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Results of Survey by Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS
Autumn 2007

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. There are two styles of remedial yoga available; Hatha yoga and Iyengar yoga. The varied approaches, different venues and class times open the classes to a number of people with ME/CFS. 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.

The majority of committee members who organise 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.

The group provides regular bulletins by post and information on the website (www.sheffieldyogaforme.org.uk) and resources such as yoga books/CDs/tapes are available from a postal library.

Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS is a registered charity. (Registered Charity Number: 1117464) The majority of trustees who organize the classes have ME/CFS but there are also several able-bodied volunteers who do an invaluable job.


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.

Over a period of four weeks, during September and October 2007, 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 and were the same as 2006 so that comparisons of results could be made.

Twenty five forms were distributed and twenty two were returned. The format of these forms together with the results is shown below.


Questionnaire for members of Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS 2007

Tick one box per question.

1. Which Yoga sesssions do you usually attend? Tuesday (Iyengar)
5
Friday (Hatha)
13
Both classes
4



Please see below table for full text of questions.

  a great deal quite a lot slightly not at all
2. Social aspects 8 9 5 0
3. Management of illness 12 8 2 0
4. Improvement in symptoms 5 8 8 1
5. Yoga practice 7 6 8 1


Full text of questions:

  1. Which Yoga sesssions do you usually attend?

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

  3. 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?

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

  5. Do you practise yoga or relaxation techniques at home?



Which resources do you find useful? (Tick as many boxes as necessary)
Bulletin Website Yoga & Relaxation CDs/tapes/books
(from library)
18 7 6



Some of the comments made by respondents on survey forms:

  • "An excellent class. Well structured in a comfortable, well-equipped environment. I always feel better after. (Iyengar)."


  • "... it's a fantastic way to achieve and maintain a healthy mind, body and spirit. It is the only form of exercise I am able to do, and it is the only time I relax and breathe properly. The teachers are very knowledgeable and helpful. They adapt the poses to what individuals are able to achieve, so that they stay within their own limits. (Iyengar)"


  • "The classes are of huge value to me ... they offer almost my only opportunity for socializing in a group as I find normal social activities too demanding. I practice yoga regularly on my own and feel it does help with many of my ME symptoms, even though my illness is quite severe. (Hatha)"


  • "The social aspect of the yoga is so beneficial. It is great to talk to people who really understand the illness. I also enjoy the varied styles of the different teachers. (Hatha)"


  • "It's so great that you provide transport. I wouldn't be able to go otherwise."




Conclusion

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

Classes remain popular and comments reflect the therapeutic value 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. All those who responded to the survey valued this aspect of the classes.

All of those surveyed also felt that yoga helped them to manage their illness better to some extent, by helping to achieve the right balance between rest and activity. More than 90% 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 95% 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.

Resources made available through a postal library, which can help with practising yoga and deep relaxation, have been appreciated by those on our mailing list, with a little over 95% of respondents practising at home.

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, December 2007
Registered Charity No. 1117464
www.sheffieldyogaforme.org.uk

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Registered Charity No. 1117464