YOGA + ARTHRITIS
If you have been thinking of trying yoga but abandoned the idea due to arthritis, then I’m glad you’re here. As with any injury or medical condition, it is crucial to have your doctor’s blessing to begin or resume any physical activity and to be fully aware of any movement restrictions. Once approved however, the door opens to myriad physical, mental and spiritual benefits that yoga has to offer.
Movement has both physiological and psychological benefits and the practice of yoga can be a phenomenal tool for pain management. It is important to remember that yoga is not a one-stop shop but when practiced consistently, yoga becomes an important component of a holistic program of self-care that includes but is not limited to a focus on nutrition, sleep patterns, exercise, social support and medical support.
While we are all part of a collective whole, yoga also recognizes our individuality and the need to tailor our yoga practice to ever-changing mental, physical and spiritual needs. Yoga does not have a one-size-fits-all application. Rather, it is an approach that is open and intuitive, offering many different modalities designed to meet us where we are on any given day.
Yoga is also a tool of self-empowerment. With practice, we see physical gains in strength, balance, stability, mobility and ultimately greater autonomy. Consistent movement, breath and meditation practices contribute to a decrease in the body’s stress responses which in turn allows a greater sense of calm, well-being and positivity which are essential throughout the healing process.
Benefits of a consistent yoga practice:
- Enhance strength and flexibility.
- Promote and improve respiratory and cardiovascular function.
- Promote recovery from and treatment of addiction.
- Reduces stress, anxiety and depression.
- Reduce chronic pain.
- Improve sleep patterns.
- Improve overall well-being and quality of life.
- Increase self-awareness and mindfulness.
- Experience the social benefits of joining a yoga community.
There are many different styles of yoga and I highly recommend either Yoga Foundations or Gentle Yoga as a place to jump in. These classes provide a great opportunity to explore the numerous yoga postures, breathing practices and meditation.
The beauty of yoga is that the benefits of the poses can be experienced whether standing or sitting in a chair or on the floor. So, if there is a day(s) where you are experiencing greater arthritic pain or discomfort, there are a variety of options available to keep the yoga practice accessible. Yoga bridges the mind and body and through that awareness, tailoring and personalizing our yoga practice accordingly.
Don’t pay attention to the images portrayed in social media and magazines of wild and twisted poses by overly flexible yogis, because it is not the norm for us regular bodies and certainly not what I teach.
Yoga is and should be open and available to everyone. There is no level of “fitness” that is required to begin yoga; you just need to show up...and that’s often the hardest part of starting something new. You may have heard the expression “start where you are,” well that is true of yoga. You are doing yoga the moment you show up for yourself with an open heart and an open mind, bringing greater awareness to your movement and breath.
Yoga is a lifetime practice of showing up, whether you practice alone or with a group, and then taking that self-awareness and mindfulness out into the rest of your day. Early studies are highlighting the benefits of yoga for the arthritic community that include better joint health, gains in strength and balance, decreases in the perception of pain and an increase in overall well-being.
A regular practice will gradually decrease muscle and connective tissue tightness and tension around the bones and joints and the increase in muscle mass will provide a greater barrier to the development or progression of arthritis (see links below for further information). Together we can learn and utilize the many tools of yoga that give us greater ease in our daily movements and overall sense of well-being.
I hope to see you on the mat!