A telephone survey of members of Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS was carried out by two members of the Management Committee in Autumn 2003. A total of 24 members were interviewed. Interviewees were selected randomly by category, based on how often they attended the yoga classes. Three groups of eight were interviewed- those who attended the class regularly, those who attended occasionally, and those who had joined the mailing list but not actually attended classes.
The questions focussed on the outcomes we had predicted when we applied for funding from the Community Fund. In addition to measuring whether we were achieving these outcomes as expected, we hoped to better understand the benefits of the classes for those who do attend, and also to learn more about the reasons why people may not attend. It was felt that this survey would complement the previous evaluation which was carried out by a postal survey in March 2002.
Of the 8 regular attenders who were interviewed, 7 said they experienced health benefits as a result. Examples given were that they felt more relaxed, or energised, or both of these; and that breathing had improved and/ or they felt more flexible. Four of the regular attenders found that yoga helped their mood or emotional well being as well as their physical health.
4 out of 8 said that the yoga classes helped them with managing their illness. The same number said they had learned something useful at the class. It is worth noting that the other four were all experienced in yoga before they became ill so while they may not have learned new skills they still attended the class regularly in order to support their own yoga practice.
7 out of 8 regular attenders said they felt they benefitted socially from attending the classes. One woman commented that this was first activity ouside her home she had been able to attend unaccompanied since her illness began.
As expected, the regular attenders expressed the most benefits overall from the classes. However of those classified as occasional attenders, 3 out of 8 felt they had experienced health benefits from the classes. 2 out of 8 felt the classes had helped them to manage their illness better and 4 out of 8 said they had learned something useful.
3 out of 8 occasional attenders said that attending the class had helped them to feel less socially isolated, and 4 of the 8 saw the class as a goal they could aim for when their health was a little better. 5 out of 8 expressed appreciation for the regular bulletins.
One woman from this group had recovered sufficiently to return to University and strongly felt that the yoga class had contributed to the improvement in her health. Another had recovered enough to do small amounts of paid work; she felt the yoga may have helped her health to improve.
5 of the 8 people who have never attended the class said they found the bulletin useful and they enjoyed getting it. One woman who was almost bed bound said it helped to relieve her extreme social isolation. 3 people said they found the yoga class helpful as something to aim for when they felt well enough.
Different reasons were given for people not attending the classes although they had been interested in joining the mailing list. A small number were too well to attend the classes and others were too ill. 5 people said they do not come because of other commitments such as child care, and 5 said they do not come because the time or day of the class is inconvenient for them.
In general the findings of the survey were extremely positive and confirmed the value of specialised Yoga classes for people with M.E. or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. There are no generally accepted treatments for these illnesses and sufferers have been offered very little help in managing their symptoms. People with ME can experience quite severe adverse effects from even very modest activity so the provision of a class that makes any physical activity, even of a very gentle type, accessible again is seen as a tremendous bonus.
Our classes are taught by highly qualified remedial yoga teachers who have adapted the classes to be suitable for the specific needs of people with ME or CFS. Great care has been taken to find suitable premises: warm, light and quiet, with good disabled access, parking etc. Transport is provided on request, as we know this could create a barrier for people on low incomes who are too ill to use public transport.
These survey results confirmed our previous evaluation, (March 2002) which showed significant benefits across a range of measures and also a tremendous appreciation for the existence of the classes.
The following is just one example of the comments made:
'fantastic – nothing else like it. Am not always well enough for social activities offered by the local ME group'
The survey has also made a useful contribution to our ongoing monitoring of how best to ensure that our classes meet the needs of people with ME, and in particular how to make the classes as accessible as possible.
To download the full survey report
Sheffield Yoga for ME/CFS, March 2004