Yoga for Arthritis: You Can Do It! – by Ashley Boynes-Shuck

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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.”  Image

“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.”

ImageYoga 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:

Seated Poses - Easy Pose (Sukhasana) Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
This is one of the classic Meditative Poses and is usually performed after doing the Corpse Pose. The Easy Pose helps in straightening the spine, slowing down metabolism, promoting inner tranquility, and keeping your mind still.
Supine Poses - Single Leg Raises Single Leg Raises
This Yoga Pose is performed in order to prepare the body for other exercises. It benefits the legs, lower back muscles, and abdominal area. In practicing the Single Leg Raise, one leg is raised while the other one stays on the floor.
Warm-Up Poses - Shoulder Stretches Shoulder Stretches
Shoulder Stretches are great in relieving stress and tension on your shoulders, as well as your entire upper back. Practice them daily for several weeks and notice the changes. Learn some basic stretches for the shoulders in this section.
Warm-Up Poses - Neck Exercises Neck Exercises
Many people hold tension in their necks and shoulders, leading to stiffness, bad posture, and tension headaches. Yoga practice can ease tension, increase flexibility, and tone the muscles. Learn some Neck Exercises in this section.
Standing Poses - Standing Side Stretch Pose Standing Side Stretch Pose
The Standing Side Stretch is another Yoga Pose with two lines of energy radiating outward from your center. This is a simple Yoga Posture with a wonderful stretch in which one line of energy reaches upward from your belly and outward through the arm, and one line travels downward through the legs.
Seated Poses - Hand Clenching Hand Clenching
Hands and wrists are common body parts which are affected by Arthritis, especially Osteoarthritis. Take good care of your hands and joints and always keep them in ‘good working condition’ by performing the Hand Clenching Exercise.
Seated Poses - Wrist Bending Wrist Bending
Your wrists can also be affected by arthritis, specifically Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Take good care of your wrists through stretching and bending. Learn how to improve the range of motion of your wrists by doing the Wrist Bending Exercise.
Yoga Exercise - Final Corpse Yoga Exercise – Final Corpse
For you to appreciate the benefits of relaxation, you should first be familiar on how it is to be tense. This is what happens when you do the Final Corpse. Everything related to that position including suggestions on how to do it is discussed in further detail in this article.
Seated Poses - Ankle Bending Ankle Bending
repeated strain or sprain in the ankles can contribute to the occurrence of Ankle Arthritis. Manage stress and keep your ankles in good condition through therapy, having enough rest, and by doing the Ankle Bending Exercise.
Seated Poses - Ankle Rotation Ankle Rotation
Pay attention to your ankles to avoid muscle or tendon strain due to too much training. Perform the Ankle Rotation Exercise and make your ankles more flexible. This is also ideal for people who are suffering from arthritis.
Relaxation Yoga Pose Relaxation Pose
The first step in Yoga practice is to learn how to relax your body and mind. In this section, know why relaxation is essential in practicing Yoga and learn how to do the Corpse Pose and other techniques for physical, mental, as well as spiritual relaxation.

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!

Stay Well,

Ashley Boynes-Shuck

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7 thoughts on “Yoga for Arthritis: You Can Do It! – by Ashley Boynes-Shuck

  1. Pingback: Yoga for Arthritis: You Can Do It! – by Ashley Boynes-Shuck … | Chronic Back Pain

  2. Thank you, I enjoyed the article Ashley. I’ve found that my Anusara yoga practice is the best medicine for Ankylosing Spondylitis. A good teacher makes a huge difference. No matter how bad I feel before practice, if I make it to the mat, I always feel improved after. Combine that with cardio exercise, good diet, reduced stress and the right amount enough sleep and I feel like ‘arthritis doesn’t have me’. The Spondylitis Association of America has recommended stretches for people with AS, that yoga instructors can easily translate into asanas. Thanks again!

  3. Pingback: Rheumatology Matters - News » Rheumatology Matters

  4. I practice Hatha yoga for ankylosing spondylitis. Tremendous help but i suffer when i dont practice. Great site by the way. Merry Christmas. Stay warm

  5. Pretty great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say
    that I’ve truly loved browsing your weblog posts. After all I will be subscribing on your feed and I hope you write once more soon!

  6. Excellent blog you have here but I was wondering if
    you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics
    discussed in this article? I’d really love to be a part of online community where I can get feedback from other experienced people
    that share the same interest. If you have any
    recommendations, please let me know. Appreciate it!

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