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Yoga Provision for COVID-19 Recovery in Kirklees: Colne Valley Pilot Programme



Close to 30,000 people living in Kirklees have now been diagnosed with COVID-19. The long-term effects of the condition are poorly understood, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that many people suffer symptoms for up to 12 weeks, and some people suffer symptoms for much longer. At the moment, there is no formal provision for these individuals. We are offering a 6-week yoga programme targeting anyone who is recovering from COVID-19 and living in the Colne Valley.



What are the long-term symptoms of COVID-19, and how might yoga help?


Yoga is a mind-body practice that involves combining breathing patterns with physical movements. During the practice we build our concentration and focus, and ultimately develop our ability to relax. It’s important to note that yoga is not just about feeling relaxed during the session, but also about learning new ways to release tension and feel comfortable, confident and relaxed in our daily lives.


The possible long COVID symptoms are listed below. Those highlighted with bold font** are physical and psychological symptoms that may be relieved to some degree with a tailored yoga practice.

  • Fatigue, muscle deconditioning and weakness**

  • Ongoing breathing difficulties**

  • Loss of stamina**

  • Numbness or weakness**

  • Increased agitation, impulsivity and disinhibition**

  • Loss of self-confidence**

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)**

  • Anxiety and depression**

  • Sleep disturbances, insomnia and nightmares**

  • Diarrhoea and vomiting

  • Difficulty formulating words

  • Visual disturbances


Breathlessness and fatigue: An increasing body of scientific evidence is demonstrating that yoga can have a positive impact on our physiological and psychological function (Schmalzl et al. 2015). Breathing exercises can gradually improve the capacity and efficiency of the breath, and this can lead to increased parasympathetic activity – i.e., the body’s ‘rest and digest’ function. Increasing breath capacity in sufferers of long-term COVID-19 may not only alleviate some of the breathlessness and fatigue, but also lead to improved confidence and sense of self-control and agency.


The NHS website – which is currently where most GPs are directing patients during their COVID recovery period - proposes that relaxation exercises – such as yoga – can help manage the long-term symptoms of fatigue: https://www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk/managing-the-effects/effects-on-your-body/fatigue/



Musculoskeletal problems and physical weakness: The NHS website also cites yoga as a potential solution to resolve musculoskeletal, shoulder and back pain: (https://www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk/managing-the-effects/effects-on-your-body/musculoskeletal-shoulder-and-back-pain/). Whilst it can be effective for managing pain and musculoskeletal problems, it is also highly effective for prevention of problems. Yoga is also considered to be a highly cost-effective intervention (Hartfiel et al., 2017), which is straightforward to administer to groups of people in a safe and effective manner (including remotely when necessary).



What can Umbrella Yoga CIC offer to sufferers of Long COVID in the community?


We propose 6 yoga sessions (starting week of 22nd February 2021), that will be accessible to anyone who has had COVID-19. The sessions will be designed to:


- Develop breath control and capacity

- Increase mobility of joints*

- Gradually increase muscle function and stamina*

- Offer people a chance to focus on themselves – a bit of ‘me time’

- Feel relaxed, and learn some relaxation techniques they can use in daily life

- Come together as a group of people with a shared experience

- Increase their self-confidence and sense of agency to continue their recovery from the virus


*Options will always be given in the session so that people of different levels and abilities will be able to participate and benefit. Provisions will be made for anyone who wants to practice from a chair.


Each session will be delivered live online and last 60 minutes. There will include 45 minutes of yoga (including breathing, moving, and relaxation), followed by 15 minutes to discuss the practice, think about how participants can use practices in daily life (e.g., can they do some of the movements or breath practices at home on their own?), and also speak to each other to share experiences and support one another.


This programme is being supported by Co-Operative Care Colne Valley (and The National Lottery).


If you would like to be involved, or would like more information, please do get in touch: ellie.umbrella.yoga@gmail.com



References:


Kirklees website: https://www.kirklees.gov.uk/beta/health-and-well-being/covid19-long-term-effects.aspx

NHS website: https://www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk/managing-the-effects/effects-on-your-body/fatigue/


NHS website: https://www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk/managing-the-effects/effects-on-your-body/musculoskeletal-shoulder-and-back-pain/


Schmalzl L, Powers C, Henje Blom E. Neurophysiological and neurocognitive mechanisms underlying the effects of yoga-based practices: towards a comprehensive theoretical framework. Front Hum Neurosci. 2015;9: 1–19. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2015.00235


Hartfiel N, Clarke G, Havenhand J, Phillips C, Edwards RT. Cost-effectiveness of yoga for managing musculoskeletal conditions in the workplace. Occup Med (Lond). 2017 Dec 30;67(9):687-695. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqx161. PMID: 29202204; PMCID: PMC5927122.