Latest News Feb 2015

Welcome to our 7th Newsletter – = the website educating about and promoting the yoga used in The University of York, The Department of Health Sciences, York Trials Unit’s randomized controlled trial (funded by Arthritis Research UK).
Our Trifold Information Leaflet can be found on our website.

Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs Institute

This has been set up to continue to do quality work in the area of yoga education and research. The Institute is a Member Organisation of the British Council for Yoga Therapy and it educates yoga teachers and health professionals, as well as supporting its already-trained ‘Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs’ (YHLB) teachers with CPD and on-going advice. We present at conferences and exhibitions and write articles, research papers and case studies on yoga for back health. Its Director, Alison Trewhela, is the Specialist Tutor in Yoga and Research for The University of Exeter Medical School; Senior Practitioner in Yoga on BCRP, Specialist Advisor in Yoga, and Award Winner, for ICNM; specialist in low back pain yoga since 1992; BackCare UK Professional Associate Member; and more.

The Institute continues to have an ethos of sharing and aims to raise the profile of therapeutic and specialised yoga, whilst maintaining professionalism, quality and standards and respecting research. It has presented ‘specialised yoga’ to NHS commissioning committee meetings and events and discussions are ongoing in several areas of the country.
Read more on our YHLB Institute page here.

YHLB Teacher Training Courses 2015

Alison will teach these in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (May and August, supported by BWY) and Surrey (September and December). Interested teachers should send in their applications for consideration (more information on our website). Remember, we continue to expect and maintain high standards – this includes entry onto the course requiring a good quality initial yoga teacher training, plus a minimum of four years of post yoga teaching qualification teaching experience.

Yoga Teacher YHLB Taster BWY In-Service Training Days 2015

Anna will teach in Sheffield in April, at The BWY Yoga Festival in London on June 28th, and Nottingham in September.

Find YHLB Teachers – Effective for Workplaces, Councils, NHS, Individuals

There are now 320+ YHLB-trained teachers. Only those listed on our Institute’s Register have been trained in how to deliver the specific 12-week YHLB programme. Trainee teachers teach the programme under mentor-support. View Find a Teacher page. This long-term self-management programme is unique with its quality, evidence-base, and specially-designed classes, practice sequences, published book and relaxations CD. It was found to be effective for low back pain. ‘Spine’ journal showed it reduced work absenteeism from work by approx. 70% and that it would be cost-effective for society and the NHS.

Courses are run with small groups and therefore potential attendees should be prepared to register with YHLB-trained teachers and wait for the next course start-date. This specialised evidence-based course costs more than general yoga classes, but not as much as other back pain treatments. You will be likely to learn to help yourself for your lifetime with this once-off course.

NHS Low Back Pain Costs Research 2013

London School of Economics and Politics studied records (2007-2009) of approx. 119,000 patients and found that people with chronic low back pain (£1074) cost the NHS virtually double that of the comparable group of pain-free patients (£516). It was noted that almost 60% of the cost was accountable to GP consultations, 20% to secondary care, and the rest to medications. At a cost of £200-£292, the 12-week Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs programme where patients are taught to integrate yoga into their daily lives forever, represents a good treatment choice that would be likely to reduce future costs long-term. A spokesman for Arthritis Research UK, which funds research into the causes and better treatments of back pain, commented:

“Chronic back pain is the scourge of modern western society and is a huge burden to the NHS. There are a number of treatments, including painkillers and exercise, and our research has also established that yoga can help people whose back pain becomes chronic (long-term).”

Media Attention Continues

The media continues to pursue, mention and feature us – October 2014 saw ‘Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs’ mentioned prominently in a colour ‘How to Beat Backache for Good’ Pull-out Article in ‘The Times’ and also in a ‘Daily Mail’ colour booklet called ‘Back and Joint Pain’. More recently, in February 2015, The University of York referred a freelance journalist to Alison for a telephone interview regarding information for the Joints section in a ‘Daily Mail’ week-long Pull-Out Series on Yoga.


In February, Alison was interviewed by YHLB Teacher Emma Burtles regarding yoga and the gentle ‘Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs’ programme for Radio Perth for a series compiled to show how people of all ages can help themselves to better health, despite having chronic conditions, injuries or ill health. It is possible that BBC Scotland may later be interested in airing these programmes. We anticipate a YHLB Team Scotland will join the Devon, Cornwall and Merseyside teams soon. Hopefully YHLB Team Wales and Northern Ireland may also follow.

Arthritis Research UK

The charity that generously funded our original University of York research is Arthritis Research UK (formerly Arthritis Research Campaign). They have a great website – – with interesting downloadable leaflets and booklets and a topical and interesting ‘Arthritis Today’ magazine. Back copies of the magazine are available online, but note that you can also donate to the charity and sign up to have it sent to you by post or email.

Article featuring Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs programme published in the Winter 2014 edition of ‘Arthritis Today’ – the magazine of the charity Arthritis Research UK
‘More people with low back pain benefiting from yoga

More than 2,000 people with low back pain have benefited from a 12-week course of yoga following a successful Arthritis Research UK-funded trial.

More than 300 yoga teachers in the UK have been trained to teach the Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs (YHLB) programme since the trial results were first published in 2011.

The clinical trial, conducted by the University of York, showed that a specially developed 12-week course of yoga proved to be a more effective treatment for people with chronic low back pain compared with usual GP care. Those on the yoga arm of the trial – which involved more than 300 people – had improved function and more confidence in performing everyday tasks.

Results of the trial were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and a cost evaluation paper in Spine showed it was cost effective.

The trial’s yoga programme, which involved 20 experienced yoga teachers, was designed and delivered by Alison Trewhela, in collaboration with Anna Semlyen and other teachers from different schools of yoga to represent a best-practice yoga course that could be replicated. The classes were designed for complete beginners, with experienced yoga teachers given extra training in back care, and were taught in several regions of the UK.

Those attending the specially-designed programme, which involved step-by-step gentle classes, were encouraged to become self-sufficient in the long term. Classes were supported with five home practice sheets, a pain-relieving ‘menu sheet’, a manual and a four-track CD teaching how to relax physically and mentally.

Since then, the YHLB programme has been taught across the country by a number of yoga teachers, with many acting as ambassadors and champions of YHLB to ensure its continued success and transfer of knowledge.

“Many of the thousands of students, mostly newcomers to yoga, who have participated in 12-week YHLB courses also act as referrers to ensure more people benefit from YHLB’s evidence-based back-care education and self-management skills,” explained Alison.

“Many medical professionals, including GPs, hospital consultants and physiotherapists, are supportive of the YHLB course and signpost patients to it. A few YHLB teachers are teaching under the NHS, and some are teaching for council schemes and in workplace settings.”

A virtual Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs Institute has now been set up, which Alison hopes will further promote yoga through what is a unique, evidence-based course representing best practice for chronic low back pain.

“It’s fantastic to see that this yoga programme, which was generously supported by Arthritis Research UK, is continuing to make a difference to people with chronic low back pain,” she added.

To find a teacher near you, go to Find a YHLB Teacher

Links to other interesting Arthritis Research UK published articles (magazine and/or online) mentioning our yoga research and yoga programme:

“Yoga aids chronic back pain sufferers”
Published on 01 November 2011

“Got back pain? Try yoga”
Published on 05 January 2012

“Yoga: a cost-effective treatment for back pain sufferers?”
Published on 12th August 2012

“Yoga Class for Management of Back Pain”
Published in ‘Synovium’ magazine for Healthcare Professionals (Issue 25 Spring 2012)


Full magazine:

“More People with Back Pain Benefitting from Yoga”
Published Winter 2014. As printed in full above in this Newsletter.

“UK Study shows high cost of treating back pain”
Published 4th January 2013.

“New report on complementary therapies for arthritis reveals lack of scientific evidence”
Published on 09 January 2013. Shows ‘yoga’ for chronic low back pain has good evidence.

Lastly, you may be interested in Arthritis Research UK’s CAT review booklet compiled by research experts – this includes Yoga and it shows that there is good evidence for its use for low back pain. At the very bottom of the page link above, you can download this comprehensive booklet entitled:- ‘Practitioner-Based Complementary and Alternative Therapies for the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Fibromyalgia and Low Back Pain’.

Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs Represented at Conferences and Events

Alison attended the Confer Conference ‘Meeting of the Yoga Schools’ international yoga research event in London last year. She later accepted an invitation to stand on the panel at a follow-on research forum hosted by the Minded Institute, where she represented the ‘Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs Institute’ and social enterprise project. By invitation, she will do a presentation at another healthcare conference in Oxford later on this year. British Wheel of Yoga SW’s AGM last November featured Alison showcasing YHLB.

Lack of ‘Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs’ Near You?

You might consider suggesting to several qualified and experienced yoga teachers that they should consider doing our training course to enable them to deliver YHLB. Tell them about your and others interest and demand for specialised yoga courses in your area.

Want to Tell Others How Helpful the 12-Week YHLB Course Is for You?

If you are one of the thousands of people who have attended a 12-week course with one of our qualified ‘Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs’ teachers, why not send us a written paragraph, a photo and/or a 1 minute video. We might then use this to help encourage others to try it. Send to [email protected] Thank you. Any time will do.

Many thanks for your continued interest and support. This is a project with many exciting avenues, benefits, and subsidiary projects. Thanks for taking the time to read this Newsletter. Feel free to let us know, if you think we have missed some news and we could consider putting it in the next newsletter. More information can be found in the post script below. On our Promotional Resources page, as well as past newsletters, you can find details of our International Day of Yoga celebratory sessions that we’ve called ‘Standing Tall & Lying Comfortably – Introduction to Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs’.

Happy Yoga.

Alison Trewhela and Anna Semlyen social enterprise and The Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs Institute