This year I have been trying something else new. Last year I started trampolining and this year I am trying out yoga for the first time. I have never been interested in yoga at all, but since I have been trampolining I love exercise. I never thought I would say that because I absolutely hated PE at school. I only liked it when we did trampolining. Last year though I came to realise that if you choose the right thing for you, exercise can feel so good. For me it’s not about doing it to lose weight, or beating my personal best, it’s about improving my general health. You don’t realise how much your muscles tense up when you don’t exercise, even just having one week away from the trampoline and I can feel a difference. It’s not a good one. I love the feeling the day after when I am really achy, but at the same time, I feel like I could do it all again.
At this moment in time, trampolining is a bit too risky with my health. Even though I have been managing well, I don’t want to push my luck. I am gutted about it, I can’t wait until I can go again, and I will definitely go back. But for now, I need something less risky. Something where I am less likely to injure myself. If I fell off a yoga mat I would go with a lot less of a splat than falling off a trampoline! Like I said I have never really had an interest in yoga at all, but when I saw the Inbetweeners Club were doing it at SRSB I thought I would give it a go.
At the start of every session we lay on our backs on the yoga mat for a few minutes, just thinking. The teacher Catherine tells us to focus on all of the areas that are achy, painful, or just need a little bit of attention. In the first session my back and hips where really aching and I just couldn’t wait to get up. I also had my hair up in a ponytail, so laying on it messed it all up. I know not to do that again, I put my bobble lower down now! I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but Catherine was really informative. She explained the poses very well, so we didn’t need to see her. She works for Yoga Quota who do yoga with people who have disabilities and health problems. They make it accessible so that everybody is able to do it. If I couldn’t do one pose, Catherine changes it so that I am still working the same muscles, but in a different way. I felt sorry for the few people who could do the poses correctly, they were in that position for ages while Catherine made adaptations for the rest of us. When we did poses that involved kneeling I could not do them at all, because my knees hurt too much, I kept trying, but I just couldn’t kneel for more than a few seconds. I do have problems with the muscles around my knees and hips though. When we sat on the floor I could feel every single bone and it was so uncomfortable, the floor was so hard and flat! I can’t believe I used to be a nursery nurse. Most of my day was spent on the floor and crawling around when I did that job. These days my body just can’t handle the floor.
At the end of the first session we laid back on the mats, like at the beginning. We were told to think again about the work we had done, the areas that were hurting at the start and how they feel now. My back was a lot less achy at the end than it was at the start. So even just that one session had made a difference.
The day after, my legs ached, my hips ached and my shoulders ached. I didn’t even think I had done much with my shoulders. That’s the thing, exercise doesn’t have to be painful, or uncomfortable. When I go trampolining I am completely pain free, until the day after. Even just doing stretches can loosen you up and improve your circulation. I am far from fit, so don’t mistake me for a super lean fitness queen, because I’m not at all. I do need to exercise a lot more than I do, but this is just a few things I have learnt over the past year or so.
I have been to three sessions of yoga so far and I am getting better at it. Yesterday Catherine told me that I am really getting the hang of it, I knew what move was coming next and I noticed that my leg had moved and wasn’t straight enough. I am finding the hard, flat floor a lot easier to sit on, and I am able to kneel for longer. Still not long, but maybe nearer a minute rather than a few seconds. I do feel that my knee muscles are stronger though, less achy and less likely to go painful like they do sometimes. I have bought my own super thick yoga mat and downloaded some apps. I am really enjoying it, a lot more than I thought I would. I will be gutted when the sessions come to an end in a few weeks. I really, really hope there will be more. *
Exercise is really hard when you are visually impaired. If you go running or walking, you may need a guide. Swimming is difficult because it’s hard to see where people are, especially without my glasses and if they are under water. Adaptations can be made for ball games, such as balls and equipment that are designed for blind people. Going to a gym or leisure centre, full of sighted people is really scary and daunting. In my experience Sheffield International Venues do offer extra support when it is needed. They have disabled friendly sessions at some of their pools and they have been really supportive with me getting back into trampolining. But it’s still scary. I think it would be really good to have more accessible sessions during the day. A lot of exercise classes involve looking at an instructor, to watch what they are doing. Also some sessions are only in the evening, such as trampolining. This is a really bad time when you are visually impaired, especially in the winter when it goes dark early. Also the busses don’t run as often and organising transport is more difficult in the evening. So I feel there should be more accessible day sessions for activities. It would be really good to make things like aerobics and yoga completely accessible in gyms and leisure centres. I have had lots of support when I have asked for it, but I do think that work needs to be done to make leisure centres less daunting and more friendly and welcoming for people with sight problems.
More VI friendly exercise sessions could benefit VI people in a variety of ways. It could improve their fitness and general health, it could also be a social activity, meeting up with friends and making new friends. This would then improve their mental health and their confidence.
*This story was written before SRSB established a regular class. There is now a Yoga Session every Thursday from 4:30 to 5:30pm.