Jenny Monroe speaks to Beryl Moffett Yoga Instructor

Beryl Moffett
Beryl Moffett

Beryl Moffett is a yoga instructor who has adapted her classes for blind and partially sighted people. She takes these classes in the Bridge Community Centre and says it is a very rewarding job.

Beryl lives in Magheragall and is married with two grown up children. She had been going to yoga classes for over 6 years when her tutor suggested she complete a teacher training course with YFNI which she completed in 2006.

On the days I teach I do my yoga practice before breakfast and then chill out while thinking about my class plan. On a Friday I take a class of lovely friendly people, some blind, some partially sighted and some with sight. Lisburn in Focus got in touch with me a year and a half ago and asked if I’d be interested in teaching them Yoga. I was more than happy to give it a try, so after I completed a visual awareness training course I got started. I found that I learnt so much from actually teaching the class because, essentially, they taught me how to teach them.

It takes more skill and planning for me to conduct a public class with one or more blind students. It is very different from my usual classes because, instead of demonstrating the postures, I have to talk through the movements in detail. I carefully phrase my words to ensure everyone knows exactly what I mean. I am very specific in my instructions so this is why I plan well ahead. My instructions to all my students are clear, concise, and direct, giving an overview of the pose and a sense of its direction. Tactile instruction, helping the students use the correct hand or foot with accompanying phrases is helpful occasionally. If we close our eyes for just a few moments, we quickly appreciate the challenges facing blind students; they are courageous, focused, determined, and very keen. These qualities help make them sincere and alert practitioners.

Balance is a big concern for blind students. Other considerations include having a sense of reference to the surroundings and layout of the room, and the students’ position in that space relative to other students or objects.

Just as you might show your house to a visiting guest, I take the time with a new student to walk with them around the room to get their bearings. Assigning a special place in the room near a wall or chair helps them develop a greater sense of independence and self-confidence. After a few weeks everyone is settled and happy.

We centre the mind, slowly work through some postures, and then move into Pranayama.

This is the practice of Yogic breathing and promotes the controlling of the breath to reduce stress levels and promote inner calm, next comes the best bit, the relaxation.

Relaxation is the part of the class I enjoy teaching most. It calms the body and mind and the visualisation helps problems and worries float away, allowing positive thoughts to come to the fore.

This practice is most beneficial to all my students and I use smells like lemons, coffee and lavender to help make the visualisations work better especially for those students who have been blind since birth and find it hard to see a picture in their minds.

I am very proud of all the members of my class as they have become so much more flexible, confident and relaxed.

They are just incredible people. It is so good seeing them develop their strength each week and get so much from their yoga. I really enjoy my work and I am so glad to have been asked to take part in this project.