Yoga Relieves Arthritis Sufferers

If you suffer from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, practicing Yoga may not be the first thing on your mind. Perhaps you struggle with pain every time you move and Yoga conjures up images of nubile youngsters twisted in all manner of bizarre postures. Yet Yoga may be just what the doctor or physical therapist ordered. I have found it enormously helpful for my arthritic, cartilage-deprived hip. The strange stances of yoga, called asanas, act like isometric exercises to strengthen and stabilize my afflicted right hip and weakened right leg. And the asanas do not jar and irritate my hip like walking or even swimming can do.

To help us aging folks, The Arthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Foundations have teamed up with the American Yoga Association to develop the “Remain Active with RA Yoga Guide.” While this book stresses rheumatoid arthritis, the exercises would be beneficial for all arthritis sufferers.

According to the RA Foundation, “Yoga may be beneficial for people with arthritis because it balances physical and mental health.” Yoga stresses range of motion, stretching, strengthening, and endurance, and teaches the stress management techniques of breathing and meditation which can reduce anxiety and improve overall wellness.

The foundation further explains that the Yoga Guide helps people “incorporate Yoga into their daily routines irrespective of their disability level.” They of course advise us to start slowly and exercise under the supervision of a physician or physical therapist.

Here is a sample Guide exercise from the Rheumatoid Arthritis Foundation’s Web site.

Easy Balance:

Benefits: Improves breathing, circulation and balance; strengthens ankles and calves;

Cautions: If you experience ankle pain or inflammation while performing this exercise, speak to your physician or physical therapist before continuing.

  1. Standing with feet parallel and arms at sides, breathe out.
  2. Staring at one spot to help maintain balance, breathe in completely to a count of three as you stretch up on your toes and press your fists into your midriff. Modification: If your balance is shaky, hold on to a sturdy chair with one hand as shown.
  3. Be sure you are not pressing into your rib cage, but directly below it.
  4. Hold for a count of three, then breathe out to a count of three as you relax, lowering your arms and heels.
  5. Rest. Repeat 3 times.


Resources:

For local Yoga classes: Martinez Senior Center ({925} 370-8770) or try your Adult Education or the YMCA.
For the guide: American Yoga Association
www.arthritis.org
Arthritis Foundation 1 (800) 283-7800