The benefits of Yoga for the blind

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My name is Elisabetta and I have been practiving Yoga for many years under the guidance of several teachers. I started this practice after the meeting with the French Benedictine Father Jean Marie Déchanet, founder of Christian Yoga.

He was the one who brought postures, pranayamas and meditation formulas from the East, blending them harmoniously to arrive at profound prayer. I met that Benedictine monk, of which I became a disciple, at the beginning of the Seventies in his hermitage of Valjouffrey, in Val d’Isère (France) and I can say that thanks to Yoga I found the strength to say “Yes to Life” .

That day in the spring of many years ago I was a desperate girl, full of complexes and fears, since I had just lost my sight but up there, in that mountain hermitage, I felt life deeply in my heart again, a door it opened and I started a way. The way of silence, the path of Yoga that led me to realize both on the psycho-physical and on the spiritual level.

Yoga has become for me, since those distant days, a way of ascesis that still lasts today. Yoga is a way for me that through various positions, breathing exercises, meditation leads me, more and more, to sink into the “cave of the heart” where the true, profound, authentic emotions reside.

Through the breath I release the tensions and I can concentrate on the “here and now”, while during the asanas and the meditation I get to quiet the mind and the heart.

Thanks to Yoga I can harmoniously match the three components of my being: body, mind and heart. Many changes have occurred in my life and now, having reached a mature age, I am collecting all the fruits that Yoga has given me. My path has lasted for almost forty years.

About ten years ago I also graduated as a teacher at the school S.F.I.D.Y. of Milan directed by Claudio Conte and affiliated to the French Federation of Yoga.

One may ask “How does a blind person practice Yoga?”
To give an answer, I would like to say first of all that the training school, which lasted four years, was for me a moment of growth, both physical and psychological, and I understood that Yoga must be brought into life, as well as practicing it on the mat. I must also say that there were moments of difficulty, linked to the visual handicap, but I overcame them with good will. I realized that you can do everything, even with your eyes closed, if you can concentrate, to be present at “here and now” and to have a greater awareness of your body and your breathing.

I am deeply convinced that for those who do not see it is very important to be aware of one’s body, to feel it, to listen to it, to love it. One must arrive, in a certain way, to “see” with the body.

This applies to all positions, but above all to some, such as balance, in which the work is important. When, however, thanks to the gaze you can not project awareness outwardly, it is possible to maintain a balanced position even with closed eyes, supporting slightly to a wall or a chair.

To those who ask me if the disability sets limits to the practice, I answer that there are none, even if there are some slight difficulties. Here is my opinion: “After all, most postures are performed with eyes closed even by those who see!”

I conclude by saying that Yoga must lead the adept towards self-fulfillment and the encounter with the Divine in the depths of his being, even though it is not a religion.

Elisabetta Vianello.

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