Meet the Founder and Director of Special Yoga, Jyoti Jo Manuel, a world leader who trains children with special needs therapeutic yoga and other practices.
Jyoti Jo Manuel is the founder and director of Special Yoga. For over 30 years, she has been working with children with special needs around the world and training and supporting educators, families, social care, pediatric professionals and care workers.
For Jyoti, Special Yoga has been her heart’s purpose since she founded it in 2004. She has delivered therapeutic yoga practices and training programmes globally for children with special needs since the early 1990s both privately and within education. Her mission has always been to bring these healing practices to as many children as possible.
Her passion is to support these children to thrive and reach their fullest potential in a world that generally doesn’t recognise their magnificence. Through the accessible and impactful practices of her organization, she supports the children and the adults around them to balance their autonomic nervous systems, to bring balance, strength and resilience to body, mind and spirit through heart and offer a place for compassionate co-regulation for emotional safety and care.
Even though her initial days of starting her own venture were challenging in many ways, yet she always knew that she was born under a lucky star that had the possibility to break the chains of intergenerational aggression and trauma.
In Jyoti’s own words, “I was young, carefree but committed to finding a spiritual pathway and meaningful life. My first yoga class in 1974, and my prior childhood connection to the Divine. Everyone who encounters special yoga is invited to uncover how special they are. They learn how to open their hearts, dispel fear and offer a beautiful circle of safety for all in their care. The children beam with joy.”
For Jyoti, the early days where she wanted to serve at a greater level than was realistically possible were hard. However, today the same struggle balances her soul’s work as well as her heart’s work- ensuring that there is not only adequate but abundant cash flow to support the administration behind the work- and she believes strongly in it.
Special Yoga was commissioned by the NHS in 2016 to create and implement a programme in mindfulness for mental health resilience for schools in the borough of Havering which continues to run very successfully in many schools in the borough. The NHS continues to support her work till today.
To date, the organization has completed a pilot study for children with autism, ADHD and/or social emotional challenges in mainstream school in north Norfolk. The outcomes showed a reduction in GP visits as well as giving the children tools to support their self regulation and improve the quality of their lives.
Jyoti’s team has evaluated the challenges for young people with cerebral palsy with a research study in ADAPT, one of the largest NGOs for disability, indicating the positive impact of yoga therapy for this population.
She is currently on the APPG for Yoga in Society and is part of the working group for The Royal College of Medicine to support yoga for children as part of the social prescribing pathway. She is passionate about joining the dots between social care, education, and health care to support these children to reach their potential.
Over the years, the feedback of her clients has been extremely positive.
“We have testimony after testimony of how our work has changed peoples lives for the better. How our practices have improved all their relationships and with themselves too. Open your heart. Trust, be kind, compassionate. Everyone is doing their best. Love is the highest expression,” she says.