Morgan sits on a mat in her air-conditioned living room, her tablet in front of her. On the screen, a woman in a purple tank top and black pants moves smoothly through a series of yoga poses against a white background, accompanied by a calm voice explaining what she’s doing. Morgan follows suit. Morgan lives in Chandler, Arizona, a major suburb of Phoenix. Chandler is hot, dry, and fairly urban, home to ranch homes and strip malls, palm trees and towering cactuses. “I don’t drive,” Morgan says, “so I can’t get back and forth to a gym.” She tells us that she used to do the occasional workout at home, but with three kids, she admits that she doesn’t have a lot of time for herself.
Morgan can’t drive because she has a condition called septo-optic dysplasia with optic nerve hypoplasia. It’s a genetic condition that results in underdevelopment of the optic nerve and involuntary eye movements. As a result, Morgan has been legally blind since birth. Her left eye has no vision whatsoever—there’s no connection between her eye and her brain at all—but her right eye can see shades of light and darkness, movement, and some color. That’s part of the reason Morgan finds Yoga Studio so easy to use. She can only make out the shapes of the poses if she holds her iPad inches from her eyes, so she looks through the whole sequence ahead of time and uses the VoiceOver feature to have the iPad read the descriptions out loud to her. She tries to memorize the sequence of poses by name, and then uses the videos of each individual pose to learn the positioning and transitions.
“It’s so simple yet beautiful at the same time,” she explains. “The model is dressed nicely and she’s beautiful but nothing is over the top. There’s a lot of apps out there that have so much going on in the background, and that’s great, except I’m not actually there. It’s nice to have a pretty background, but that doesn’t do me a lot of good when I’m trying to really analyze where exactly does she have her foot, and where exactly is her hand. That can be the difference between a gentle stretch and a pulled muscle.”“I have a lot of anxiety,” she said, “so I’m very interested in being able to calm myself down and have control over my body and my movements. Ever since I’ve started using Yoga Studio, I’ve been able to calm myself down a lot more.” Morgan also mentioned to us that she finds the more physical components of yoga to be more helpful than the supposedly relaxing ones. “I know Child’s Pose is supposed to be very calming, but I’ve found the balance poses to be very calming because you have to just concentrate on that,” she said. “You can’t think about a whole lot of other things.”
Fitness aside, one of Morgan’s favorite aspects of yoga is that she can do it with her kids. She wouldn’t be able to keep up in a group class without special treatment or one-on-one instruction, but she can do yoga with her kids when and for however long she wants. She says her kids get excited about doing their daily routines, and she can help them with poses and transitions, which is a big deal for someone with her disability.“With my vision, I don’t get to show them a lot of things,” she says. “I’m never really the one to give them help like that.”