There is something a little suspect about yoga centres who espouse the virtues of kindness and charity whilst pocketing £15 a pop to attend a session. Not so The Special Yoga Centre. Not only does this place teach yoga, but it practices what it preaches – that is, the centre acts as a charity, a training ground and, above all, a community.
When anxiety yoga specialist Kathy Osbourne suggested I meet her at The Special Yoga Centre to discuss a workshop she was running I was intrigued. Having been an anxious person throughout my adult life, I know how very important it is to feel comfortable in another’s presence, and particularly so if part of a class, as most anxieties are exacerbated when in unfamiliar territory. Kathy was excellent, with an innate ability to understand the boo boos which might pitch a nervous yogi into uncomfortable territory. We practised some moves specifically designed to treat panic and I didn’t at any point feel as if I would be inviting it by unnaturally raising heartbeat – yes, that is how bizarrely specific anxiety can be, for the fortunate uninitiated.
I perused the timetable for the other classes and was impressed by the comprehensive list. I was also impressed by the centre itself, which is in a rather inauspicious location but boasts a huge sunlit room and the aura of peace inherent to good yoga studios.
Most impressive was the founder and director of the centre, Jo Manuel, who filled me in on the charitable side. The centre is the only of its kind in the UK and sees around 550 children a week with special needs including autism, cerebral palsy and Down’s syndrome. Given the diverse nature of the children’s conditions, I wasn’t surprised to hear that the teachers are highly specialised and hugely in demand, and the centre uniquely special for the children who need its services. Furthermore, the centre is cited as a source of strength to the parents and carers of children who cannot partake in mainstream toddler and baby groups and, as such, miss out on an all-important community to buoy spirits.
It seems I am not the only one who is impressed by the efforts of the team at The Special Yoga Centre: Sam Cam and Trudie Styler are Honorary Patrons, and Gaby Roslin is involved with fundraising. So there we have it – a yoga centre with truly yogic principles. Get involved.