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.
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 members’ 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."