The term “arthritis” is a general term for a group of over 100 diseases, all sharing a common trait: inflammation of the joints. People suffering from arthritis experience stiffening of the joints and less flexibility. Practicing yoga can help arthritis sufferers in a variety of ways.
Yoga Improves Range of Motion
One cause of much pain for arthritis patients comes from inflammation and damage to joint tissues. Moving joints stimulates muscles around them, sending fluid in the direction of the joints. Thinking about a particular area of the body and moving it, creates attention, and fluid movement. This fluid helps lubricate the joins and make them more comfortable. Different yoga poses stimulate and increase flexibility with different joints.
Yoga Builds Confidence
As sufferers of arthritis advance in their disease, their range of motion suffers. They may trip and fall, or be unable to walk distances or perform tasks they used to complete with ease. Practicing Yoga increases flexibility and range of motion, and helps arthritis patients reclaim some of their mobility. Classes geared specifically toward arthritis patients abound; however, beginning yoga classes can be just as beneficial.
Yoga is more than contorting the body into pretzel-like shapes. Beginning Hatha Yoga classes combine two elements for a balanced, and smooth introduction to yoga. Asanas are yoga poses, while pranyama is a set of breathing practices. Together, these two practices gradually introduce beginner yoga students to benefits of yoga. Any beginner Hatha yoga class can be beneficial to people with arthritis. Most yoga poses are adaptable for those with range of motion difficulties. The cardinal rule of yoga for everyone is—if it hurts—, stop or slow down.
Psychological Benefits of Yoga
Traditional yoga has roots in spiritual elements. Modern yoga tends to focus more on athletic and physiological benefits, but the mental benefits are equally as important for arthritis patients. While modern medicine has helped control arthritis symptoms, it is a disease that cannot be cured. Dwelling on this fact created negative thoughts. Spiritual elements of yoga help people overcome their challenges and learn to think positively, which, in turn, has positive physiological effects.
Moving your Body
Over 50% of people who start an exercise program give it up within a couple of months. Many people find yoga quite enjoyable, which increases the likelihood they will stay with it. Even people with a limited range of motion will benefit from practicing yoga. Studies by the Rheumatic Diseases Clinic and Stanford University have each highlighted the positive impacts of yoga on osteoarthritis patients. Arthritis patients practicing yoga experienced increases in overall well-being and comfort, rather than decreases.
Yoga can be an important part of treatment for arthritis patients, building confidence, flexibility, range of motion and increasing feelings of well-being.
For more information, you may want to consult Yoga as Medicine, an excellent book by Timothy Mccall who discusses the benefits of yoga therapy in the treatment of various conditons including arthritis.