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Throughout my time as a yoga instructor, I have had many individuals ask if they can practice yoga with their current arthritis diagnosis. My answer to that question is YES* (although they should first clear it with their primary physician/rheumatologist) and that yoga may actually offer many benefits to an individual diagnosed with arthritis.
In this week’s blog post we’re going to examine two common arthritis diagnoses, the benefits yoga may provide to individuals with these conditions, and how yoga may be modified to best facilitate success!
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis caused by age-related wear and tear that occurs on the joints. Because this arthritis is caused by wear and tear on the joints it typically presents itself in individual’s later years, although with repeated motions may present earlier in specific joints.
The good news about this type of arthritis is that it is typically slow to spread, developing over years. In this condition, the cartilage that provides cushioning between bones in your joints (such as at your knee or elbow) has been broken down, causing your bones to lack protection against one another. This process develops inflammation accompanied with pain and difficulty with moving the joint through normal motions.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a lesser common form of arthritis and is categorized as an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system within the body is actually attacking the body’s own joints. The deterioration of the joints by the immune system facilitates the development of inflammation inside the joint capsule. This results in pain, damage to the cartilage within the capsule, and unstable joints. Rheumatoid arthritis typically affects all the joints in the body as it is a systemic disease, impacting every day life.
Benefits of Doing Yoga with Arthritis
a. Helps with Weight Loss: It’s no surprise that those added pounds add pressure and stress on your body’s joints. In fact, individuals who were categorized as being obese were four times more likely to be diagnosed with osteoarthritis when compared to non-obese individuals. This being said, using yoga as a way to shed some weight helps to improve the arthritic symptoms you may be experiencing.
b. Decrease Joint Pain and Stiffness: Several studies have supported the notion that practicing yoga at least once a week may keep joint pain and stiffness at bay! This decrease in pain/stiffness facilitates better functionality in daily life and improved movement outcomes.
c. Psychological Benefits: The meditative aspect of yoga is extremely beneficial for the psyche. Through reconnecting with your yogi practice and breath, the individual is turning their gaze inward participating in self-reflection and practicing self-love. Many barriers that an individual may face with arthritis may be overcome by participating in the meditative aspect of yoga.
d. Social Network: Arthritis oftentimes leaves individuals feeling alone and isolated due to the fact that they are unable to participate in activities they may have enjoyed before their diagnosis. By taking yoga classes these individuals may reconnect with peers in a new and fun way expanding their social network and reaping the benefits associated with social interactions.
e. Boosts your Heart Power: Individuals who have osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Through the use of yoga various variables such as blood circulation, stress, and blood pressure are impacted for the better – helping with cardiovascular outcomes.
Yoga Poses to Try Out
- Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
A great modification to this pose is to do it in a chair if you have difficulties going from a standing posture to sitting on the floor.
2. Cobra (Bhujangasana)
Add additional padding underneath your hands if you’re experiencing discomfort within your wrists.
3. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Gently stretches the lower back while also increasing flexibility of the muscles that flex the hips.
4. Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana and Bitilasana)
Facilitates healthy movement of the spine, stretching tight muscles and developing spinal mobility.
5. Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
Releases tension in the side body, relieving any tightness that may be inhibiting proper movement and facilitating misalignment
6. Supine Twists (Supta Matsyendrasana)
Breathing into your belly (diaphragmatic breathing) during this pose helps to “rinse” out your spine like a dirty sponge – massaging and lengthening the supporting musculature.
7. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
This pose helps to stretch those achy joints within your hands and wrists as well as improves circulation!
8. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Trying out this pose may help to keep your knee joints flexible and moving through the proper range of motion.
9. Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Try this out with your hands on top of blocks if you’re feeling pain or discomfort!
10. Extended Leg Balance (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana)
If straightening your leg is too difficult grab hold near your knee to open up your hip.
Yoga and arthritis may seem like an unlikely duo, but as you can see there are numerous benefits impacting not only the physical being, but mental, emotional, and cognitive as well. The diagnosis of arthritis is oftentimes difficult to come to terms with, especially as it may mean troubles performing activities that once brought fun and pleasure.
By participating in a new activity (i.e. yogi newbies) or continuing to practice yoga, a social support system is created, healthy movement promoted, and emotional well-being facilitated. With the blessing of your primary care physician/rheumatologist try out some yogi poses and see how you feel!
Have you ever tried out yoga and have arthritis? Do you have any favorite poses that you feel really make a difference in your pain levels and/or daily functioning? Have any of your friends who have arthritis turned over a new stone with yoga? Have any tips or tricks for any other individuals with arthritis who want to try out yoga?
I absolutely cannot wait to read all of your responses and comments! Using yoga as a tool to manage your arthritis can be a great option/way to effectively manage your troublesome symptoms. Thanks so much for sharing within our post, it really means a lot to me and our yogi community!
Thank you for reading today’s post, I truly hope this post helps to alleviate many of the negative symptoms associated with arthritis!
Occupational Therapy student Mandy Fabry always had a passion for yoga. Trading in her traditional role as a student to begin her journey as an instructor and blogger. She projects an air on lightness and celebrates each body, breath, and movement. Her background not only nourishes the physical body, but restores the soul as well. Appreciating the body as a whole is Mandy’s main focus, and will bring awareness and balance to all aspects of your life. She is excited to take this next step with you, and hopes that the benefits and lifestyle of yoga can be accessed by all.