Yoga, a holistic mind-body practice that encourages a balanced lifestyle provides a multitude of benefits. From stress-relief to weight loss to managing pain, regular yoga classes enhance your health and well-being. One such benefit is practicing yoga for arthritis which helps alleviate pain, the stress that comes with pain, improves range of motion and flexibility.
Many who suffer from arthritis restrict movement in fear of increased pain. On the contrary, movement is important to ensure better pain management and further degeneration. According to a Harvard article, a national survey conducted by the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed more than half the people with arthritis (53%) didn’t walk at all for exercise, and 66% stepped out for less than 90 minutes a week. Only 23% met the current recommendation for activity, that is, walking for at least 150 minutes a week. In fact, regular, light exercise is known to ease yoga for rheumatoid arthritis pain.
What do studies say about yoga for arthritis?
Whether we look at yoga for osteoarthritis or yoga for rheumatoid arthritis, the impact of yoga is immense. In fact, yoga for seniors with arthritis can also significantly benefit. Let’s look at what studies say. A study examining the effects of yoga for rheumatoid arthritis found that there were significant improvements in fatigue, mood and stress due to the pain. The 12-week program conducted was found to be safe and feasible for patients. In fact, it was concluded that this yoga program could be of benefit in facilitating physical activity amongst rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Another study was conducted specifically on the effects of Iyengar yoga for young adults with rheumatoid arthritis. Often affecting quality of life greatly, it was found that Iyengar yoga is a feasible complementary approach for young adults with rheumatoid arthritis.
Whether you are looking at yoga for knee arthritis or yoga for arthritis in hips or yoga for arthritis in hands, the benefit of yoga for arthritis cannot be overlooked. Studies have found yoga for arthritis for adults leading sedentary lifestyles can significantly improve physical activity, as well as physical and psychological health. So whether it is managing pain in hips, knees or hands, the impact is greatly beneficial. Yoga improves grip strength, flexibility and mobility, and reduces stress. Another scoping review found that yoga helps manage symptoms of arthritis such as tender, swollen joints and pain reduction, as well as in improving self-efficacy and mental health.
According to a John Hopkins review, yoga for arthritis can significantly improve symptoms. It was found for 1 in 5 adults living with arthritis, yoga is a safe and effective way to keep moving. In a randomized trial, it was found that people with arthritis who practiced yoga had about 20% improvement in physical health with similar improvements in pain, energy, mood and day-to-day activities. Clifton O. Bingham III, M.D., associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, “For people with other conditions, yoga has been shown to improve pain, pain-related disability and mood,” says Bingham.
In another study, it was found that yoga may be beneficial for improving physical function, disease activity, and grip strength in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. In an integrative study analyzing yoga for knee arthritis, the study concluded that regular yoga is helpful in reducing knee arthritis symptoms and promotes physical function as well as general well-being.
What are the best yoga poses for arthritis?
Yoga for arthritis should be practiced slowly, gently and with experienced teachers. Our recommendation is to get your doctor’s approval before beginning a practice, and to join a yoga class with an experienced teacher. Even if you are planning to join an online yoga class, ensure your teacher is experienced in pain management.
Movement might be difficult or painful, and thus, practicing in a slow, controlled way is most useful. The yoga poses will improve blood circulation to the joints, strengthening muscles and enhancing mobility. Hold a yoga posture only for as long as comfortable. Strengthening muscles in the region will be helpful as it provides better support and balance. However, a teacher will guide through this in your yoga class.
Helpful yoga poses for arthritis are the Warrior Poses (Virabhadrasana 1 and Virabhadrasana 2), Extended side angle pose and Triangle pose. Balancing poses like the Tree pose and Dancer’s pose are helpful. These are helpful for yoga for knee arthritis. If pain is too much, one can practice simple movements of the ankle, knees, hips and arm and shoulders. Practice restorative poses like the Corpse pose and Crocodile pose as they will relax the mind and body, repair tissues and cells, and relieve stress. The Corpse pose will also reduce and balance the Vata Dosha, the air element, which is known to aggravate joint pain. Do not hesitate to use props for support, such as a chair, cushions and bolsters.
What are the other yoga practices useful for arthritis?
Stress, anxiety and depression are common by-products of pain. Practicing breathing exercises like Alternate Nostril Breathing, Humming Bee Breath and Oceans breathing will help balance the mind, reduce cortisol levels and promote slow, mindful breathing. Meditation and Yoga Nidra will help improve mindfulness, quieten the body and reduce stress. Sleep quality will improve greatly. There will be a deeper sense of relaxation and calmness throughout the mind and body.
Deep tissue massages which make joint movements easier act as a lubricant for the joints. The pain areas, like knees, hands, and hips will receive better lubrication and mobility and flexibility will improve.
It is extremely important to practice with awareness. Being mindful of your movements, how much you move and moving in a gentle way is beneficial. Do not overdo a movement or go too fast. Sometimes, you might find it harder to practice in the morning as the joints will be more stiff. In such cases, speak to your doctor to understand if it is better to practice later in the day.
We recommend joining a LIVE yoga class where a certified yoga teacher can give you real feedback and posture correction. Practice a few times a week and slowly, as you progress, you will begin to see a significant difference.