'Yoga has helped where traditional medicine failed'

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As an alternative to painkillers, physiotherapy or a consultation with an orthopaedic surgeon, patients of GPs in north-west London with back pain can now choose a course of yoga on the NHS instead.

As an alternative to painkillers, physiotherapy or a consultation with an orthopaedic surgeon, patients of GPs in north-west London with back pain can now choose a course of yoga on the NHS instead.

The Yoga Therapy Centre, based in the Royal Homoeopathic hospital in London, has contracted to provide treatment to the Harrow and East Kingsbury Primary Care Group, covering 100,000 patients, and will run sessions at Edgware Community Hospital. Patients referred by their GPs will be entitled to a course of eight sessions paid for by the NHS.

John Mongston, 51, who has been going to the centre for two years, says that yoga classes have helped him more than any doctor could.

"I have got a couple of worn discs and I had been through the usual scenario of seeing doctors and physiotherapists but I didn't get anywhere. I come here once a week and I have found it very helpful. It has kept me more supple and stopped me stiffening up."

Mr Mongston, a carpet planner for a hotel chain, was a keen sportsman until his back problems restricted his activities. But, thanks to the yoga, he is now able to cycle, work out in the gym and go fell walking. "It has not been a cure but it has certainly helped me continue doing the things I like doing. Without yoga, I would have seized up."

Liz Taylor, his teacher, said yoga was a preventive measure as well as a treatment. "A lot of back pain is a structural problem owing to sitting badly for years. It retrains the muscle structure that has got into a bad setting. Relaxation is very important because back pain is very often associated with stress."

She added: "Yoga addresses problems at the deepest level. It gives you a different approach to life."

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