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Teaching Yoga to special children

Jo Manuel

Written by Jo Manuel

Teaching Yoga to special children

I had no idea when i stepped into my first yoga class in the early 1970s that I would find myself some 40 plus years later offering yoga therapeutically to children with special needs and running training programmes in the UK and internationally to spread this work.  And even when i started Special Yoga in 2004, I had no idea where it would take me. 

A few months back I was working in an orphanage for blind children and  young adults in the south of Sri Lanka. I sat on the dusty floor with a huge group of these beautiful beings at the end of the yoga session where they had all dropped deeply into relaxation; I felt the tears streaming down my face, tears of wonderment and gratitude that my life had found me here..that I was able to be of service to these amazing children and more than that; I had shared the teaching with some teachers and orphanage workers who can now continue to offer yoga to them so that the children can find that stillness, connection and peace every day. How blessed I am to be given this opportunity. 

And not only this opportunity. Since I came back from Sri Lanka I have delivered 2 further trainings in Special Yoga for Special Children in the UK and I have just created and delivered a programme on mindfulness for mental health resilience for an Essex council for the staff and students in their schools. To see these teachers come out of the stressful state that we met them in and find an easier relationship with themselves and in turn the children is beautiful. We all need yoga and what it brings us. We need to learn how to manage our minds and our emotions. 

As I sit now on a train between St Petersburg and Moscow, I am given the time to reflect on the last few days sharing yoga with some of the disabled and deeply traumatised children in the largest orphanage in Russia for children with special needs. I was there for the third year running sharing Special Yoga tools with the volunteers, doctors and paediatric professionals to help the children. The biggest and most consistent question is how I deal with my own emotional state when I sit with these deeply disturbed children, powerless to change their lives, but able in those moments from my heart to bring them some love and a little more comfort. 

What does my practise of yoga and meditation over the most part of my life tell me about that? We are all one and yet we are given different experiences, we cannot question why God has given these children this time on their souls journey, we can only bless them, give them our love and pray that they have more peace in their next incarnation. To remember that this is just a moment in their souls journey….

For me yoga is a way of being where my heart is as open as it can be, where I can live kindly and compassionately to myself and to others, where the greatest gifts and blessings come from unconditional service; where in my meditation practise and more and more of my life I take the time to drop into my heart and find a trust and surrender that brings me to a place i can only call home. And when I find myself intimately at home with myself I realise that it helps me to be united intimately with others too. In this place there is immense gratitude from the humbling privilege to work with these children and their amazing families and the amazing people that give their time to the children who don't have a family.  

Yoga is such a powerful, profound multifaceted practise. In the same way that yoga works for us it can help these children to align their energy through the asanas and their breath, it can develop their strength and courage, it can give them control of their bodies and minds, and help them to become more peaceful and relaxed. And from that relaxed place they can develop into their fullest potential. 

i have been teaching yoga for many years now. I often think that I share what I know and it is the children and students who teach me. So when I am questioned as to how I manage my own emotions, it opens up the opportunity for me to explore deeply within myself….

learning that we are not our minds, we are not our bodies, we are not our emotions…we are something much greater than that.  And when love unconditionally, I am not attached. 

I think about the qualities that the children, their families  and the students that join me on this journey have and continue to teach me.  

Humility: surrendering all control/our will to the will of the universe, allowing ourselves to intuitively live and work from our hearts. 

Trust: trust to believe, believing in the reliability of yoga, the truth of universal powers and the ability of the child. Trust is what allows me to have meaningful relationships; its the characteristic or behaviour of one person that inspires positive expectations in another. 

Generosity: giving with no expectation of return, to be of service for the greater good.  

Patience: which seems to be to be a pre-requisite for every kind of success working with things as they are rather than wishing them to be different. Giving time and space to whatever is to come. 

Courage: to let go of our fears and allow the natural flow of life. 

Soul connection: truly understanding that we are not our bodies and not our minds and that we are a soul that is inhabiting this body at this time. Then we can see the true self beyond the body and beyond the mind finding an understanding of unity beyond the sense of separation. 

And last but far from least is unconditional love: love without any attachment has to be the purest and highest form of being….and I love the journey, the journey to experience love of our Divine nature, the supreme purifier. The Divine nature of the children. Love never fails to transform and love never fails. 

 

What greater blessing is there in life? 



Jo Manuel

Jo started practicing yoga in 1974 and has been teaching since 1990. She has been the UK’s leading practitioner and teacher trainer in therapeutic Yoga for children since 2001. Her aim has long been to develop and implement and share therapeutic Yoga programmes and trainings that allow children all over the world to receive its significant benefits and thus assist each child in reaching their fullest potential.

Special Yoga Foundation | specialyoga.org.uk



This article has been taken from the 2nd issue of Amrita Yoga Magazine released in 2016. If you are interested in buying this magazine, you can do so from here!

 

 

Topics: Guest Author Yoga Therapy Community Kids Yoga