Your Arthritis Wants Yoga
“Yoga? For arthritis?” My 40-something friend rolls her eyes and shakes her head, “You must be crazy. How can I twist my body like a pretzel when I cannot bend over?”
What is new about encouraging yoga for arthritis? More research! to back up the benefits of mild to moderate exercise for arthritis, including research specifically using yoga. The research enhances what yoga enthusiasts have been saying for decades: yoga provides many benefits specific to arthritis without alarming physical high jinks and manipulations.
What is important to know about yoga for arthritis? Yoga styles vary; some are well-suited to arthritis, others not so much. Yoga postures are specific to parts and regions of your body; begin with an educated instructor to choose the safest postures for your particular arthritis. Yoga strengthens muscles, thereby supporting joints for a longer joint life, more overall stability in daily activities, and less pain. Yoga provides more than exercise; yoga improves your lungs’ capacity, yoga enables deep relaxation, and yoga increases mental clarity.
How does yoga accomplish all this? Some yoga postures strengthen the large muscle groups that are used for the position, which then benefits the corresponding joint by lessening duress on the joint. Yoga increases range of motion, which gives you more room to work with before reaching your joint’s stress point. The combination of deep conscious breathing combined with focus on the body during the positioning for each posture has been shown to increase endorphins. Endorphins are those “feel good” hormones that up your mood and sense of well-being, decreasing the sensation of pain. As with all exercise, the movement and breathing causes your body’s blood, filled with needed oxygen, endorphins, and nutrients, to move more effectively into your muscles.
What do you need to know to have a positive experience with yoga and to experience improvement in your pain levels? Research shows that each individual discovers their unique range within any exercise as far as stretch and endurance. As with all exercise types, begin slowly and gradually increase how much you are doing as your strength for the practice improves. An experienced and specifically trained instructor will know which postures are safe and how far to go with the position. So choosing a qualified instructor insures you have the best support for learning your range. Some classes are for yoga performed in a chair! So whether you are limited to a chair or if you need to incorporate exercise into a sedentary work situation, you have options to enhance your personal experience with yoga. Choose from Hatha Yoga schools and teachers for yoga best suited to Arthritis. Some Hatha Yogas which work well with Arthritis are Iyengar, Integral, Ansura, and Kripalu. See the Resources list at the end of this asticle for more links to schools of yoga.
The “always” list: Talk to your Arthritis Provider before beginning the first yoga class to receive specific instructions about any restrictions or limitations to share with the instructor. Discuss with the Instructor their experience with Arthritis students as well as your doctor’s recommendations for your specific condition. Choose a beginners class and progress slowly even if you feel good during the class. The saying “no pain, no gain” does NOT apply to you or to yoga. Pain means slow down, pull back some on the stretch, and/or take a break.
The Yoga Alliance is a great resource to finding certified yoga instructors. The site provides a directory and also provides links to more information on yoga education. http://www.yogaalliance.org/
The Yoga Journal is available at many stores including your grocery store. Inspiring and educational articles keep you updated on the latest research related to yoga for many conditions including Arthritis. http://www.yogajournal.com/basics
The Arthritis Foundation has a DVD especially for those with Arthritis that shows yoga postures specifically for various types of typical Arthritis conditions. The DVD is named Arthritis Friendly Yoga and can be found at: http://www.afstore.org/Products-By-Type/DVD/ARTHRITIS-FRIENDLY-YOGA-PRESENTED-BY-ARTHRITIS-FOUNDATION
Ehrlich, S. (2012). Complementary and alternative medicine guide: Rheumatoid Arthritis; University of Maryland Medical Center Health Information and Medical Reference Guide. Retrieved from: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/rheumatoid-arthritis
Gothe, N., Pontefex, M., Hillman C., and McAuley E. (2013). The Acute Effects of Yoga on Executive Function. Journal of Physical Activity & Health 10(4):488-95.
Haaz, S. (2009). Yoga for Arthritis; The John Hopkins Arthritis Center website at: http://www.hopkinsarthritis.org/patient-corner/disease-management/yoga-for-arthritis/
Sharma, M. (2013). Yoga as an alternative and complementary approach for Arthritis:
A systematic review; Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine 18 (3).