Yoga can be a great way for arthritis patients to get exercise and to increase joint strength and flexibility.
It seems intimidating to many, but the truth is, there are many options and adaptations that can be made for yoga-doers with any type of physical limitation.
One option is chair yoga, which some fitness centers offer. If not, there are chair yoga DVDs available. It’s a great way to be able to still meditate and stretch, increasing your range-of-motion, and decreasing stiffness. According to Arthritis Today Magazine, “chair yoga includes relaxation exercises and yoga moves while seated in a chair or wheelchair, and many yoga instructors are able and willing to modify regular poses for people with limited mobility. Classes sometimes include a few standing poses where participants use their chairs as props to help stabilize them as they stretch….Begin chair yoga moves seated in an armless chair with feet firmly on the floor, legs hip-width apart and back straight. As with all exercises, ask your doctor if it’s OK for you to add these exercises to your routine and stop if you feel any pain.”
“If done correctly, modified yoga brings the same physical, mental and spiritual health benefits as regular yoga – helping to prevent muscle loss, improve joint stability and diminish pain and stiffness,” says Steffany Haaz, a research associate and certified movement analyst with Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, Baltimore.
Johns Hopkins has a lot of information about various types of yoga for arthritis.
According to the Johns Hopkins website, “Over 75 scientific trials have been published on yoga in major medical journals. These studies have shown that yoga is a safe and effective way to increase physical activity that also has important psychological benefits due to its meditative nature. As with other forms of exercise, yoga can increase muscle strength, improve flexibility, enhance respiratory endurance, and promote balance. Yoga is also associated with increased energy and fewer bodily aches and pains. Finally, yoga is associated with increased mental energy as well as positive feelings (such as alertness and enthusiasm), fewer negative feelings (reduced excitability, anxiety, aggressiveness) and somatic complaints. In summary, yoga is associated with a wide range of physical and psychological benefits that may be especially helpful for persons living with a chronic illness.
Additionally, physical activity is an essential part of the effective treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to treatment guidelines published by the American College of Rheumatology. In persons with arthritis, exercise is safe and does not exacerbate pain or worsen disease. In fact, exercise may play a key role in promoting joint health, since those who do not exercise often suffer more joint discomfort than those who do. The health and psychological benefits of exercise are widely recognized. However, regular physical activity is especially important for people with arthritis, who often have decreased muscle strength, physical energy, and endurance, in part due to their arthritis and the tendency to be sedentary. Being sedentary can began a downward spiral where pain increases, leading to more inactivity which leads to greater pain and disability. The psychological benefits of exercise such as stress reduction, fewer depressive symptoms, improved coping and well-being and enhanced immune functioning also contribute to greater overall health.”
Yoga can be a safe and effective form of physical activity, but as with any new activity, it is important to take proper precautions. Talk with your doctor and ask specifically if there should be any limitations or restrictions your doctor wants you to observe. (If your doctor has specific recommendations, ask for them in writing and give this to the yoga instructor.) For arthritis patients, you have to be hyper-aware of your body, and if it hurts TOO badly, then stop. You must start your yoga practice gently, especially at the beginning.
The Arthritis Foundation agrees that yoga is a great way for arthritis patients to exercise, saying, “A program of yoga poses, breathing and relaxation significantly reduces joint tenderness and swelling for people with rheumatoid arthritis.”
One Arthritis Foundation grant recipient from Johns Hopkins, Steffany Haaz, MFA, says, “We have previously reported that yoga helps people to feel better, and we wanted to make sure it wasn’t harmful to arthritic joints. So, we were glad to find that there actually seems to be improvement in joint symptoms for RA patients. The next big question is figuring out how and why yoga might be having this effect, since it is such a multi-faceted activity.”
Here are some basic arthritis-friendly yoga poses courtesy of ABCs of Yoga.
“Here are the basic Asanas which can help you in dealing with Arthritis:
Why don’t you give these Yoga Poses a try? They might be really helpful in dealing with Arthritis. Just take note that not all poses are advisable to be practiced by people with Arthritis. It may depend on their health condition and their ability to do certain poses. It would be better to consult a physician first or do the poses under the supervision of a certified yoga instructor.”
Good luck and we hope that you enjoy your yoga practice, and that it brings you much relief and wellness, regardless of what your physical condition may be! Before you get discouraged, remember to keep that positive mindset: You can do it! You have arthritis, it doesn’t have you! Don’t let it stop you from bettering your physical health and well-being!
What’s YOUR weapon against arthritis?
Follow the Arthritis Foundation, Mid Atlantic Region on Twitter @MidAtlanticAF!
Arthritis is Unacceptable.
Let’s all unite against arthritis. Together, we will achieve the vision of a world free from arthritis pain.