Yoga for Arthritis & Rheumatoid Arthritis: 9 Best Poses, Yoga to Avoid

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In arthritis, exercising your joints could be the best way to reduces pain and helps combat fatigue. Yoga poses may work as a gentle form of exercise when practiced slowly keeping body limits & cautions in mind.

Arthritis is a combination term having root terms, “arth” meaning “joints” and “ritis” refers to “inflammation.” There are different kinds of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA).

Rheumatoid Arthritis & Yoga

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which hands and feet joints get mostly affected. In contrast to osteoarthritis where bones wear down over time, RA affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity.

In RA, yoga poses can be used in a modified way according to the need of individuals to keep certain body parts (affected joints) off practice and slowly bring flexibility in adjacent. Some studies suggest that yoga can improve joint function, build strength and promote relaxation in all kinds of arthritis.

According to Arthritis Foundation United States 1, Yoga is an ancient and enjoyable exercising routine that helps people with arthritis if practiced regularly.

Fact

In India, around 180 million people have arthritis 2, and this is not limited to elderly adults but includes kids having juvenile arthritis, and young adults as well. Out of 100,000 people, 8 young adults ranging between 18-34 years are likely to get rheumatoid arthritis.

What are the benefits of yoga for arthritis?

One of the root causes of arthritis among Americans is not indulging in proper physical activity. To this, Dr. Sharon Kolasinksi, rheumatologist, says “getting people moving is key”. Yoga is the best physical activity one could possibly practice and get therapeutic benefits from.

A review study 3 examining various studies conducted between 2010 to 2013 to understand the efficacy of yoga in managing arthritis. As a result, yoga was concluded as an effective practice for alleviating symptoms of arthritis.

For any type of arthritis, practicing Iyenger, Hatha, and restorative forms of yoga are of maximum relieving benefits because:

  • Yoga poses targets on enhancing muscle strength that you might have losing as a symptom of arthritis.
  • Some yoga poses for arthritis are efficient enough to improve the flexibility and mobility of the joints.
  • They help in elevating balance and improving the slouching posture that may be the cause or symptoms of your arthritis.
  • Last, but not least, yoga involves deep breathing that activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Thus, it reduces stress levels among arthritis patients that often comes as a side effect worsening the situation even more.

Even, doctors accept that practicing gentle yoga for arthritis regularly is a great complementary aid to enhance the conventional treatment.

Hence, with your rheumatologist prescription and suggested modification trying these yoga poses might help alleviate your symptoms of arthritis or to cure them.

9 Best Yoga Poses for Arthritis

The stretches and movements yoga poses offer can reduce the pain in arthritis. Incorporating deep inhalation and exhalation in yoga poses help arthritis patients improve their slumped posture.

Make sure you go slowly and mindfully in yoga poses, respecting your body limits and not overstretching. Below yoga poses are helpful in Arthritis;

1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Child-Pose
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This is a relaxing pose that is beneficial for your back as well as your mind. It brings relaxing and stretching benefits to people with spinal arthritis such as Spondylolisthesis,

Also, it provides calming effects to the mind which eases the situation a little more. Keeping a cushion under the knees or folded blanket between the back of the legs is recommended.

Instructions

  • Begin with a tabletop position.
  • Push back to drop your buttock on the heels.
  • Crawl forward with your hands and lower your torso to the thighs.
  • Rest your forehead on the floor, stay there for one to two minutes breathing deeply.

2. Cat-Cow Stretch

Cat-cow-pose
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Cat-cow stretch works to bring flexibility to the entire spine, thereby relieving back pain that is the major symptom of rheumatoid arthritis.

Stimulating the lower back and thoracic spine, experts suggest 4 cat-cow is an excellent yoga pose for alleviating joint pain and relieving any musculoskeletal disorder.

Instructions

  • Come to your all fours with hands tucked under the shoulders and knees under the hips.
  • Inhale to look up raising the chin and push the navel downwards with simultaneously raising the tailbone.
  • As you exhale curl your back and bring your chin to your chest to look towards the navel.
  • Come back to table top and repeat it five to six times more.

3. Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

downward dog pose for back pain
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Down Dog is effective in relieving tightness in hamstrings, calves, and spine. Besides these, it also enhances the bone strength that is often found in most patients of rheumatoid arthritis.

Instructions

  • Assume tabletop position keeping the hands slightly ahead of shoulders and curl the toes.
  • While exhaling, lift the knees off the floor raising the hips and pushing them back.
  • Lower your head in between the arms forming an inverted V-pose.
  • Try to bring your heels to the floor and hold the pose for five deep breaths.

4. Tree Pose (Vrikshasana)

Tree-Pose

Tree pose is practiced standing on one leg that helps the practitioner in enhancing the body balance along with improving the strength of the legs and back muscles.

Practicing tree pose regularly strengthens the knee and spine, improves their range of motion. Moreover, it helps to reduce the accompanying pain due to arthritis.

Instructions

  • Begin with standing with body weight equally distributed among four corners of the feet.
  • Shift your body weight on to your right foot and gradually lift your left foot bending the left knee outstretching it to the left.
  • Place the left foot’s sole onto your inner right thigh.
  • Keeping your hips square, join your palms in front of the chest and fix your gaze forward.
  • Stay in the pose for 5-10 breaths then release and repeat it on the other leg.

5. Warrior I Pose (Virabhadrasana I)

sun salutation B Warrior-I

This pose is great to stretch the hips flexors, thighs, and improve mobility of the knees. Stretching the arms overhead is also beneficial to strengthen the shoulders.

If practicing this pose seems challenging due to pain or muscular discomfort, then, using a chair as a prop is recommended for arthritic patients.

Instructions

  • Stand with keeping the legs 4-5 feet apart.
  • Turn your right foot 90° outwards and left foot around 45° towards the right foot, aligning the right heel with left.
  • Turn your torso towards the right leg and bending the right knee keeping it stacked over the right ankle.
  • Raise your arms and join the palms overhead, then look up to your gaze the joined hands.
  • Hold the final position with deep breaths for up to 30 seconds and then release to repeat it on the other side.

6. Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II)

warrior 2 pose on chair
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Practicing Warrior II stimulates the major joints of the body, including shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. The extension of the hips in this pose relieves arthritic pain.

This strengthening impact of this pose on the major joints of the body makes it a therapeutic pose for Psoriatic Arthritis.

Instructions

  • Take a stance placing the feet more than hip-distance apart.
  • Turn the left foot 90 towards the left and the right foot slightly towards the left aligning the heels.
  • Rotate your torso towards the left and spread your arms to the side at the shoulder level.
  • Bend your left knee so that the thigh becomes parallel to the floor keeping the right leg straight.

7. Bridge Pose

bridge pose for back pain
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In bridge pose, the knees are strengthened and the spine is stretched providing pain-relieving effects.

Practicing bridge pose is especially beneficial in curing neck arthritis. Lying on the back, this pose pulls the neck muscles forward and backward making it a beneficial stretch for neck pain.

Instructions

  • Lie down on your back bending your knees and keeping the feet on the floor.
  • Keep the arms by the sides with palms facing down.
  • Pressing your arms and feet against the floor lift your pelvis until the thighs become parallel to the floor.
  • Ensure to keep your knees directly over the heels

8. Supine Twisting Pose

Supine-spinal-twist
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As the name suggests, it is a spinal massaging posture involving gentle twisting of the lower back, bending of the knees, and stretching the neck muscles.

Hence, it is also one of the expert recommended yoga poses for arthritis as long as it does not create any painful situation.

Instructions

  • Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest wrapping the arms around the knees.
  • Now, spread your arms to the sides and scoot your hips to the left drawing the bent lifted knees towards the right elbow.
  • Turn your neck to the left to look towards the left fingertips.
  • Holds the pose and breathe into the twist release the feet to the floor and repeat it to the other side.

9. Corpse Pose

corpse pose - bikram yoga
Image Source: Shutterstock

Corpse pose is supposed to be a relieving pose for arthritis as it is a relaxing way of getting rid of excess air elements (Vata dosha) from the body.

This accumulation of excessive Vata is responsible for inducing pain in the joints and diminishes the body balance. Hence, corpse pose must be included in the yoga session designed for arthritis patients.

Instructions

  • Lie on your back extending the legs and spreading the arms 45 degrees away from the sides of the body.
  • Keep the palms facing upward.
  • Close your eyes relaxing every muscle in the body.
  • Take deep breaths through the nostrils to delve into deeper states of relaxation.

Yoga to avoid when you have arthritis

Though yoga has been proved as an effective aid to cure and relieve arthritis, still, there are yoga poses and styles that must be avoided by people with arthritis.

First thing first, comfort and relief must be your aim while stretching, relaxing, or twisting the body for any yoga pose. Besides this, the following yoga styles must not be practiced if you have arthritis:

  1. Bikram or hot yoga- Bikram yoga style is hot yoga practiced in a high temperature (105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40% humidity). This high temperature and humidity facilitates easy stretching and removes impurity. However, this is quite fatiguing and stressful for the joints, thus might worsen the situation for arthritic patients.
  2.  Vinyasa Yoga – The rapid and flowing motion of different poses in this style puts extreme pressure on the wrists and ankles. There is a short interval to adapt from one pose to another which considers it under yoga style which people with arthritis must avoid.’
  3. Power Yoga – Power yoga involves strenuous and advanced poses. The challenging and vigorous nature of the power yoga poses is not suitable for people having arthritis.
  4. During any yoga session, everyone, especially an arthritic sufferer has to be mindful to avoid hyperextension of neck and knees.
  5. In case of back bending posture, maintaining a range of motion under potential must be practiced only.

Conclusion

Practice yoga with your rheumatologist concern taking the aids of the props to modify the poses to get relieving effects for arthritis.

All the above-mention yoga pose for arthritis will help you find calm and alleviate your pain-giving symptoms. Hence, you can count on yoga for arthritis as long as you feel comfortable and rejuvenated with your practice.

References

  1. Yoga Benefits for Arthritis
  2. Arthritis affects more than 180 million people in India https://www.timesnownews.com/health/article/arthritis-affects-more-than-180-million-people-in-india-10-early-signs-to-watch-out-for/105479
  3. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2156587213499918
  4. Living with arthritis? 5 easy Pilates moves that can help relieve joint pain – Starts at 60

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