Date: 19 09 2023

CNHC Registrant and Yoga Therapist, Julia Woodham, tells us about a project she is involved in – providing free yoga therapy sessions for people with musculoskeletal conditions experiencing chronic pain.

For start-ups and businesses interested in launching new services related to complementary therapies, CNHC’s website can be a great resource for learning about therapists and their areas of expertise.

When Niloofar Borghei Razavi wanted to launch a start-up related to yoga therapy and chronic pain, she used CNHC’s online Accredited Register of Complementary Health Practitioners to find therapists registered with CNHC. That is how Niloofar approached me and other yoga therapists with her idea. She and I talked about our shared vision for yoga therapy, and this resulted in Nilbon Yoga – a collaboration between us that started in October 2021 and has lasted to this day. Our team includes three other CNHC registered Yoga Therapists.

In September 2022, our team won the Together Fund grant from Versus Arthritis. This allowed us to offer a total of seven small group yoga therapy sessions to individuals who live with chronic pain and musculoskeletal conditions. Our aim was to offer three face-to-face and four online group classes, each running for six sessions and accommodating six participants. We also wanted to offer a thirty-minute one-to-one consultation with each participant to find out more about their issues and help design an appropriate session for the group.

After receiving the funding, we started planning with the team in October 2022 to discuss and agree on our strategy for recruiting participants and the format of our sessions. This funding allowed us to support forty-five participants who live with chronic health conditions across the UK.

We offered classes to NHS staff (including those interested in online classes) and to charity members, teachers, and the general public. We also offered our classes to individuals in different age groups, ranging from those in their late twenties and early thirties, to those in their late seventies and eighties.

One of the main triumphs of our project was reaching out to individuals who thought that they could not practice yoga or any other form of exercise because of their conditions. A high proportion of participants did some of the practices seated on their chairs and a few even on their beds. Yoga therapists involved in this project used chairs during the sessions to show how the practice can be modified. When participants were experiencing elevated levels of pain, we encouraged them to join but only to do breathing exercises and/or the relaxation.

Our successful teamwork and our team's dedication to this project was another major triumph. As well as helping those experiencing chronic pain, our collaboration with hospitals the opportunity to offer our classes to NHS staff were also important outcomes of this project for us.

As we were starting our project, we were still exploring how we could sign up enough participants. However, as we approached hospitals, charities, and schools, we started to have a long waiting list of individuals who were interested in our sessions and were ready to commit to attendance. We could not accommodate everyone, but we have a list of future participants for our classes.

The response and the feedback we received from participants was incredibly positive and emotionally moving for us. Every piece of feedback we received reminded us of the importance of the work we were doing and motivated us to continue.

One participant in my class shared the following feedback:

"Julia was very good at showing us how to utilise Chair Yoga to help with pain management, and also providing extensions to the chair-only movements, to use within the limits of our own bodies, was very useful. The breathing exercises were a great addition to the yoga practice, and I have found my favourite that can be used out and about, as well as within the privacy of my own home. I have really appreciated being able to do this course and will be looking for something similar to continue to use, as well as using the teaching and follow-ups from these sessions."

CNHC’s register of Complementary Health Practitioners is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care. The credibility and confidence inspired by using CNHC Registrants is what made this collaboration possible. My hope is that more collaborations like this can happen and make a meaningful contribution to the lives of those who live with chronic health conditions in the future.