After Charlene McAuley’s aunt died from COVID last November aged just 51, she decided it was time to try to do something to help fight the illness: She’d use yoga.
Charlene, who grew up in Manchester, has been a passionate advocate for the discipline and its benefits – having taught yoga since 2012 and worked with Everton FC’s first team for seven years; assisting injured players with rehabilitation.
Given how yoga has been used to help sufferers of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, Charlene thought these exercises could also benefit those infected with the lingering after-effects of coronavirus – an ailment now known as ‘long COVID’.
With the help of Dr Christoph Seiland, her dedicated ‘Yoga for Long COVID’ classes were born.
“What I love so much about practising and also about teaching yoga is that when it’s really practiced in its truest way it can be applicable to everybody so long as they want to practice it,” Charlene told The Manc.
“For me, it’s really helped with my anxiety and helped create this sense of equilibrium, this sense of calm that I didn’t have before I started practising.”
ONS statistics statistics recorded in May revealed that an estimated one million people in the UK are currently suffering from long COVID.
The most common symptoms of the condition include fatigue, shortness of breath and chest tightness. Sufferers can often do little exercise and struggle with simple tasks such as climbing the stairs.
The Yoga for Long COVID programme is a six-part online course designed for recovery – and participants can do the classes at their own pace, whenever they feel ready.
Sessions are mostly chair-based and start off with very gentle movements, meaning those suffering with constant fatigue can still participate.
Charlene wants to make sure the course is accessible to everyone and is offering the classes for free for those who cannot afford them.
“This course is about giving people the tools to empower themselves to help themselves to get better and giving them something they can do which will hopefully make them feel more in control of their condition and confident to do more,” she said.
Charlene emphasised that people should not sign up for the course before consulting their doctor or before any underlying health conditions that could be causing their symptoms have been ruled out.
The programme is, however, a solution for long COVID sufferers who have been told by their physician to do light workouts and breathing exercises.
Charlene stated the course is also applicable to sufferers of asthma or chronic fatigue syndrome.
If participants complete the sessions and feel confident enough to try something more challenging, Charlene has a library of yoga classes available on her website and also teaches live classes online.
As part of her research into the benefits of practising yoga to help treat long COVID, Charlene consulted with Dr Selina Dunn, a GP specialising in system pain management.
“I think what’s important for me is that, in medicine, there are so many things out there that could potentially work that we don’t have evidence for yet. I think this is one of them. I really believe that this could help,” Selina explained.
“It’s just so sad to see that a year down the line there are people still suffering.”
Selina is involved with a group researching long COVID and hopes to use Charlene’s programme by contrast a group of long COVID sufferers who have taken part in the programme with people who haven’t – comparing how classes affect breathing, confidence and emotional wellbeing.
The Yoga for long COVID programme is in its infancy and has only been available for the past few weeks, but Charlene reports that those who have signed so far have praised its approachability.
To find out more about the course visit the Yoga for Long COVID website.