Arthritis is becoming increasingly prevalent in the United States. As per research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 50 million people have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. Although it is most common in adults or people over the age of 65, it can affect all ages, including children.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis among citizens. Some rheumatic conditions of arthritis are gout, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). According to doctors, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus can affect multiple organs and cause widespread symptoms. There are treatments available to avoid the same such as surgery, joint replacement, non-pharmacological therapies, etc. These treatments are expensive and time-consuming. Another way to get relief from the symptoms of arthritis is to practice yoga.
Yoga and arthritis
Yes, among many physical and mental benefits, yoga has been shown to help people with arthritis. A study was conducted on a group of people suffering from different types of arthritis; half of the group practiced yoga and the other half didn't. It was found that the group that practiced yoga experienced less joint pain, improved joint flexibility and function, reduced stress and tension, and slept better. In fact, yoga teacher training in India believes that performing yoga poses with synchronized breathing and meditation exercises provides additional benefits to the body.
Scientific studies on arthritis
Scientific studies have examined the effects of yoga on people with knee osteoarthritis (OA). It was found that practicing modified Iyengar yoga for 90 minutes once a week for 8 weeks significantly reduced pain. It also improved their body functions and joint stiffness. This is because modified Iyengar yoga allows participants to use a chair, blocks and other yoga equipment. It modifies the yoga poses to be practiced by the patients.
Another study was conducted to examine the effect of yoga on a group of women suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It was found that practicing Iyengar yoga for six weeks reduced pain and disability. It also improved joint function and mood.
From both studies, it was concluded that practicing yoga under an experienced yoga teacher brings more significant changes in pain as well as other symptoms. A yoga instructor will understand the needs of an arthritis patient and modify the poses accordingly.
Benefits of yoga on arthritis patients
Each yogi has his or her own intention behind the practice of yoga. Some may want to lose weight, build strength and stamina, reduce chronic pain in the body, achieve higher consciousness, etc. Similarly, yoga can help an arthritis patient build muscle strength, reduce stiffness in the joints, improve balance, etc.
On the other hand, indulging in meditation exercises brings peace and tranquility to the mind. It improves the quality of sleep and makes you feel more energetic.
Some other benefits of yoga for arthritis patients may include:
- Reduced body aches
- Lowered stress and anxiety level
- Improved joint functions and flexibility
- Enhanced cardiovascular health
Safe approach to yoga
If you have any form of arthritis, but want to have a safe approach to yoga; follow the basic guidelines below:
- Check with your doctor first: Before you enroll or start practicing yoga, be sure to check with your doctor. He or she may have some limitations or restrictions that you need to follow.
- Find an appropriate class: When looking for an appropriate class, look for yoga classes that are specifically designed for people with arthritis. Also, make sure the yoga teacher is certified and experienced.
- Be vocal about the pain: You may find a pose or stretch painful. If this happens, be vocal about the pain. The yoga teacher will understand and help you modify the pose accordingly.
If you are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis that involves the neck; you may want to reconsider the idea of practicing yoga. Another way to do the same is to avoid yoga poses, stretches or twists that may aggravate neck problems.
Yoga poses to ease arthritis
After consulting with your doctor, you can start practicing yoga at home. Here are 5 yoga poses that can help relieve arthritis:
- Vrkshasana (Tree Pose)
- Gaumukhasana (Cow Face Pose)
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
- Balasana (Child Pose)
- AdhoMukhaSvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
Practicing these yoga asanas will help you release tension and stiffness in the body. As stiffness in the joints is one of the main causes of arthritis. These poses not only bring movement in the joints but also improve their functioning and flexibility. Moreover, practicing these asanas improves the overall health of an arthritis patient. It also improves posture, reduces stress and anxiety levels, detoxifies the body and mind, promotes weight loss, builds muscles, helps you sleep better, etc.
Bipin Baloni is a yoga teacher from India and his core specialization is in Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga. He organizes yoga teacher training in Nepal. Bipin Baloni conducts Yoga Teacher Training in India and Program Yoga Retreats in Nepal. He loves writing and reading books related to yoga, Meditation, Ayurveda and Health.