General Letters to Yoga Teachers from YHLB Researchers

to Yoga Teachers from the Yoga Teacher/ Yoga Therapist Researchers – Alison Trewhela and Anna Semlyen

YHLB Yoga Specialised Training

Welcome and thank you for your interest in the ‘Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs’ (YHLB) programme and this social enterprise website. 

As a yoga teacher you will undoubtedly want to find out more about our exciting and significant research and YHLB.  Many of you will want to become involved professionally in this post-research development project. 

This is not just exciting research, but research that can make a difference to those with back pain, yoga teachers and yoga in general.  Our University of York / Arthritis Research UK randomised control trial showed YHLB was safe, effective and cost-effective (for NHS, Workplaces, Society). 

Evidence-based YHLB is encouraging a whole new population of people to try yoga.

Qualified and experienced qualified teachers of a high quality and with a professional approach to yoga teaching are invited to join other Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs Registered teachers by training in the programme.  Help us share this project and YHLB programme.

We, the lead yoga teacher / yoga therapist consultants on the original trial management team, want to make sure that you are informed about exactly what we did during this yoga trial.

We hope that you share our vision of allowing as many people to benefit from the opportunities that this research has given – e.g. raising public awareness of yoga, acceptance within medical and scientific circles, sharing of the resources designed for the research, helping those with back pain to help themselves to improved comfort, health and well-being for now and the future.

The general public, health professionals and GPs, workplaces are seeking this specific evidence-based specialised YHLB yoga.  

We appreciate your support for this project and its future developments.

We are very grateful to Arthritis Research UK and York Trials Unit for this generous gift of ‘Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs’, allowing us to take yoga to a new level of standards and recognition. 

Thank you for your interest and support.   

Many thanks for telling others about this website, our YHLB courses and our YHLB Teacher Training courses – this project is for sharing.

Thank You.

YHLB Yoga Logo and Banner

Response published in ‘Spectrum’ BWY yoga magazine regarding our stance to only train already-qualified and experienced yoga teachers

Our main aim is certainly to share the resources and fruits of this research with as many people as possible.  However, in order to respect the research and to keep its value, we are acutely aware of the fact that it is necessary to keep to its ‘evidence-base’.  Keeping things as they were during the research project itself:

  1. Will allow the medical profession, health practitioners, NHS commissioners, and those employed in Corporate HR/Occupational Health to feel comfortable to ‘signpost’, offer or refer patients/employees to ‘Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs’ (YHLB) teachers’
  2. Will serve to encourage the general public to feel confident that they will learn the same yoga to the same standard as in the research itself
  3. Will help to raise awareness of yoga teachers working efficiently with clarity as unified professionals.

The main intellectual property holders of the research educational resources (The University of York, Arthritis Research UK) are continuing to support the ‘rolling out’ of the yoga programme, but they must be satisfied that efforts are being made to maintain quality and adherence.

Alison Trewhela who is highly-experienced as a low back pain yoga specialist, designed the YHLB yoga programme in 2006-7, trained the 20 yoga teachers for the RCT research trial and therefore she is the only tutor currently training teachers in how to deliver the full 12-week YHLB programme.  One could describe her position as being the ‘gatekeeper’ of the yoga programme.  Absolutely, YHLB is for sharing, but it should be noted that it belongs to the resarch itself (not BWY or IYAUK).  Our mission is to make sure that the integrity of what we have achieved, with this largest and most ‘significant’ piece of yoga research worldwide to date, is maintained.  Our entry requirement when recruiting teachers for The University of York trial was a minimum of 4 years’ post-yoga-qualification teaching experience and it remains so now.  We do accept that each teacher is different and may have extra expertise so, for example, we may allow a BWY Diploma qualified teacher to attend the course if they are additionally a trained physiotherapist, osteopath or yoga therapist even if they have not reached their 4-year time-point.  If the teacher and tutor are satisfied that this would be appropriate, then arrangements are sometimes made to give extra ‘mentor’ and ‘buddy’ support to these teachers teaching the programme early, until they reach that 4-year time-point.  Interestingly, the majority of these less experienced teachers who have attended the course seem to have easily come to the conclusion that waiting whilst gaining more general yoga class teaching experience before teaching YHLB is a good thing – many have subsequently taken it upon themselves to attend repeat training days.

Anna Semlyen offers BWY IST (professional development) Days where any teacher or student can attend to learn about the research and some poses from the programme.  Of course the educational resources document what yoga was used in the trial and can be especially useful for those with experience of yoga.

Only those who have completed the full YHLB TT (teacher training) course with Alison Trewhela, which includes their first teaching of the 12-week course being taught under tutor/mentor support, can teach the full programme.  This gives teachers in-depth knowledge of how to deliver the programme according to 12 differing class plans and much more by way of honing observational skills, learning back function/dysfunction and medical terminology, modifications, variations and specific use of appropriate poses, etc. for individuals.

Teacher with over 30 years’ experience:
When I first saw the book, I thought to myself, ‘I know this stuff’, but having attended this YHLB TT course, I can see how much there is to learn.”

And another:
Learning the complexities behind these simplest of poses is fascinating.”

It makes sense for experienced yoga teachers/therapists and yoga centres to get behind this project and help it to reach its full potential.


To have the beneficial impact deserved of this large, high-profile, University of York 2005-2011 yoga research project, experienced (minimum of 4 years) qualified yoga teachers interested in training in how to deliver the ‘Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs’ programme are sought. This research was published in one of the top international medical journals (Nov 1st 2011) and showed the gentle Beginners’ 12-week yoga course to be safe and effective, giving both short- and long-term improvements for those with non-specific chronic low back pain.

Comparing it to other equally rigorously-tested treatment options for this prevalent condition (80% of people), the RCT research showed that this yoga programme was one of the most effective currently available and one that physicians should be comfortable to recommend as a first-line treatment option.

Furthermore, in another cost-evaluation published research paper (Aug 15th 2012), it showed that this yoga programme would be cost-effective for the NHS (comparative to other options) and workplaces / economy / society. This did not take into account the probable life-long additional health promotional benefits that a self-management yoga programme such as this is likely to offer. Over the 12 months studied, those in the yoga group had an average of only 3.83 days off work compared to 12.29 in the usual care control group.  The majority of the yoga group participants were still practising yoga twice a week even 9 months after completing the 12-week yoga intervention.

The value of the research for yoga will be heightened and maintained if we preserve the evidence-based programme in the way that the funding charity Arthritis Research UK envisaged. The fully-resourced 12-week yoga programme taught now in the same way as in the research is what is being looked for by the general public, health professionals and commissioners.

Remaining true to the research will help to raise the profile of yoga and yoga teachers.  One aim is to have teams of yoga teachers working within the public sector and workplaces with national support (quality and standards will be key).

There are currently approx. 400 teachers (2016) trained in YHLB (not all are currently teaching), but we need more of us.

Please help by sharing with us in this continuing exciting project. If you wish to train, or know someone you think should train, then teachers should apply for full details by visiting the social enterprise website  Thank you for passing this on.

Alison Trewhela and Anna Semlyen