me that we need to make the classes more welcoming and accommodating for special needs individuals. Closing your eyes while using a ball can be a natural step for some people allowing themselves to do some self exploration while others need guidance to remind them that this time is for them.
Wonderful article ! I find it very inspirational to be able to help people with limitations.
Thank you for offering your experience. It is really inspirational to be able to help people with limitations.
I am so glad to know that this population is getting access to their proprioception and it is having such an affect on their balance and tactile feedback. I find it interesting that the coregeous ball, with its soft skin-like texture, is allowing the facial muscles to relax. I assume that in everyday situations this tension was a result of using the face to gain additional stability.. almost like how in yoga, a teacher might cue the student to ‘relax the jaw’ or brow since it isn’t adding strength, but rather strain.
After reading this article, I tried using the balls with my eyes closed. It was much more intense. The attention went deeply in Word. I actually felt much more in tune with the experience then when my eyes are open. I also loved this idea of not following the book sometimes, and allowing the Intuit to decide where they may most be needed. It was easier to get to this intuition because my eyes were closed, which I found so interesting! I love this exploration by the author! It really expanded my awareness.
Thank you for sharing this Sue. I’m indeed beginning to introduce therapy balls and coregeous ball to my elderly students. I’m beginning to see what an impact it’s having in just a few short sessions. This blog is encouraging and I’m looking forward to reading more from you.