Have you considered trying yoga for arthritis symptom relief?
Arthritis is one of a handful of chronic conditions that any of us may experience as we age. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common forms, both of which cause bone deterioration in the joints. Practicing yoga for arthritis may be your best pathway to easing stress to your joints and slowing down the decrease in bone density.
What causes arthritis?
Osteoarthritis is caused by the wear and tear where two meeting bone surfaces are damaged causing movement to become uncomfortable and often painful. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body begins to destroy healthy tissue causing bone density changes and ultimately, deformity in the joints.
How yoga can help
The weight bearing and strengthening poses included in a regular yoga practice can help reduce the risks of joint degeneration caused by these conditions. Practicing yoga keeps the body moving and maintains the full range of motion in the joints. The restorative yoga can help with the mental challenge of managing the physical symptoms of arthritis. As part of a regular self-care routine, yoga has a lot to offer.
We have to change our habits
Habits developed over a lifetime lead to poor posture and body alignment. Considering the repetitive nature of how we live our lives, decisions such as too little exercise, too much exercise, and overcompensating for injuries can all contribute to arthritis symptoms.
A yoga practice that pays mindful attention to alignment, posture, and safe movement is of great benefit to those living with arthritis.
Yoga styles best for arthritis
Most styles of yoga pay a great deal of attention to alignment. Iyengar Yoga and Anusara Yoga specifically focus on proper alignment.
Anusara Yoga is more of a ‘flow’ style with an alignment focus rooted in its own set of ‘Universal Principles of Alignment’.
Specific poses that help utilize yoga for arthritis suffers
Used appropriately, there are many yoga poses that have positive effects when working with arthritis symptoms. And even though arthritis is more common as we age, younger adults are not immune. Here are a few key poses that are achievable and easily supported with props, if needed.
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose) – Works on the alignment of the body from the soles of the feet to the crown of the head. Perfect for improving posture and understanding balance.
- Virabhadrasana Two (Warrior Two) – Opens the hips and strengthens the knee joints in flexion. The use of a tabletop or kitchen counter behind the student will support those with significant arthritic discomfort or balance concerns.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) – Lengthens the spine to create space in the vertebrae as well as stretching the backs of the knees and ankles. The use of a waist-high surface, such as kitchen counter, or placing hands on a wall will help build confidence.
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) – Opens the spine, shoulders, and neck. If needed, use props for support in the pose. A block under the sacrum will maintain the lift in the pelvis and shoulders resting on a blanket creates space to maintain the natural curvature of the neck.
- Supta Padangusthasana (Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose)- Use of a strap to loop the foot allows the leg to lengthen and the action of moving the foot away from center takes the hip joint through a wider range of motion in a controlled and safe way.
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) – Opens the chest and lifts the collar bones while enjoying the benefits of a gentle backbend.
Hands and Feet
Don’t forget about the joints found in the hands and feet. Keep wrists and ankles mobile by frequently circling hands and feet in both directions particularly if you spend your working life seated at a keyboard. Open and spread the fingers and toes and then close and clench.
Savasana support for arthritis sufferers
If you’re working through discomfort or pain, be sure to include savasana. Take a restorative position and support your joints in whichever way feels comfortable. Rolled blankets under the knees and ankles may feel wonderful. A bolster to prop up the torso at an angle or a folded blanket to support the neck and head are also good adjustments to help the body fully relax.
The calming, meditative effects of a restorative savasana can help with the mental challenge of dealing with arthritis. Allowing the physical body to release fully into the support of the floor or props is a great way to help slow and deepen each breath and quieten the mind. This resting, meditative state can help make the symptoms and day to day challenges of the condition more manageable.
Yoga has so much to offer anyone dealing with arthritis. Make yoga an active part of your self-care routine and experience the benefits.