What if there was one simple thing you could do—without any negative side effects—to reduce your arthritis pain, increase your energy and feel less anxiety?
There is. And it’s yoga.
If you hit the mat regularly, you already know how yoga can help with arthritis and joint pain. If you’ve never tried it, you likely have a list of reasons why you don’t want to. You’re not flexible. You would feel silly. Yoga is for young people. You don’t have the right clothes. It makes you feel uncomfortable.
We’ll address these points in a minute, but first let’s take a look at what yoga can actually do for you. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser is a researcher at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. She did a study measuring key blood markers for inflammation in 50 healthy women practicing basic yoga postures. What she found made headlines: The more experienced yoga practitioners showed lower levels of inflammation-causing proteins in their blood. As we all know, inflammation equals arthritis. What’s more, all of the women reported being in a better mood after yoga.
Dr. Sharon Kolasinski, a rheumatologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, studied the effects of yoga on people with knee osteoarthritis. She found that participants who took just one 90-minute Iyengar yoga a week for eight weeks reported significant reductions in pain and improvements in physical function, as well as less joint stiffness. Iyengar yoga is especially good for arthritis sufferers because it focuses on alignment and involves props such as blocks and straps that can help novices get into poses.
Yoga also shows promise in improving rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Kirsten Lung, a research associate at the University of California Los Angeles, found that people with this kind of arthritis felt better after six weeks of iyengar yoga.
Ready to give yoga for arthritis a try? It’s best to start out at a yoga studio where a certified instructor can help you learn the basics. Because there are so many styles of yoga—and styles of teaching yoga—don’t give up if you don’t enjoy your first class. Try a different one. Many yoga studios have classes specifically for beginners and it’s usually an option to schedule a private lesson to get started.
Especially if you’ve never done yoga before, don’t start with advanced classes and make sure that your instructor helps you modify poses to help meet your needs. For this reason, smaller class sizes are better.
Don’t push yourself too hard. On a scale of 1 to 10, you should be working at about a 6, then building from there. And if something feels painful, either ask for help modifying it or take a quick break in child’s pose.
Avoid poses that involve balancing on one foot, like the tree pose, or bending the knee more than 90 degrees, like the frog pose. Instead, embrace poses that soothe rather than stress, like sun salutations, cow pose, bridge pose and downward-facing dog.
Once you get the basics down, there are plenty of options for doing yoga on your own at home. The Arthritis Foundation sells a DVD created especially for those with achy joints. Yoga apps are a convenient way to practice anywhere you can take your phone. Gaiam offers a top-rated app that includes 65 different workouts for $3.99.
Arthritis can impact your quality of life, making you want to move less, which just makes everything worse. Yoga has the exact opposite effect: It can make you feel better, increase your energy, improve your mood and make you want to move more.
Think you may be suffering from joint pain? Make an appointment today with one of our physicians. Find a convenient office location near you at www.fishertitusmedicalcare.com.