Arthritis is a chronic condition causing joint pain or joint disease, often leading to stiffness, numbness, tingling, inflammation, and motor loss in the affected joints. Arthritis is one of the most common joint disorders affecting around 350 million people around the world.
While there are several treatment options available to help arthritis patients manage pain and lead a normal life, most of these treatments, including pain killers, steroidal shots and knee replacement surgeries, are only short-term solutions and have numerous adverse effects.
Fortunately, there’s a better and safer alternative that you can practice to alleviate pain and restore mobility associated with arthritis. More and more orthopedic specialists around the world now recommend yoga for arthritis to help their patients effectively keep pain at bay and lead a normal life.
Wondering how these simple yoga postures can help improve your physical as well as psychological symptoms related to arthritis? Walk through this article to understand how regular yoga practice can come handy in reducing your joint pain, improve the flexibility and functioning of your joints, and lower the tension and stress to promote better sleep.
Myth Debunked: Practice Yoga for Arthritis
Patients with arthritis, who need gentle regular physical activities to keep their joints flexible, retain muscle tone, and manage their weight, may well find yoga an ideal way to exercise.
However, as with any other form of alternative treatment, there are numerous misconceptions and myths associated with yoga, though that isn’t unexpected for an activity that has been around for nearly 5,000 years.
[Also Read: Natural Ways to Treat Arthritis]
Some of the common myths about yoga for pain relief are listed below:
Myth #1: Yoga is all about bending and twisting – it will make my arthritis get worse, and not better.
Fact: Several yoga styles such as Iyengar yoga(1) involve gentle movements which arthritis patients can practice successfully.
Myth #2: One needs to get fit before starting a yoga program.
Fact: Anyone, even people who have arthritis, can start a yoga program at any age and almost any fitness level. You can practice several yoga postures even while you’re seated in a chair. If you have arthritis or any other health complication, you can consult a certified yoga trainer to understand how you can get started with yoga. A yoga trainer can work with you to adjust specific yoga poses for protecting your joints.
Myth #3: You can’t practice yoga because you are a man. Yoga is only for women.
Fact: As per a 2008 study carried out by Yoga Journal, 27.8% of all yoga practitioners in the United States are men.
Which Type of Yoga Suits the Best for Treating Arthritis?
Depending on your overall health condition and the type of arthritis you are suffering from, one or more of the yoga forms listed below may be beneficial for you.
Iyengar yoga is good for arthritis patients because it involves modifications and support through props that may come handy for patients with limited range of motion in one or more joints.
Also known as “hot yoga,” the Bikram yoga(2) is practiced in a 104-degree heated room. The humidity and heat facilitates flexibility and stretching and is, therefore, extremely beneficial for those with arthritis.
In Viniyoga, the main focus is on breathing. Every movement and pose gets coordinated as the practitioner breathes in and out. Viniyoga yoga is an excellent option for arthritis patients, for beginners in particular as it can be adapted easily.
Benefits of Practicing Yoga for Arthritis
Yoga is an ancient practice that soothes the mind, body, and soul. Yoga poses for arthritis patients help them exercise gently along with improving joint flexibility and reducing tension.
Besides, yoga can also help an arthritis patient build strength, improve range of motion, and improve balance.
Many types of arthritis, particularly autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), include inflammation, a condition that causes redness, swelling, and pain in the joints and ultimately ruptures the joint components completely. Yoga can serve as a soothing, gentle form of physical activity for patients with RA or any other type of arthritis, managing inflammation significantly. When combined with different modes of treatment such as medications and dietary changes, yoga can help reduce joint inflammation considerably.
Researchers claim that yoga can help release stress and reduce depression that is a general symptom associated with chronic arthritis.
Top 5 Beneficial and Easy Poses of Yoga for Arthritis that You can Practice Without a Doubt
While there are several poses that patients with arthritis can practice safely to manage pain and improve their symptoms, the following 5 poses of yoga for rheumatoid arthritis get widely recommended by yoga trainers around the world:
1. Cow Pose
How to perform
- Bend down with your legs and hands at a shoulder-width distance, fingers spread wide, and the wrists right under your shoulders. The knees should be right under your hips at hips’ width.
- Start with bringing your chest forward and up towards the roof, as your shoulder blades press down towards your waistline, and tilt the pelvis up and back to make your sitting bones reach up.
The cow pose improves stretching and flexibility of the spine.
2. Angry Cat
How to perform
Just reverse the Cow Pose to practice the Angry Cat yoga posture.
- Gently pull your navel in and up to your spine, taking a slight arch away from the floor.
- Now reach your hips back towards the ankles to increase the space between different vertebras.
This yoga pose helps in stretching and lengthening the spine, improving flexibility as well as your body posture
[Also Read: Heat or Cold Treatment for Arthritis]
3. Bridge Pose
How to perform
- Lie down in a supine position on the ground, bend your knees, and rest your feet on the ground.
- Now press the inner sides of your feet and arms into the ground while exhaling unhurriedly.
- Shove your tailbone up, firm your hips, and lift them off the ground until your thighs are almost parallel to the ground
- Keep your knees exactly over the heels and raise the upper portion of your hips towards your belly button.
The Bridge Pose helps improve body posture
4. Anjaneyasana or Crescent Lunge
How to perform
- Make a lunge pose, drop your right knee down on to the ground, and lengthen your tailbone towards your right heel
- Now lift your arms upward, gently sliding your right knee forward. Then breathe into the stretch while raising your arms to complete the lunge
This yoga posture helps improve the stretching and flexibility of your hip’s flexor muscles.
5. Pelvic Tilt
How to perform
- Lie down on your back with feet resting on the ground and your knees bent.
- Inhale and then flatten your back into the ground while exhaling slowly – lift your tailbone slightly.
- Inhale while relaxing into the ground.
This yoga posture helps in stretching and strengthening the back and can prove beneficial for arthritis patients.
What Precautions should Arthritis Patients follow while Practicing Yoga?
- While yoga is safe for patients who have arthritis, you may have distress or difficulties with a certain specific type of yoga or a particular posture. To figure out the most comfortable and beneficial yoga poses to improve symptoms associated with arthritis, it is recommended that you work with a certified yoga instructor.
- The thumb rule for arthritis patients is that if it hurts, stop! Be gentle and kind with your body; knowing your limitations as an arthritis patient will always help.
- When practicing backbends, people with arthritis should keep the backbends relatively small and make sure not to hyper-extend the neck, always maintaining the head in line with the spine. For patients with arthritis of the hip, special care should be taken when practicing “hip openers” or postures that include extreme external rotation of the hips.
Arthritis is a widespread disorder of the joints characterized by pain, reduced range of motion, inflammation, and several other symptoms. Yoga poses for arthritis when used in combination with other forms of treatments, including dietary changes, medications, aerobic exercises, posture improvement, and weight management, can prove beneficial in improving the symptoms of arthritis.
You may consider consulting a registered yoga trainer to understand how yoga can help you alleviate the discomfort associated with arthritis and lead a normal life.
Practicing yoga frequently brings not only various physical benefits but also offers several mental benefits. Practicing yoga for arthritis can help with the ways you deal with all the distress, and show you a new way of finding your calm.