Yoga and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Arthritis sufferers are often caught between a proverbial rock and a hard place. The rock is that they are in pain, the hard place is that exercise – while often painful to do – can help with arthritis symptoms. So, what is one to do? Enter yoga.
Over the years, a number of studies on the health benefits of yoga have been conducted. In general terms, yoga has been found to help reduce stress, relieve anxiety, and improve cardiovascular health. With respect to arthritis, yoga has been found to decrease inflammation. To understand why this is important, one must first understand what arthritis is.
In its most simplistic terms, arthritis can be understood as joint inflammation. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis or OA. According to the Arthritis National Research Foundation, OA is the “‘wear and tear’ arthritis or degenerative joint disease.” Another common form of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis or RA. The American College of Rheumatology states that “Ra is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis…caused when the immune system (the body’s defence system) is not working properly.” Like other forms of arthritis, RA results in pain and swelling.
So, if yoga can help reduce inflammation, it makes sense that it is often recommended for those dealing with RA. One arWhat is yoga good for? While yoga is good for many conditions and life challenges one particular condition that benefits from a regular daily yoga practice is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
Low impact strengthing exercise – like yoga – has many key benefits to dealing with RA. According to Susan J. Bartlett, PhD, associate professor of medicine at McGill University, keeping muscles strong so that they can support the joints while incorporating movement to reduce stiffness, is key to dealing with RA. In her article, Why Yoga Can Be Good for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Kara Mayer Robinson suggests that yoga:
- Creates strong muscles to support joints and improve mobility
- Reduces stresses and improve mood which is especially important for people experiencing chronic pain
- RA is linked with diabetes and heart disease and yoga benefits the healing of both of those diseases
While there are many benefits to practising yoga – including helping those dealing with RA symptoms – it’s always important to first consult your physician prior to beginning a new exercise regimen. If you believe that yoga could be right for you, we also suggest you let your instructor know about your condition and the joints that are most affected. This will enable your instructor to provide you with modifications to ensure you continue to get all the benefits of yoga without causing further injury or a flare-up of your RA. And yogis, remember to always, ALWAYS, listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right while in a posture, take a recovery pose (savasana and child’s pose are often good) and speak to your instructor after class.
- Vrkasana (tree pose)
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose)
- Savasana (corpse pose)
- Viparita Karani (legs-up-the-wall pose)
- Reclined supine twist
- Sun Salutation
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic
- The cause is unknown and it can affect people of any age, but is more common in
adults 40-60 years old
- People suffering from RA go through periods of inflammation and periods of remission
- Inflammation with RA affects the joints by swelling, redness, stiffness and pain, but can also occur in tendons, ligaments and muscles.