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Results of Survey by Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS
Autumn 2009

Introduction

Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS (SYfME/CFS) organises therapeutic yoga classes for people suffering from ME/CFS. This is a serious, debilitating, chronic illness and people are often unwell and possibly disabled, for many years. For some people affected by ME, very few activities are possible because of the severity of their illness. The provision of yoga classes specifically for people with ME/CFS is not available elsewhere in Sheffield or surrounding areas and ordinary yoga classes are unsuitable for most people with ME/CFS. The group also aims to offer social, emotional and physical support for its members.

Two styles of yoga are provided; 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 both venues have disabled access. The Iyengar yoga classes are held in a specialist yoga centre, where all necessary equipment is provided.

The yoga classes are taught by teachers with therapeutic training and expertise and all adapt the sessions to gentle, often lying or supported postures, breathing and relaxation. Gentle exercise, greater awareness of body and mind, and relaxation are important factors in the management of and recovery from this condition. Yoga helps to provide these benefits.

A profound consequence of the illness is loss of earnings, and in order to help those in financial need an optional donation is suggested.

Many people with ME/CFS are too ill to drive or use public transport. SYfME/CFS provides taxis for those in need and so makes the classes more accessible to a greater number of people. This is an important use of the group's funding.

The group issues regular bulletins by post or email where appropriate. There is information on the website (www.sheffieldyogaforme.org.uk) and resources such as yoga books/CDs/tapes are available from a postal library which is run in collaboration with Sheffield ME Group. 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 majority of members. There are many members who are unable to attend classes because they are not sufficiently well but they value the contact of the group and hold attendance as a future goal.

Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS is a registered charity. (Registered Charity Number: 1117464) The majority of trustees who organise 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 in the form of a short questionnaire which was distributed, to those who attend classes, during November 2009. This was by email and at classes over a period of 3 weeks. 27 people who had attended classes during the previous 3 months completed a questionnaire.

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.

Questions were a result of outcomes that have been previously identified and also a reflection of verbal feedback during the previous year. The questions and results are on page 3.

It is impossible to include all the comments made by respondents, but here are some which reflect the overall tone.

"The class has been invaluable in reducing the social isolation that usually accompanies this often misuderstood illness. To be able to meet and share in a warm supportive environment, and feel accepted as 'human' again has been really important to me. The focus of yoga has improved greatly my relaxation skills and a better relationship with my body. I see this as helping greatly in my path to recovery which I am now starting to do. The class brings a sense of enjoyment and peace to my life. A big thank you."

"I find the classes help me a great deal. For example, after a class I am more relaxed, have more energy, my breathing has improved, and my spine feels much better. The classes also enable me to meet new people, which is great as the illness has taken away my social life."

"I like the breathing tip on the web site."

"I really enjoy the session and look forward to an activity that doesn't leave me exhausted."

"Gentle yoga is the perfect exercise for sufferers of ME/CFS and we have teachers who understand the condition and make the classes ideal for the group."

"I have only recently started to attend the Tuesday yoga classes, 3 so far. I have enjoyed them so far and with more practice hope to try the yoga and relaxation techniques at home."

"I love the Tuesday class at Walkley and always feel better after. The contact with people in the same boat is also helpful."

"I have a lot of demands on my time and energy. The yoga sessions are a time for myself. I do miss them when I am not able to come; I notice that my symptoms are worse when I haven't been able to come for a while. The people in the group are very welcoming, warm and friendly. It is the one place where I feel that everyone understands my situation. I feel the group is an important establishment."

"Yoga has become a lifeline to me and would find it very difficult to manage my ME without it. Instruction from the yoga teachers has taught me much about how to manage my health problems and how to give myself a better quality of life."


Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS Questionnaire 2009

Tick one box per question.

1. Which Yoga sesssions do you usually attend? Tuesday (Iyengar)
5
Friday (Hatha)
16
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 13 10 4 0
3. Management of illness 21 6 0 0
4. Improvement in symptoms 9 13 5 0
5. Yoga practice 11 6 8 2


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 practise 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 **
22 15 9

Conclusion

The findings of this survey have been very positive and indicate that the group is making good progress and fulfilling the needs of the majority of our members who attend classes. The views of those unable to attend classes were not addressed in this questionnaire (see 2008 survey report) but verbal feedback from telephone contact indicates that many non-attending members value the service provided by the group and consider attendance as an aim for the future.

Social contact (question 2) was valued ("a great deal" or "quite a lot") by 85% of respondents and featured in many of the comments made. No-one rated the social aspects of the classes as "not at all" helpful.

The importance of the health benefits of yoga for sufferers of CFS/ME are hard to overstate, since there are few accessible or beneficial alternatives available. The question asking about the benefits of yoga for the management of this illness (question 3) shows that 100% of respondents were better able to manage their illness ("a great deal" or "quite a lot"). 100% of people felt that yoga practice had led to some improvement in symptoms (question 4), whilst 81% rated this improvement to be "a great deal" or "quite a lot".

Of those people who attend classes, 63% practise yoga or relaxation at home (question5) regularly ("a great deal" or "quite a lot") whereas only 7% do not use the techniques they have learned, at home.

Question 6 asked about the resources which the group makes available. 22 out of 27 people value the bulletin (which an increasing number of members now receive by email, thus cutting our overheads) and 56% of people find the website useful, compared with only 32% in 2007. The trustees have identified development of the website as a future target.

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 2009
Registered Charity No. 1117464
www.sheffieldyogaforme.org.uk

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Registered Charity No. 1117464