How Yoga can help your special needs child

We've run a couple of posts on SNJ from Lorraine Senior about Reflexology for children with special needs. They were really appreciated by readers so I'm delighted to be able to bring you a similar article about natural therapy, this time Special Yoga.

The Special Yoga Foundation is a charity providing yoga as a therapeutic intervention for children with special needs. As well as our one to one sessions, they offer a variety of training, all suitable for occupational therapists, yoga teachers, school teachers, parents, social workers and more.

The charity's founder, Jo Manuel, explains all about it...

How Yoga can help your special needs child


Special Yoga and why it works for children with disabilities

Many people ask me, “So what is special about Special Yoga?” Sometimes I wonder and where I always seem to come back to is that we think Special Yoga Foundation is truly special. We are pretty unique in that our heart-felt mission is to bring therapeutic yoga to as many children with special needs as we can in all corners of the world.

The children we are privileged to work with are special and their families are special. We believe that all children are all special and that no label can define or limit their potential for positive change, and our charity exists to facilitate exactly that.

Special Yoga was established originally in 2004 to create and provide a nurturing, safe and inclusive setting to deliver yoga and mindfulness as a therapeutic intervention to special children and their families. Over the years this has not only expanded into other parts of the UK, but we now have several programmes running internationally.

A thriving tree of Mindfulness

It is like a tree that is developing more branches; we are offering Mindfulness for Mental Health Resilience programmes for borough councils designed for the staff and children in their schools, we have Special Yoga programmes running in orphanages and day care centres in Russia, India and Sri Lanka for children with special needs. We have Special Children in Ireland, Spain, Iceland, Greece, Singapore, and beyond… beyond my wildest dreams.

The power of yoga and the impact that it can have is still to some degree not known by many, and is very far reaching.  When we sit with the children we never really know what the outcome will be.

However, what we do know is that yoga helps to rebalance and refine the child’s nervous system, which creates the foundation for positive improvement.

Special Yoga Foundation’s methodology includes the classical yoga practices of movement, breathing, deep relaxation combined with sound, rhythm, massage and sensory integration techniques and a lot of love, trust and patience.

A pure intention

We meet every child, both in individual and in group sessions, with a pure intention to create a practice that encourages them to their fullest potential, celebrating the strength within each child and working from there. Taking the child out of stress and into a relaxed state creates the optimum condition and possibility for positive change.

We know that a balanced nervous system creates a calmer child, who if they have sleeping issues will sleep for longer periods and more deeply.  We know that they will develop more resilience through the ability to self-regulate, reduce stress and anxiety; balance themselves and learn how to relax, release tension and frustration.

In support of our mission to bring therapeutic yoga to as many children with special needs as possible, we offer a programme of training, mentoring and supporting individuals to become Special Yoga Foundation (SYF) practitioners.

Yoga Training

We run a centre of excellence for Yoga Teacher Training (recognised by The British Wheel of Yoga and Sports England), specialised training modules and CPDs/intensive workshops based in London, UK. Special Yoga Foundation CIO has recently been awarded the Active Westminster Mark and is also an affiliated group of BGi for insurance and risk management for our teacher training students.

Our certified courses will equip those wanting to teach, to share yoga across the age spectrum, both within the special needs community and mainstream populations. Our trainings (some of which are accredited by Yoga Alliance UK and ASDAN) are open to school teachers, paediatric professionals, parents, as well as Yoga teachers and trainee Yoga teachers. We also offer inset trainings in mainstream and special schools.

What parents and practitioners say

Abdullah has been coming to Special Yoga since his 1st birthday in January 2013. Our Home Visits programme allowed his Yoga practice to continue uninterrupted from the comfort of his own home during the later stages of his mother’s pregnancy with his sibling.

Here’s what Abdullah’s parents say:

“Special Yoga has provided my son the perfect platform to build vital skills. He has put into practice all the things he has learned whilst at Special Yoga enabling him to develop into a beautiful child. The continuous support from the centre has made him more comfortable with his body and has allowed him to explore himself in ways which could only be described as heart-warming.”

A registered OT who completed our flagship seven day ‘Special Yoga for Special Children’ training says the course ‘changed everything’ for her, and led to her incorporating yoga into both mainstream and special schools under the OT umbrella.

Here’s what she says:

“The first time I attended a workshop at Special Yoga with Jo Manuel was a week of “light bulb” moments. I had originally attended the course to add tools to my therapeutic toolbox. I did not anticipate how profoundly the course would impact on my work as an OT and on myself. The precepts of Special Yoga (and Yoga) of: humility; generosity; patience; loving kindness; empathy; gratitude; and compassion and the qualities that develop from those precepts of: trust; courage and to be careful but not afraid; soul connection and unconditional love fit perfectly within the framework of an OT model that incorporates body-mind-spirit considering the whole person rather than the condition. When you meet someone from where they are at with an open heart and loving kindness magic happens.”

If you wish to find out more about our Yoga Teacher Trainings, or our other services, please visit our website here:

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Tania Tirraoro

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