Objectives: to explore patients’ experiences of an individualised yoga therapy intervention for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), specifically in terms of its acceptability and impact on patient-reported outcomes.
Design: Ten patients took part in a 16 week yoga therapy intervention in a hospital setting, consisting of 10 one-to-one consultations with a yoga therapist followed by two group review sessions. Changes in health (EQ-5D, HADS) were assessed pre- and post-intervention and at 12-month follow-up. In-depth interviews were conducted post-intervention and analysed using thematic analysis.
Results: Attendance of the 1-to-1 sessions was high (98%) and all participants reported strong commitment to their personalised home practice. There were significant improvements in measures of depression, anxiety, pain, quality of life and general health at post-intervention and 12-months (p<0.05). In interviews, all but one participant reported positive changes to their symptoms and several reported reductions in their medication and broader benefits such as improved sleep, mood and energy, enabling re-engagement with life. The personally tailored nature of the practice and perceived benefits were key motivational factors. Particular value was placed on the therapeutic function of the consultation and provision of tools to manage stress and build resilience.
Conclusion: This yoga therapy intervention was positively received by patients with RA, with high levels of adherence to both the treatments and tailored home practice. The findings suggest that yoga therapy has potential as an adjunct therapy to improve RA symptoms, increase self-care behaviours and manage stress and negative affect such as anxiety. A larger multi-centre study is therefore warranted.