When Samantha (Sam) Adams says anyone can do yoga, she really means anyone. Last summer, she taught chair yoga at Society for the Blind to a visually impaired 94-year-old, his wife of 74 years and their 65-year-old daughter.
Sam laughs when she talks about the part of her yoga teacher training that is most challenging to a lot of teachers – learning how to do yoga blindfolded. Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) at age 12 and declared legally blind at age 19, Sam had high partial vision until age 40. By the time she took the yoga teacher training, she was 47 and could only see light.
“One of the most challenging parts about teaching yoga is that people are so used to visual cues that they don’t know how to listen,” Sam said. “Teaching yoga at Society for the Blind is great because everyone is already used to relying on senses other than vision.”
Now at age 49, Sam has been a volunteer yoga teacher at Society for the Blind for more than a year, along with volunteer yoga teacher Kiara Winans. Sam’s guide dog Lotto participates in all of her classes, resting on his own yoga mat and coming to her side when she ends class with the word “namaste.”
“I love being able to share yoga,” Sam said. “Yoga has given me balance and peace. I can take all of the chaos of my life and set it aside for a little while.”
Her own yoga journey began when she moved to Sacramento from Canada to be with her fiancé, who also is visually impaired and received services at Society for the Blind years before.
“I just walked into a class at the gym and decided to try it,” she said. “I had no idea what I was doing, but it became a good way to cope with how my whole life had changed.”
At that point, Sam had left Canada and a career as a prosecutor with the federal government. She went from being a single mom working 60 hours a week to suddenly having a blended family with two teenage stepdaughters and no job. Not long after, her vision began to deteriorate rapidly.
“I had to stop fighting myself and stop trying to do things like a sighted person,” she said. “I learned that lesson in my head 25 years ago, but I didn’t fully know what it would be like until I was forced to put it into practice. It’s kind of like being pregnant and knowing you’re going to have to give birth, but then you actually have to do it. It’s actually easier now that I’m not thinking I see things when I don’t. It’s easier to not have my vision mixed up in there.”