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Yoga For Social Change!

April 3, 2014 by Jo Manuel 

An Interview with Jo Manuel, Founder of Special Yoga

1. Share with us what Special Yoga is and what inspired you to create it? 

Special Yoga exists in order to serve as many special children as possible through the medium of Yoga. It was set up in 2004 as a continuation of the work I had been offering to children with special needs from my home as well as in local schools. It seemed to me that this work deserved and required its own home and space – as well as better allowing us to offer trainings and building a community.

2.How long has Special Yoga  been running and what accomplishments at the Centre are you most proud of? 

Our beautiful river of service has been running uninterruptedly to our beloved children since 2004. I think what I am most proud of is the continuity and reach of our service – throughout the years we have reached thousands of children and we continue to serve without interruption.

 3.What is your vision for the Special Yoga in the next 3 years, 10 years, & beyond? 

The future involves an ever expanding service to the children. In the next 3 years we will be looking to integrating more facets to our service within the framework of Yoga – sound, visual form and touch, as remedial and therapeutic avenues are still under-explored and under-utilized. We have just got involved with our first academic research project studying the efficacy of systematic yoga practice for children with autism alongside UCL and the Institute of Autism and Education.   We are expanding our research with ongoing research projects with the support of Swansea university for children with a variety of special needs.  Underpinning our work with scientific research is paramount over the coming years.
The practice of yoga is well received by Jo's students!
The practice of yoga is well received by Jo's students!
In terms of commercial focus we will be looking to consolidating, growing and firmly establishing ourselves as the UK’s leading Teacher Trainer for Yoga as a therapeutic practice for children  - as well as growing our Outreach Programmes in Schools and our Commercial Yoga classes. In 10 years time, I see us serving tens of thousands of children every week, in various countries and continents, through centres modelled on what we have built right here in London. We intend to have a Special Yoga School that helps in shining the beautiful Light of Yoga in a Special way. The future is Light!

4. What support can the yoga community provide to the the Special Yoga Centre?

Raising awareness about the work! We can use all the help we can get in marketing and furthering the awareness around our Training courses – so eventually more and more children can benefit from our beautiful river of service. In addition to helping with marketing, anyone who wishes to align with the work can offer their talent, skills and experience for the benefit of the work through workshops andclasses in aid of the work that we do. Get in touch with us, and we will find a place for you to serve!

5. Can you share with us the top 5 benefits you see in the children who come to these yoga classes? 

We treat babies, children and adults with a very wide range of special needs.  What we are aiming for is to help individuals to reach their fullest potential. For the majority of them the starting place for healing is a balanced nervous system, from there we see increased concentration and attention, more comfort in the bodies, improved motor planning and coordination, improved quality and quantity of sleep. The benefits are almost endless - I could go on for a lot longer!

6. Were there any particular stories or children who touched your heart that you would like to share?

There are so many, I don’t know where to start – I would say every single child I have been blessed with the opportunity to share Yoga with. And we are talking thousands by now. The ones that always bring tears to my eyes and fill my heart are those where the doctors had expressed nothing but negativity about these children to the families, and then the children start to move, or sit, or speak or do things that no one thought was possible...the joy for the families to see their children improve never fails to touch me.
The teacher training programme
The teacher training programme

7. Can you briefly share the teacher training programmes the Centre provides?  

All details are on our websitewww.specialyoga.org.uk and I would invite people to start there and then get in touch with us. Our flagship course for children with special needs is “Special yoga for Special Children” –a 7 day comprehensive course foundation for children with special needs taught by myself. In addition we offer the following courses:
  • teaching yoga to children - aged 2-teens 6 days over 2 weekends with me
  • yoga for adults with special needs - 2 day course with richard kravitz
  • gentle yoga - 64 hours of training covering a variety of needs with Rev Padma Priya
  • yoga and mindfulness for teenagers - 4 day comprehensive course for teenagers with Veronica Kloucek
  • yoga for children with developmental challenges - 2 day module with me
  • yoga and mindfulness for children with autism  - 3 day module with myself and Lucy Clarke

Jo Manuel's Bio:

Jo Manuel, Founder of Special Yoga Centre
Jo Manuel, Founder of Special Yoga Centre
Jo Manuel started sharing the Light of Yoga with children in 1993.  Since then she has been blessed with the privilege of serving thousands of children with special needs and has become the leading practitioner of yoga therapy for children in the UK.  In 1974 she attended her first yoga class and has been practising ever since.  She is the founder of Special Yoga whose mission is to serve as many children with special needs as possible through the practise of yoga. She offers training courses in yoga for neuro-typical children as well as children with special needs both at Special Yoga and internationally.

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