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Results of Survey by Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS
Autumn 2008

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 organised to meet the needs of people with this 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.

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 makes the classes more accessible to a greater number of people. This is an important use of the groupís funding.

The group provides regular bulletins by post, information on the website (www.sheffieldyogaforme.org.uk) and resources such as yoga books/CDs/tapes which are available from a postal library. These resources are available to all those on the mailing list. Previous surveys have consistently shown that this aspect of our service is highly valued by the large majority of members.

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 membersí needs.

  • Identifying improvements to the service.

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

During October 2008, a short questionnaire was distributed to all on the groupís mailing list. This was different from previous years, when a questionnaire was distributed only to those people who had recently attended classes. Two hundred and fifty forms were distributed and ninety four were returned.

Questions were a result of outcomes that have been previously identified and also a reflection of verbal feedback during the previous year. They included questions about the yoga venues, timing and teachers. Feedback about the free transport provided by the group was also requested. Finally, respondents were asked about their yoga practice at home and the health benefits of this practice.

People were asked to say whether they usually attended yoga once or more a week, once or more a month, every few months, rarely or never. The results, presented in these five categories are presented as a table lower down the page.

It is impossible to include all the comments on the results forms but here are some which reflect the overall tone.

"Yoga for ME twice a week has become a 'life-saver' for my illness and made a huge difference to my life, which without it would be isolated and unsupported. The teachers are very sensitive to and understanding of ME and its limitations and make it possible for all of us to participate at our own level. It's wonderful to mix with fellow sufferers and share experiences and feel secure with like-minded people, who are coping with this misunderstood and severely debilitating illness. The atmosphere is caring and gentle and makes a huge difference to coping on oneís own. The free taxis help enormously and many just wouldnít be able to attend without this help. It's wonderful that funding has been available for this group and I truly hope it will be available in the future for this well-deserving cause." "Couldn't do without practising yoga. It is now part of my life. Yoga helps me in several ways: my breathing, my flexibility and my energy." "The offer of subsidised equipment has been of great benefitÖÖ.which makes practising at home so much easier." "I always feel stronger and calmer after each class." "Wonderful to have such an excellent range of teachers." "Helps with switching off and so helps pacing which has helped me manage my ME/CFS." "Yoga has changed my life."


Questionnaire Results Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS 2008

Please see below table for full text of questions.

1. Frequency of Attendance 1+per week
15
1+per month
10
Every few months
9
Rarely
19
Never
41
  yes no yes no yes no yes no yes no
2. Location 14 0 10 0 8 1 11 6 8 8
3.Taxi 5 1 4 1 2 0 8 0 5 0
4. Days of Classes 14 0 10 0 7 0 14 3 7 6
5. Times of Classes 13 2 10 0 8 0 13 5 10 6
6. Length of Classes 14 0 9 1 8 0 16 2 10 1
7. Yoga at Home 11 3 7 0 6 0 9 8 11 9
8. Management of Illness 14 0 10 0 7 1 14 3 15 1
9. Improvement 11 1 9 0 7 2 12 5 15 3


Full text of questions:

  1. How often have you usually been able to attend yoga classes during the last year?

  2. Do you find the location and venue suitable for you?

  3. If youíve used a free taxi to get to the class, was it satisfactory?

  4. Are the days of the week on which classes are held suitable for you?

  5. Are the class times suitable for you?

  6. Is the length of class about right?

  7. Do you practise yoga at home?

  8. Do you find that yoga helps you to manage your illness better?

  9. Do you think that yoga practice has led to any improvements in your symptoms?



Conclusion

The findings of this survey have been very positive and have reassured us that the group is progressing in the right direction, fulfilling the needs of the majority of our members who responded to the survey.

Those unable to attend regularly (rarely or never) gave a number of reasons. 22 were too ill, 4 reported much improved health, 12 had other committments and 13 found the classes too far from their homes

Those who are able to attend classes found the venues and class times generally suitable; many praised the organisation and teaching.

People who attend yoga classes at least once a month tend to practise at home (89% of those who answered this question.) 100% of these people reported that the practice enables them to manage their illness better and 95% reported an improvement of symptoms.

Respondents who rarely or never attend classes are less likely to practise at home but 88% of those who do feel that yoga helps them to manage their illness better and 77% reported improvements in their symptoms. Resources made available through our postal library and subsidised equipment make it possible for many to do this.

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.

Social interaction for those members attending the classes is invaluable as many have been chronically ill for years and are socially isolated. Many of those who responded to the survey commented on this aspect of the classes. People who are currently unable to attend classes have fed back that they see attendance at yoga classes as a goal for the future.

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 2008
Registered Charity No. 1117464
www.sheffieldyogaforme.org.uk

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Registered Charity No. 1117464