NHS-Ourmala pilot demonstrates Yoga’s significant health benefits

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In late 2014, Ourmala won funding from the government’s Social Prescribing initiative to run an eight-week Yoga pilot for isolated elderly residents of Hackney in conjunction with NHS and Hackney Family Action. The end of grant report has now been approved, providing quantitative and qualitative evidence for the positive effects of Yoga on physical and mental health.

Outcomes include improvements in strength, flexibility, energy, wellbeing, confidence and optimism, and significant reductions in anxiety, depression, physical pain and feelings of  isolation. Participants were referred to Ourmala by GPs and Wellbeing Nurses.

“Driving, I usually have pain all round my lower back and neck. After Yoga, it was completely gone, I couldn’t believe it.” — Andrew*

“Mum usually feels very anxious about falling over and going out by herself. After Yoga, her confidence and anxiety are a lot better.” — Penny*, daughter of the oldest participant in her 70s

Delivering yoga service to the wider community

The pilot, which also included a social tea time and signposting element to enable participants to access other services, was part of Ourmala’s sustainable development plan.

“One of our goals is to become a social enterprise so that we run business activities to fund our social mission alongside other funding streams,” says Emily Brett, Yoga teacher and Ourmala’s CEO.

“Yoga is a safe, effective, scalable and cost-efficient intervention that provides short and long term health benefits. Delivering Yoga to the wider community would be a win-win situation for all involved.”

Participant Stephen Carr even used techniques he learned in Yoga to help with a biopsy: They had to take some samples, and I was very, very nervous as it was under local anaesthetic. My wife reminded me of my breathing exercises from Yoga. It helped me so much that the surgeon, who would have been happy with two samples, said I was one of the best patients there and asked if he could take a third sample, to be 100% sure.”

Next steps

The Social Prescribing fund was facilitated by Hackney Council Voluntary Services and next steps are now being considered. Special thanks to Kishore Kanani, HCVS Senior Organisational Development Manager and Yoga teacher Leah Davies for their invaluable help with the project.

“I don’t think you understand what a difference to our lives this has made. It has made such a difference to how we cope with stuff and to the family, not that they probably realise! It makes me feel hopeful and the breathing is helping with sleep.” — Sarah*

 

*Participants names have been changed to protect identity.

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