Report into a Yoga for Long Covid Project

“I really appreciate your gentle sessions. They are perfect for where I am at the moment and I hope the breathwork especially will help with restoring balance and movement.”

We are grateful to Sussex Community for Funding these Classes.

Project Summary and Background
The project took place between November 2022 and February 2023 and was designed to meet the needs of people in Sussex facing the effects of long-covid through delivery of mindful movement classes. These practices support participants to become aware of and access the parasympathetic nervous system which aids rest, relaxation and healing of the body and mind. We also wanted to embed mindful
movement and breath practices beyond the 10-week programme so that participants will have tools to help manage their own conditions. We worked in partnership with Mindful Warriors, a local not for profit organisation with considerable experience in delivering community mindful
movement programmes and NHS partners.

Referrals
Referrals were made from NHS partners including the Post Covid Care and
Assessment Service from the Sussex Community Foundation Trust.

Participants
22 participants signed up to the course. All participants reported fatigue as a major
symptom of their condition. Other symptoms included brain fog, muscle aches,anxiety, and breathlessness. All said that they had difficulties with a range of day-to-day activities which included exercising, walking, playing with children, working and socialising.
66% of respondents had had symptoms from between 1-5 years
34% had had symptoms for 3 months – 1 year.

The Classes
The classes were 1.5 hours long and delivered online as students were too fatigued to make classes in person. They took place in three blocks of five. They included breathwork, meditation and gentle stretches.

Evaluation
100% of respondents said that the sessions had supported their wellbeing and helped them to manage their Long COVID symptoms.
100% said they would or would like to carry on a practice after the course had finished (although some felt that the weekly routine of the sessions would be missed).
100% of people reported positive feelings as a result of the sessions (see table below).

Benefits for participants 
Some participants said that the sessions had helped them to develop a home practice, making it a regular part of their routine. This was one of the key objectives for the project.

“Been practising my balancing postures and stretching much more, which feels really  good! I’ve been feeling so awful that I can’t bring myself to do these practices on my  own. However, having these sessions was like an anchor for me, it meant that I had  someone to guide and teach me rather than having to rely on myself. This then  helped me build my own practice.” 

“I have started to do yoga on a daily basis. Sometimes quite short, other times  longer, but every day.” 

The quality of teaching was an important part of the experience for the majority of  the participants with many of them praising her calm and encouraging presence. 

‘Durgha was such a wonderful teacher and I will definitely be doing these sessions  again in the new year (I was very pleased to hear they would continue)- she has  such a welcoming and calming energy which contributed to making me feel peaceful  during the sessions.’ 

“I feel a big thanks is owed to Durgha for feeling her way sensitively with this class of  unknowns. I think we were all shocked at the beginning to find out how strenuous we  found even very gentle stretches. Durgha responded to this by making sure we had  options which started at a very undemanding level, and making clear that we should  feel no pressure to push ourselves.”“Durgha was a great facilitator encouraging participation whatever our ability. It  helped cement that mind, body and soul are so interlinked. The peaceful result at the end of each session was priceless.” 

“Just a big thank you to Durgha for such a brilliant and helpful course- really looking  forward to the next ones.” 

The classes helped students manage their anxiety and their ability to manage levels of stress. 

‘More relaxed, less anxious; much of my symptoms of late have been around pain  and it’s helped to be able to stretch.’ 

‘Managing my stress and activity level as well as keep my nervous system calm’ 


Participants appreciated the chance to challenge themselves without overdoing it and it enabled them to understand what their body was capable of. They appreciated the time and space to devote to their well-being and liked the focus of a weekly session. 

“Calming session but just the right amount of challenge in movement. Tired  afterwards but in a positive way.” 

Time out to focus on movement and breath work.” 

“Gives me a set time and day to put myself and needs ahead of others.” 

“I really like these sessions and hope to continue. For where I am at in my stage of  my recovery they are just at the limit of what I can do, but not beyond me. I think this  is a good level for me to be pushing my boundaries and I find them mentally relaxing  as well as physically exercising!” 

“Realising that small actions/movements can have a profound impact. Particularly  combining controlled breathing and movement.” 

The ability to come together and be in a community was also important to many of the participants whose experiences had left them feeling isolated. The sessions were an important and enjoyable part of the week and gave people something to look forward to. 

“The classes made me feel less alone with Long Covid, and gave me support and  structure for starting to exercise gently again. I’d lost heart previously after trying on  my own and finding I could do nothing I’d have regarded as ‘exercise’ pre-Covid.” 

“Sharing experience with others, more confidence in physicality, relaxation.” 

“The classes are the highlight of my weekend, I come out of them feeling cared for  and understood and above all else relaxed.” 

“I found these sessions to be enjoyable, relaxing and a boost to my confidence.”

“A truly wonderful experience. It has improved my quality of life. Since Covid I have  lost my work, been really unwell, become isolated & despairing at times. I have really  valued this course and the connections I have made. Cannot praise the course or  thank our teacher Durgha enough.”

Chair of Trustees 

We are seeking a new chair of the trustees as we embark on an exciting new phase for the charity which was founded in 1981 to promote the benefits of all-round health for body, mind and planet. For over forty years we have provided a wide range of classes including yoga, Pilates, ballet and dance, relaxation techniques and much more, along with mindful movement outreach programmes which benefit vulnerable groups in the city.

The charity’s work has helped generate a city-wide revolution where there is a wellness studio on nearly every corner providing a huge range of classes. Having achieved its initial goals, BNHF is now focussed on developing and implementing a new vision – “Towards a Healthy City” – working with communities to develop  mindful movement programmes in the more disadvantaged parts of Brighton and Hove to reduce health inequalities.

Please see our Chair application pack for full details on the role and who we are, the need we are addressing and our vision for the future.

The role

We are looking for an active and engaged Chair who can provide strong leadership and guidance as we embark on our strategy for the next few years. You will play a leadership role both within the charity itself and in championing our mission to the outside world.

You will be joining at an exciting time and leading a committed, experienced and skilled Board and a dynamic and forward-looking organisation. As our new Chair you will help shape the next exciting phase of our future development as we develop our strategic business. 

You will lead the Board as it sets strategic direction and oversee the good governance of the charity, and ensure it is meeting its charitable obligations. The Chair also leads the small management team, providing guidance, oversight and performance management. Key actions include:

  • Providing strategic leadership to the charity, the Board and senior management, ensuring that BNHF achieves its mission, promoting a culture of openness and debate
  • Ensuring the Board and management team develop, and work to, high standards of governance, financial oversight and risk management
  • Preparing, chairing and facilitating Board meetings including encouraging discussion, summarising key points and ensuring decisions are made and implemented 
  • Develop relationships with key stakeholders including community organisations, the Council, health services, corporate partners, and other charities in related areas of work
  • Act as a spokesperson, ambassador and figurehead for the charity

Skills, qualities and experience 

You don’t need to have specific previous experience on a charity board to apply for the role of Chair but understanding or experience of the mental, physical and social health sector is highly desirable. We recognise that many of the skills required are transferable, and you may have gained them in other settings or through other relevant experience. These include:

  • Significant experience of leadership and team-working in a senior management role in a non-profit or commercial organisation 
  • The ability to listen and engage effectively, an inclusive leadership style, able to inspire and support everyone to participate on an equal footing
  • Sound judgement, good analytical skills and a keen sense of strategic purpose
  • Excellent communication and public speaking skills and a willingness to advocate for and champion BNHF’s work through personal networks, social media, and other channels
  • Energy and enthusiasm and a strong commitment to promoting equality and social justice

If you share our passion and enthusiasm for the developing mental, physical and social health in the community, enjoy thinking strategically and working collaboratively, and can bring diverse professional and personal experience to our Board, then we’d love to hear from you.

Time commitment 

This is an active role, where time will need to be invested regularly outside of meetings to support the work of the Board and the charity. The key Chair responsibilities are likely to require up to 4 days per month including attending 4-6 in person two-hour Board meetings per year (usually in person), sub-committees where relevant and an annual strategic day.

All Trustees including the Chair are appointed for an initial three-year term of office and may stand for re-election after this period. 

How to apply 

Please submit an expression of interest in your preferred format – CV, written statement, video, etc. – telling us:

  • Why you would like to lead the Board of Trustees at BNHF
  • How your skills and experience match what we are looking for in a new Chair

Please email your application to chair@bnhf.org by 5pm on 26 February 2024. We will respond to you promptly and interviews will be held soon after this date.

New Beginnings!

Reaching out...

After forty years of providing mindful movement classes in the centre of Brighton, we are now in a position to help develop these life-changing practices throughout the city. Evidence shows that activities such as yoga, tai chi, dance and meditation can make a crucial difference to health, wellbeing and disease prevention. But sadly, cost and accessibility mean they are not available to everyone. So we are committed to developing inclusive, low-cost classes in Brighton communities. We hope you will join us on this exciting journey! Read on to find out more and how to get involved.

Towards a Healthy City

Shocking health inequalities in the city were exposed during our launch event this summer. Ryan Edwards from the Healthy Lifestyles Team revealed that a man living in the most disadvantaged area in the city would die nine years younger than a man in the least disadvantaged area.

And BNHF trustee Peter Deadman warned that the NHS could not 'spend its way out of the approaching tsunami' of ill-health, outlining the vital role that mindful movement practices could play in preventing disease. Missed the event?

Catch up below:

Free Wellness Programmes

Shocking health inequalities in the city were exposed during our launch event this summer. Ryan Edwards from the Healthy Lifestyles Team revealed that a man living in the most disadvantaged area in the city would die nine years younger than a man in the least disadvantaged area.

We will be offering life-changing activities such as yoga, Pilates, tai chi, meditation and qigong for all ages and abilities throughout the city.

Want to get involved? We are looking for partners, volunteers, teachers and natural health practitioners to make this a truly inclusive endeavor.

Please contact our new project manager samhart@bnhf.org to find out more.

bnhf dancer

And the good news is...

Brighton and Hove is one of the most active cities in the UK! However, although life expectancy has increased, on average, a woman living in the city can expect to live 1/4 of her life in poor health.

The biggest barriers to people exercising are affordability and accessibility, highlighting the need for low-cost, inclusive activities within easy reach of where people live. Together, we can make this happen - contact samhart@bnhf.org to get involved.

Chair of trustees - could it be you?

Do you have the vision, experience and compassion to steer us through the next exciting phase of our journey?

After 40 years on the board, our chair of trustees Peter Deadman has stepped down from the role (though he is still fully involved in the organisation.)

We are looking for an experienced chair with knowledge of the sector to take over.

Free online courses

Treat yourself to a home wellness workshop this autumn!

Take part in qigong, somatic yoga and Menopause Yoga from the comfort of your own home!

Thanks to the generosity of our Trustees Petra Coveney, Peter Deadman and Charlotte Watts, we now have an excellent series of free talks, classes and seminars on our website.

Did you know?

Regular qigong practice could improve sleep, energy, social activity, pain levels, mobility and mental attitude in those with chronic fatigue.

Read more about this and other mindful movement research on our new evidence database

We are also producing fact sheets for social prescribers, GPs, funders or anyone who is interested!

If you know of some research that should be included, do get in touch.

Change a life!

We know that mindful movement practices can be life-changing or even life-saving. But they are not always accessible to people struggling with mental and physical ill-health.

Your donation could help pay for a class for someone who would otherwise not be able to afford one.

Towards a healthy city launch event

After many months of planning and reflection, June the 20th 2023 saw the launch of Brighton Natural Health Foundation charity (BNHF). It sprang from the closing down of the Brighton Natural Health Centre premises in Regent Street after forty years and provided us with the opportunity to develop a bold new vision.

Many of us have been aware in our own lives of the physical, mental and emotional benefits of practices such as yoga, tai chi, qigong and breathwork, and in recent years this has been confirmed by an ever-growing body of research. Yet they have largely been practised by a fairly small segment of the population. This means that many communities who suffer health challenges have been unable to afford access to some of the practices that can make a real difference to their lives.

BNHF will work to make these available to all by collaborating with partners all over the City.

Please watch the video to hear from Peter Deadman (BNHF chair), Ryan Edwards, Healthy Lifestyles Manager at Brighton & Hove City Council, Charlotte Watts (BNHF trustee), Adam Fazakerly, central Brighton GP, and Joanna Martindale, CEO of the Hangleton & Knoll Project.