I approached the wall with trepidation. It was inversion week at my yoga teacher training. Inversions are postures that take your head below your heart. They include classic poses like downward facing dog and restorative poses like legs-up-the-wall pose (yes, you just lay there with your legs up the wall), but they also include rigorous poses like headstand and handstand. We were about to try handstand.
The teachers described the many benefits of these perspective shifting poses. There were health benefits like improved circulations, a boost in energy, and stronger core muscles, but also psychological benefits like increased confidence, and literally a change in perspective. Plus, they are fun. I was nervous, but eager to give it try, especially in this controlled environment with a lot of supervision.
The idea of going upside down can be terrifying, especially when you are required to balance the weight of your whole body on your hands. You have to overcome your mental images of disaster and become comfortable with the possibility that you might fail. It reminded me of when I first started disclosing my hearing loss to people.
I had built it up to be a monumental event, with a high likelihood for embarrassment or even mockery, but the actuality of it was much tamer than the vision I had concocted in my mind. In most cases, my admission was met with empathy and understanding. Similar to conquering handstand, it took practice to refine the execution of my reveal, to choose the words that worked best in different situations, and to gain comfort with sharing my truth with others. The hardest part was taking that first leap.
These thoughts ran through my head as I approached the wall to attempt handstand pose. After detailed instruction and a number of false starts over two afternoons, I finally kicked myself up into an assisted handstand. Through the rest of the week, I learned to do it on my own, still against the wall for safety. It was not easy, but it was exhilarating — a triumph over gravity and a workout for the entire body. Mind over matter actualized.
Seeing the world from an upside down vantage point was strange. The beautiful view from the yoga room flipped so that the ocean became the sky and the sky appeared to be the ocean. People’s feet took on new importance. It was a good reminder how different everything can seem depending on your perspective. This partially explains the difficulties we, as people with hearing loss can face when trying to advocate for ourselves with people who do not experience the world as we do.
It is hard to see the world from another person’s eyes, so we need to be very specific in our instructions for communication assistance, and accept that reminders will likely be needed more often than we would like. It is frustrating, but it is required to give others a glimpse into the way we see the world. Self-advocacy is key.
Back at home, I plan to continue my experiments with new perspectives, just as I hope my family and friends will continue to work on seeing the world from my point of view.
Readers, how do you help others see hearing loss from your perspective?