Arthritis is the nation’s leading cause of disability, with millions of people experiencing pain and symptoms every day. Because of this, finding a routine workout plan is usually not a priority for those with the condition. But yoga for arthritis has been found to improve arthritis side effects, offering pain relief and increased flexibility for those who practice regularly.
A blend of mental relaxation and exercise, yoga for arthritis is a great way to work out gently and manage pain. And even though it’s not a cure for arthritic conditions, practicing gentle yoga even just once a week can help keep muscles strong, reduce stiffness and encourage joint health.
Sharon Kolasinski, a rheumatologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, explains, “Yoga not only safely exercises the muscles, ligaments, and bones in and around the joints, but also triggers a relaxation response that can help reduce pain and improve functioning.” The doctors at Access Sports Medicine agree, and recommend yoga and meditation as an alternative to opioids and other prescription pain relievers.
Benefits of Yoga for Arthritis
Pain, especially from arthritis, can alter the structure of the brain, which can potentially lead to depression and anxiety. But yoga is well-known for reducing stress and anxiety levels, which can also help decrease pain. This can be life-changing if you’re suffering from arthritis.
So, for those looking for a more relaxed exercise than aerobics and a more holistic workout than walking or jogging, yoga can provide the following benefits:
- Getting started with yoga is a safe way to ease into a workout routine and increase physical activity.
- The meditative nature of yoga helps decrease depression, stress and anxiety.
- Yoga is an effective pain management technique that can also help improve function and mobility in those suffering from arthritis.
- Yoga can increase muscle strength, improve flexibility, enhance respiratory endurance and promote balance.
- Nearly every pose can be modified to help protect joints, making it a personalized workout approach.
Best Types of Yoga Practices for Arthritis
When looking for a yoga class for your arthritis, there will be a variety to choose from. But many require rigorous movements that aren’t ideal for a yogi with arthritis. However, the two types of classes below are gentle options designed to ease you into the practice.
In a yin yoga practice, poses are held for several minutes to effectively stretch the joints and relax the mind. Yin yoga’s intention is for the yogi to get deep into the pose to promote a consistent flow of energy throughout the body.
Restorative yoga is similar to yin in that yogis hold postures for an extended period of time. But in a restorative practice, the ultimate goal is to reach mental relaxation and restoration, with the poses requiring very little effort.
This style is a combination of movement through the ranges of motion in the joints, coupled with some shorter sustained holdings. This helps warm the body, open the joints and lubricate the system.
Beginner Tips for Yoga Success
Before diving head-first into a yoga routine to find relief from your arthritis, there are a few things to be cautious of:
- Remember to always talk with your doctor before beginning a new exercise regime, especially if you suffer from severe arthritis.
- When you’re just starting out, attending a class or one-on-one yoga session at a reputable yoga studio is instrumental to your success. A qualified yoga instructor will be able to guide you through each pose and make any necessary modifications for your best benefit.
- Don’t ever push yourself too hard. Even for yogis without arthritis, there’s no benefit in overexertion.
- If you’re starting your practice at home, make sure to watch videos and practice poses that are intended for beginners.
Joining a yoga community, whether you have arthritis or not, is a healthy way to stay mentally and physically fit. If you have any questions or concerns about beginning yoga for arthritis, let us know! Our Exeter, NH, location offers yoga therapy led by Carter Siegel, and she’s more than happy to help you.