St Helena Hospice  A place we can never truly appreciate, until we need it.

I am proud to be part of the Complementary Team at St Helena Hospice delivering yoga and relaxation to patients and carers within the Tendring Hospice.

Denise Steward is an Occupational Therapist at St Helena Hospice and writes about the benefits of yoga within the Hospice setting.

Gentle yoga has been offered to patients and some carers over the last year at both the Colchester and Clacton hospice sites. ‘ Yoga’ has many interpretations however here it consists of very gentle therapeutic sessions aimed at self-awareness, gentle movement and relaxation. Sessions are mostly seated, however, there are some standing activities if patients feel able to do so. The activities are adapted to suit the individual needs and patients are encouraged to self-regulate their involvement. The groups can include the use of gentle movements for joint mobility and circulation; breath awareness activities to help promote relaxed breathing; combined breath and movement activities for concentration and focus and relaxation to help calm the nervous system and manage stresses.

Being dual trained as a British Wheel of Yoga Teacher and an Occupational Therapist I am in the privileged position of helping to develop the use of yoga as a gentle and meaningful therapeutic activity at the hospice along-side the Complementary Therapy team. I also completed the British Wheel of Yoga post qualification module ‘Yoga for people living with cancer’ run by yoga teacher Julie Friedeberger, which I have found an invaluable resource when offering such an activity to patients.

We are very fortunate to have two volunteer yoga teachers who usually offer the groups here for us. Lynne Stephenson takes the Tuesday morning Colchester group and Paddy Bellis offers yoga in Clacton on a Tuesday afternoon.

My involvement includes helping to set the groups up by responding to referrals and then discussing any considerations patients might have before inviting them to attend a group for up to 6 weeks. Group sessions last for around an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.

I have recently taken the opportunity to start the new Thursday afternoon group in response to a the growing number of referrals we have had.

This is just one aspect of my OT role at the hospice and it relies on the support of the my wider Rehabilitation Team colleagues to succeed. Our Rehabilitation Assistants also have a valuable role within these groups, supporting patient and teacher involvement and helping the whole group work process.

Yoga has proved a popular and valued activity here among patients whether they have used it before or are new to it. On a wider scale it represents an everyday leisure and lifestyle activity these days used for mental and physical well being, perhaps far from the mystical eastern shores of its origin. The groups at the hospice offer patients the chance to take part in this activity, at a level suitable for them, and practice tools that could enhance their own well being in everyday life.

Denise Steward

Occupational Therapist

St Helena Hospice


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