Featuring Jessalyn Akerman-Frank from the US

Monday, 31 August 2020

Written by Jessalyn Akerman-Frank
Edited by Justine of Just Yoga


My name is Jessalyn Akerman-Frank. I live in Twin Cities, Minneapolis in the United States. My day job is being the Director of Community and Civic Engagement for the Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing.

I was 16 years old when I saw someone teach yoga for the first time. I was in Montana visiting with a friend, and her mother taught private classes. I loved the energy, and felt at home, right away. My yoga journey began then. As a severe asthmatic, it was yoga that helped save me during asthma attacks and long hospital visits.
Mastering the techniques of belly breathing, and stretching the back with cat/cow as well as releasing tension in all of the upper body, has truly changed my life. I was inspired to bring yoga to my community, the Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing.
That started a journey for me that had more closed doors than paved paths. After many "No" to hiring American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreters so that I could get formally trained and certified, I decided to enrol into a college, where the American Disability Act (ADA) required by law for them to provide me with interpreters. It did solve the access problem, however; the interpreter had no idea about yoga. I was trained and certified in the Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) 200-hour program and went on with my teaching. Prior to this, like many, we studied yoga by ourselves. After time, I was able to enrol in Trauma Informed Yoga, with Firefly Yoga, Kidding Around Yoga and recently with Yoga Ed.

 

As a Deaf Yoga Teacher in the Twin Cities area, my only goal is to bring yoga to my community, those who are Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing. Yoga should be accessible to everyone. During the pandemic, I have been able to offer online Zoom Yoga classes to our community and those who have the technology to join, and this has been a great way for us to connect and remain healthy. There are some challenges as the DeafBlind community is not able to access all of the Zoom features, but through fundraisers, we are raising money to provide Support Service Specialists and Tactile Interpreters. 
I love when a deaf yogi finds joy in their practice and continues to explore it. My heart is happy when I teach yoga to the DeafBlind community and they experienced meditation for the first time, laughing yoga or even a pose that helps release tension in their back.

The benefits of yoga are so vast and we all deserve to know them. I am passionate about finding ways that the community can experience classes not only through me but hopefully through a pool of yoga teachers who are trained and can offer a variety of classes to our community. I remember when people would say to me that yoga is only for hearing people. I remember looking at them and signing to them, no Yoga is for all of us, join me and you will know it is true. I was determined to give them the experience so they could decide again if yoga was meant for them or not.
Yoga has not only been good for my health but for my well-being. It helps me stay focus, be healthy and it instils passion in me.

As a Deaf Yoga teacher, I have learned so much about myself. I learn from my students in the class, I learn about my style, my teaching approach and what works with engaging different groups of people.

Yoga is a mindset, a way of living, breathing and being. It has inspired me to always be a better person. I know Yoga takes shape and form and its own meaning for all and I would love to know what that looks like for you. You can find me on Facebook at DeafYoga.

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