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Results of Survey by Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS
Autumn 2006

Introduction

Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS runs remedial yoga classes for people with ME/CFS. This is a serious debilitating chronic illness and people are often ill and disabled for many years. The consequences of this are profound in terms of loss of income and social isolation. In many cases, very few activities, social or otherwise, are possible for people because of the severity of their illness.

The classes are carefully organized to meet the needs of people with this debilitating illness and provide important social, emotional and physical support for members of the group. The provision of yoga classes specifically for people with ME/CFS is not available elsewhere in Sheffield and ordinary yoga classes are unsuitable for most people with ME/CFS.

The yoga classes are taught by specialist remedial yoga teachers who, in their adaptation, gear their teaching towards gentle, often lying postures, breathing and relaxation. Due to the popularity of the yoga, there are now two styles of remedial yoga available; Hatha yoga and Iyengar yoga. The provision of two classes every week has been an important development during the last year. The varied approaches, different venues and class times open the classes to a greater number of people with ME/CFS.

The majority of committee members who organize the classes have ME/CFS but there are also several able–bodied volunteers who do an invaluable job. The premises for the yoga are quiet and warm. There is parking next to the buildings and the venues have disabled access. The Iyengar yoga classes are held in a specialist yoga centre, where all necessary equipment is provided.

A profound consequence of the illness is loss of earnings, and in order to help those in financial need an optional minimal fee is charged. Many people with ME/CFS are too ill to drive or use public transport and the provision of taxis out of funds make the classes more accessible.

We provide regular bulletins by post and information on our website and resources such as yoga books/CDs/tapes are available from a postal library.


The Survey

As in previous years, Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS has carried out a formal monitoring exercise. This is in addition to the ongoing verbal feedback we get from our members. The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that our priority aims are:

  • Providing a service that meets our members needs.

  • Identifying improvements to the service.

  • Checking that the group is achieving the outcomes hoped for.

During September a short questionnaire was distributed to members who had attended the yoga classes on three or more occasions during the preceding three months. Questions were a result of outcomes that have been previously identified.

Twenty seven survey forms were returned. The format of these forms together with the results is shown below.


Questionnaire for members of Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS 2006

Tick one box per question.

1. Which Yoga sesssions do you usually attend? Tuesday (Iyengar)
4
Friday (Hatha)
17
Both classes
6



Please see below table for full text of questions.

  a great deal quite a lot slightly not at all
2. Social aspects 14 9 3 1
3. Management of illness 12 11 4 0
3. Improvement in symptoms 3 10 11 2
4. Yoga practice 10 8 6 3


Full text of questions:

  1. Do you find the social aspects of the yoga group helpful?

  2. Do you think the yoga helps you to manage your illness better-e.g. by helping to get the right balance between rest and activity?

  3. Do you think the yoga practice has led to any improvements in your symptoms?

  4. Do you pracise yoga or relaxation techniques at home?



Which resources do you find useful?
** Yoga and Realaxation CDs, Tapes and Books
are available from the Library)
Bulletin Website Yoga & Relaxation CDs etc **
25 10 12
Some of the comments made by respondents on survey forms:

  • "I always sleep better after yoga which in turn leads to an improvement in my symptoms."


  • "I'm not well enough to come every week but I value the classes enormously. The social contact at the class is as therapeutic as the actual yoga.."


  • "I love coming to the group and find it highly beneficial both physically and socially."


  • "I think that yoga, especially Iyengar yoga, is key in my recovery and helps me to adapt to my reduced energy levels. The sessions themselves are so restful and inspire me to practise at home, and integrate into my pacing routine. Yoga … has helped me to accept where I am at the moment and given me the confidence to believe that I can heal myself. Thank you."


  • "I think the classes are excellent. I don't know what I'd do without them. The new Iyengar classes are fantastic. It's great to have 2 different styles of yoga available."




Feedback from non–attenders

Previous surveys have shown that even among those members who are not able to attend the classes, people appreciate that the classes exist, because they provide a goal to aim for when well enough and they also find the information useful. This survey did not include this group, but telephone feedback during 2006 from some non–attenders confirmed the yoga classes were a goal to aim for when they were well enough, and that the bulletin, website and library resources were useful. The provision of taxis makes yoga a realistic goal for non–attenders, understanding that they can easily reach the venues.
Comments included the following:

  • "I find the bulletin very useful, especially the reviews. I use the library a lot, especially for yoga nidra CDs, and I practise these once or twice a day at home."


  • "I've found the yoga books and audio tapes in the library very helpful and as a result I can practise yoga relaxation techniques at home. I find the reviews in the bulletin extremely useful."



Conclusion

Again, the findings of this survey have been very positive.

The Iyengar yoga classes which were developed this year are popular and the number of members attending has increased throughout the year. Comments reflect the therapeutic value of this style of yoga.

The social interaction for those members attending the classes has proved to be invaluable as many have been chronically ill for years and are socially isolated. Only one respondent placed no value on the support and interaction provided by the group.

All of those surveyed felt that yoga helped them to manage their illness better to some extent, by helping to achieve the right balance between rest and activity. 85% of people report that yoga helps to manage their illness "a great deal" or "quite a lot". None of those surveyed felt that it didn't help at all.

Although yoga is not a cure for ME/CFS, approximately 92% of respondents felt that there had been some improvement in their symptoms since attending the sessions. The importance of the health benefits of the yoga are hard to overstate, since there are few alternatives available which are either accessible or beneficial for many people with ME/CFS.

This year, we have monitored members' practice of yoga at home and 89% of people use yoga techniques at home. Resources made available through a postal library, which can help with practising yoga and deep relaxation at home, have also been appreciated by our members, including non–attenders.

We provide regular bulletins and information on our website for all members, including non–attenders, and the bulletins are proven to be invaluable by a majority of members. Respondents also find the website useful, but as expected the numbers are lower as not all members have access to a computer or, as a result of their illness, some are unable to use one.

Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS provides an invaluable and unique service for people with a chronic, debilitating illness. The positive feedback from members reflects the important help and support that it provides.

Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS, November 2006
Registered Charity No. 1117464
www.sheffieldyogaforme.org

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