Yoga - just what the doctor ordered

People with diabetes and heart disease are getting an unusual prescription from their doctor.Bungay Medical Centre has started yoga sessions for people with chronic conditions - and for the very infirm, there is yoga you can do in a chair.

People with diabetes and heart disease are getting an unusual prescription from their doctor.

Bungay Medical Centre has started yoga sessions for people with chronic conditions - and for the very infirm, there is yoga you can do in a chair.

The exercise is designed to keep people mobile, but also to ease anxiety and depression which often worsens the health of people with long-term illnesses. It is mainly aimed at people with diabetes and heart disease, but those with weight problems, arthritis, and any long-term condition are also eligible.

The free sessions run as a six-week course, and it is hoped that those taking part will move on to regular yoga sessions at the council-run gym in Bungay. The benefits are already showing.

Judy Bailey, senior practice nurse, set up the sessions after benefiting from yoga herself. The scheme is funded for a year with £2,500 from the Queen's Nursing Institute Developing Practice Award.

She said: "The idea was to have it in an environment the patients were familiar with, with an instructor I knew to be approachable.

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"Seeing those people's faces and how good they are finding it makes it worthwhile. It is just staggering. Everyone who finished the course had a sizeable reduction in anxiety and depression. All of them lost centimetres around their middles.

"You give advice but you don't always know if it will be put into practice, but they have been saying, 'I was sitting in my chair doing this [moving her head] and my husband said, 'What are you doing?' and I said, 'I am doing my exercises!'"

Grandmother of seven Maureen Davison, 63, who has just finished a yoga course, was referred to it after struggling to lose weight.

She said: "I thought we would be sitting on the floor with our legs around our necks, but it was all quite manageable.

"The marvellous thing about it is, normally when I go to the gym I am aching all over the next day. This is so gentle you don't even realise you are doing it. It really does help you to relax. At the end, everyone said how much better they felt.

"Now I've started to limber up, when the music is on at home I feel more inclined to dance round the place."

Mavis Fisher, 72, suffers from arthritis, spine degeneration, and has had operations in both knees.

Now on her second session of chair-based exercise, she said: "I find it helps me to get to sleep at night. I can't move around very much, so it is nice to have some exercise sitting in a chair."

The sessions are for patients of Bungay Medical Centre, but there are plans to expand the scheme into residential homes in the town.