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Two Teachers Make Yoga Accessible to Everyone in the Oxford Community

By Samantha Ladouceur and Corinne Taylor
Journalism Students

Hot yoga is known for being incredibly restorative to the mind and body, and for someone in the special needs community, it can become the safe haven they never knew they needed.

Oxford local Ben Mangum connected with Chyna Sinervo, a hot yoga instructor at Baptiste Power Yoga in Oxford, through a program called North Mississippi Regional Center (NMRC), which later transitioned into Communicare. Ben was born with Down Syndrome, which presents his body with specific challenges he overcomes with a positive mindset and an active lifestyle.

After 19 years of working and spending time with Ben, Sinervo took her own personal hot yoga journey to the next level by going through the 200-hour teacher training program. While in her certification course learning about all of the benefits of yoga, she got the idea to take Ben through a couple of poses because she knew it would be an advantageous thing for him to try.

“We started off doing some poses at the house when I was going through teacher training,” Sinervo said. “Ben stayed on me and wanted to come to the studio, so we did a few private sessions and then he decided to branch out and take a class at the studio.”

Chyna Sinervo (right) and Mary Morgan Bryan (left) lead Communicare members through the standing tree pose during their weekly class. Ben Mangum (center) has fun while learning more about yoga with his friends.

After more practice of going through poses, Ben was hooked and wanted to go to the studio with Sinervo. Sinervo was worried about Ben doing hot yoga. In the hot yoga studio temperatures can rise to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. She and Mary Morgan Bryan, owner of Baptiste Power Yoga Oxford, discussed the logistics of Ben doing hot yoga and they made the decision to try it out.

“Ben absolutely loved the first time he came to the studio,” Sinervo said, “He has poor circulation in his legs and after his first class, his legs were all pretty and pink. The blood was flowing…it really helped with his circulation.”

Fast forward a few months later and Ben is a regular at the Baptiste Power Yoga and is “addicted” to hot yoga.

“He’s excited about something. It’s something that’s fun and it’s different every time,” Sinervo said. “Every day is a new challenge for him and if you tell him what to do, he’s going to do it to the best of his ability. He’s just addicted. I think he would come every day if he could.”

Sinervo has always had a special place in her heart for people in the special needs community, she said. As she saw the growth physically and mentally in Ben through yoga, she wanted to connect other members of the special needs community in Oxford to the same benefits through a nonprofit organization called Small World Yoga.

Bryan brought the nonprofit organization to Oxford from her home in Nashville. She wanted to share the enjoyment and benefit of yoga to the community in Oxford. Small World Yoga makes yoga accessible to everyone by offering free community classes and striving for authentic, meaningful connections that have the ability to transform lives.

Sinervo and Bryan offer a free hour-long yoga class, held on Wednesdays for the people of Communicare.

What sets Small World Yoga apart from any other yoga class is that it is fully accessible to everyone. The abilities of the members of Communicare range widely, but that does not prohibit their ability to practice yoga.

Along with Sinervo and Bryan, Ben said he is excited to get more members of the special needs community in Oxford involved in his favorite hobby.

“I love it,” Ben said about yoga.“It’s fun. It’s going to help you inside and outside to just move on with your life.”

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