Training and Teaching with Physical Limitations

Blog Content Interviews Testimonial // October 24, 2022

Cina Canada, GYROTONIC® Headquarters Media Coordinator, sat down for a conversation with Gyrotonic Trainer Chandler Moore Sanders about her journey as a movement professional and teaching with a physical limitation. In this interview, she shares about the role that teaching the GYROTONIC® Method has played in her life and how her limited vision has in ways, aided her training.

You can find part one of the full interview here.

You can also listen to this interview through the recording below.

Cina: I’d like to know what have been some of your biggest challenges on this Gyrotonic journey thus far?

Chandler:  I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this with you, but I’m visually impaired. I only have central vision. I don’t have any peripheral vision. So, I was able to apply for a grant through Vocational Rehabilitation Services for the Blind. They helped me purchase one of my towers.

Cina: Wow. Tell me more about that grant for anyone who might be reading about this and want to pursue something like that.

Chandler: You have to reach out to your local V.O.C. rehab. If you are a disabled person looking to get back into the workforce, they will help you do that. They’ll help you acquire the training. They can help you acquire equipment. They can even help you acquire any sort of adaptive equipment for visual aids, lighting, magnifiers, and translators. They’re going to assist you in any way they can. 

 They helped me, but I had to write the business plan, get my projections organized, and present it all as though I were applying for a business or SBA loan. They looked at my background, my projections, my plan, and how I was putting everything together. They said, “Yes, we believe in this, we believe in you, and we think you’ve got a great idea.”

It boils down to the squeaky wheel gets the oil. You have to be your own advocate and you have to be persistent. Reach out to your local government agency and get established, then you start the process. You’ll be assigned a counselor whose job is to help. They’ll walk you through any of those gray or fuzzy areas that you’re uncertain of. They’ll help walk you through the whole process.

Cina: Tell me a little bit about what it means to be legally blind and have limited vision, but still be able to see. How does that impact your teaching and learning?

Chandler: I have what’s called retinitis pigmentosa. I was diagnosed with this when I was 12 years old at (of all places) a Lens Crafters. I was starting to see a lot of floaters in my vision. Floaters are quite common. Many people suffer with floaters and they’re just more of an annoyance than anything else, but the Optometrist discovered this… we call it R.P. for short. Basically, that means my peripheral vision, at that time, was starting to decrease. If you can think of seeing in a slightly larger than 180-degree scope from slightly behind your face, then it globes out and around in a 180-degree fashion. We also have that from top to bottom, so it’s probably a tiny bit bigger than 180-degrees. We can see to the sides and maybe slightly behind. Basically, my scope, or that field, was narrowing. They told me at the time that I would have until my 40’s before I had a complete loss of vision. As a twelve-year-old girl, that was a very scary thing to hear.

Then I started seeing a litany of specialists in Tulsa and St. Louis. I’m originally from Joplin, MO, so we started seeing all the area specialists. As I got older, I found my person, my doctor. She’s the head physician in charge of research at UCSF (University of California, San Francisco). Her name is Dr. Jacque Duncan. She’s amazing. My other big symptom was a problem with significant night blindness, and at the time they thought I would grow out of that. Well, I did not. 

Chandler Moore, GYROTONIC® Trainer teaching with limitations to clients

Photo by Cina Canada

R.P. means different things to different people. Some people lose their vision completely and they can only see through tiny little pinholes. Other people, like myself, have vision that stabilized with about 20 degrees of central field vision. 20 degrees out of 180 is not a lot, but it is enough that I can still lead a functional life. I call it a visual purgatory because I’m not fully blind, but I’m also not fully sighted. 

It’s obvious to me, but maybe not so much to other people. In a social setting, when I’m meeting someone for the very first time, if someone were to stick out their hand for me to shake, if we’re standing too close, I can’t see them extending their hand out to reach. Then, it looks a little socially awkward because I don’t see their hand until their eyes glance down because I’ve not extended my own hand out. That’s the biggest social cue that I feel I miss a lot, even if I try to be proactive. But, if I’m proactive, I’m looking down, I’m looking up, I’m looking down, I’m looking up… to make sure that I don’t miss that hand. It’s just funny how you learn to compensate. Sometimes, I’ll extend my hand first, or I try to compensate and anticipate some of those things happening. 

One funny story happened when I was still living in San Francisco. I was getting off what they call the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). It’s their underground train system. I accidentally gave this gal a “flat tire.” Do you know what that means? It’s when you step on their shoe, and it pulls the shoe off their heel. I accidentally stepped on this woman’s heel and pulled her shoe off. She turned around and looked at me like I had just made the worst social faux pas known to man, even though I was super apologetic. I was so sorry, and it did not matter. I had really made her mad.

I did start driving when I was 16. My vision had decreased, but not bad enough to be considered “legally blind”. That didn’t happen until I was 18. So, you’re very reliant on friends and family to help you drive around. This was before Uber. This is before Lyft. This is before any of those things. That urged me to move to a city that had an efficient public transportation system so that I could continue to live an independent life. I am a very independent person. I don’t like having to rely on others for my needs.

I had my Pilates certification in San Francisco. I got my studio up and off the ground, then opened a second location in Sausalito. That all came to an end when my husband and I decided to start our family and we sold those businesses. We hesitantly decided to move back to the Midwest knowing that I was going to be stepping right back into those transportation limitations. But what has occurred is that technology has caught up that has made our vehicles more advanced.

So, now I am able to drive again. I’m able to operate a vehicle again because of lane assist and the technology now that exists in our vehicles. It helps make up for what I lack. I didn’t drive for 16 years. I was able to get back on the road again and do very, very simple things that a lot of people take for granted. Even just having the option of Uber and Lyft, and things like that was amazing. 

Prior to driving, I had three little kids, and when an Uber would pull up, they had to have thought, what is this woman doing? Because I was like, I’m GOING to my yoga class. I am GOING. I’d go out with my two boosters and a car seat, get all my kids strapped in, and then get in. We were a mess, but we did it!

Cina: It’s so great. I love it. So how long now have you been back in Springfield and driving?

Chandler: We moved back in June of 2011, which would have put me at 32, at the time. I didn’t start driving again until I was 36 or 37. I started to get a little bit more mobile, and that was hugely liberating and such a relief because I had felt like such a burden. Our family, and the demands of the family, were growing.

I found out Tesla had automated cars. Well, I found out that you still had to be a licensed driver to own and operate one of those self-driving cars, so I just threw my hands up like, OK, I get it. I get the signal. I read it loud and clear. So, I took things into my own hands and I pursued getting my license again and just moving forward.

Cina: I love that, “No, I’m GOING to make this work for me”. What kind of limitations did you have in your training because of your limited vision?

Chandler: This is such a great, loaded, question. I don’t know if there is any sort of limitation. I think it helps aid me. Two of my towers are the Cobra® Towers that have a horizontal bar across the middle. I have smacked my head on that thing… I cannot tell you how many times. I bend over to add my weight plates and I just bonk my head on it, either going down or coming up. I know it’s there. I do. I know it’s up there. 

Cina: What about your teaching? Have you had to make any major adaptations aside from not hitting the bar when you’re changing your weights?

Chandler Moore, GYROTONIC® Trainer teaching on a GYROTONIC® Pulley Tower Combination Unit

Photo by Cina Canada

Chandler: We know more about trauma now; how it alters your DNA and what it does to your brain chemistry. Being a twelve-year-old little girl and learning what I had, I feel like that was a trauma to me, and then I didn’t receive the best guidance when it comes to parents or professionals helping guide me through how to adapt and navigate this diagnosis. I had to figure out a lot of that on my own. 

The Gyrotonic work soothes my nervous system. It helps me from an executive function standpoint because I tend to be a manic energy. When I do the Gyrotonic Method it helps me feel so grounded, soothed, and comforted. If you run high, it helps bring you back down to that homeostasis. If you run low, it’ll elevate you back up. In terms of feeling limited in what I can do with it, I think it has done the exact opposite and has helped expand on so many different physical as well as mental levels.

My vision is like looking through two barrels of a shotgun. I find myself scanning the client’s body. If I’m concentrating on what they’re doing at their ankle joint when they’re doing scissors with feet and straps, I’m trying to help them coordinate when they point and flex their feet as the legs crisscross one another. If I’m focusing on what’s happening at their legs, I’m not able to see what’s happening at their torso. I have to stand back a little bit so that I can scan their body from head to toe to see what’s going on. Then I can move in closer for the correction. I have to zoom in and zoom out. I have to move my body to make that happen.

Cina: You’re right, you almost have to see what’s happening from the feet all the way up into the neck and the head simultaneously to know where to correct on the pelvis, shoulders, and the hands.

Chandler:  You have general things that you say most of the time, to almost every person at every session. I can count on the fact that I need to give some general cues. Even if I’m watching what’s happening at their feet, I can say those other things like a checklist. Starting from the head and going down the body, then adapting it as needed. Especially at first, you’re just trying to teach them the movement sequence by itself. Lobster Tail for instance, when the feet are in straps and we’re just trying to get the internal rotation of the femur bone, pointing the toes, flex at the hip, and then unfold.

Cina: The choreography.

Chandler: Yeah. So that’s the choreography and the moving part, but there’s also this whole other part that is stabilizing, and then don’t forget to breathe!

Cina: That’s such a huge testament to how well-versed you are in movement and to your educational background.

Chandler: Well, even the most practiced people still need that cueing because if everybody could do it perfectly, even at their most advanced level, then none of us would have jobs anymore. I rely a little bit on human nature needing those reminders.

Cina:  What would you say as an encouragement, to somebody who does have a limitation or a disability, that this is work you could pursue if you go about it with the right perspective.

Chandler: I would encourage anyone to go for it and figure it out. The body and the mind are so expansive and capable of so much from a psychosomatic standpoint. If you’re at all intrigued by this work, even just as a practitioner, and if you’re feeling led, driven, soothed, or curious, you’ll evolve it to a point where it works. It’s nature’s way to adapt and figure things out.

Cina:  I love the way you said it’s like nature. You will adapt if this is something that you want to do. You will figure out how to adapt, and you might need the guidance of an instructor for certain modifications, but your body probably knows how to adapt.

Chandler: For instance, today I started working with a gentleman who has cerebral palsy. We’re having to figure out what works for him, what doesn’t, and setting baselines. He doesn’t feel anything on his left side. He feels one thing in his hamstring, and he feels the other thing in his quad. That’s a perfect example of starting from zero. He’s learning all the choreography from the ground level. As a practitioner, you just have to play with it.

It was exciting to watch his eyes light up. He’s having to relearn what doctors have told him over the years, and what he thought he had to accept as the truth. Now his mind is open to, “Maybe that wasn’t accurate information. Maybe I can do this. Maybe I can do that.” We’re just having a great time figuring out what’s available to him.

Cina: Exploration, I love that so much. That’s what gets me the most inspired is working with folks who think, “Maybe I can feel something where I thought I couldn’t or move in a way that I thought I couldn’t.” Is there anything else that you want to share in that same vein?

Chandler:  I know that Juliu’s inspiration for all of his work came out of a need for rehabilitation, but I don’t know that he realized how many lives he would touch and in the different ways they would be touched because it is nothing short of miraculous for some of us. It’s with a lot of gratitude that I want to thank him.

Cina: I love that. I’ll be sure and share that. I think you hit the nail on the head with this work and why it’s so different because it was literally born out of necessity on that hillside in St. Thomas where Juliu hand-built himself a little shack and spent seven years developing this work and healing his own body. Then, took it back and started teaching people.

Chandler: Yeah, that’s what movies are made of.

Cina: It’s really for us trainers to share with the world – that authentic representation of this work and where it comes from. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your experiences. I am so excited to know that you’re out in the world and that I can send people your way.

Chandler: I am very grateful, and I appreciate it so much. I’ll do what I can to fit people in where I can and make it work for everyone. I appreciate it. Thank you.

Chandler is the owner of Moore Wellness Studio in Springfield, Missouri, U.S.A.. You can connect with her on her Facebook Page (Moore Wellness Studio) or on Instagram (@chandlersanders79).

If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to read these interviews with other Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis Trainers and movement professionals as well:

Movement Professional Finds Fresh Inspiration in GYROTONIC® Education

An Olympic Runner’s Perspective on Training With the GYROTONIC® Method

The GYROTONIC® Method and an Awakening of Artistic Expression

World-Class Badminton Player Chou Tien Chen on the GYROTONIC® Method

To find Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis classes near you, visit our Studio Finder tool.

To learn more about how to become a Gyrotonic or Gyrokinesis Trainer, visit our Teacher Training page.