Yoga exercises for arthritis prevention
and pain relief

What is yoga?

Yoga is a series of gentle stretching and breathing techniques that happens to be one of the best exercises for arthritis. Yoga originated in India thousands of years ago. It consists of a routine of poses called 'asanas' that stretch all the muscles of the body while increasing flexibility in the joints. Increased flexibility results in reduced pain.

Proper breathing is also an important part of yoga. Learning to breathe deeply and correctly while performing the basic poses of yoga increases the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream, regulates heart rate and blood pressure, reduces stress and pain, increases energy, and helps to manage and even eliminate the mild depression that often accompanies chronic pain and chronic illness.

Scientific evidence

A recent study conducted by the Arthritis Foundation found that arthritis patients who maintained a regular routine of range-of-motion and low-resistance exercises (like yoga) showed less pain and better mood over the long term. Studies also show that people who start a regular routine of gentle yoga exercises are less likely to drop out than people who start other kinds of exercises for arthritis. Over 50% of people who start other kinds of arthritis exercise programs drop out after six months. Studies show that because yoga is more fun and more pleasurable, people are more like to stick with as an exercise for arthritis.

Yoga done with a class has been shown to have other benefits as an arthritis exercise. The deep relaxation combined with regular social contact has been shown to reduce or eliminate depression and anxiety.

Health benefits in general

Yoga is more than an arthritis exercise. Yoga, which comes form a Sanskrit word that literally means 'yoke', is designed to bring all body systems into proper alignment so that the entire system functions correctly. Health benefits of regular yoga practice include increased energy, better posture, weight loss, deeper relaxation, an ongoing sense of well being and calm, greater flexibility, lower blood pressure, healthier diet, and increased alertness and mental functioning.

All yoga practice includes deep relaxation techniques and an emphasis on proper breathing, both of which have been shown to improve mood and reduce pain and anxiety. Many types of yoga teach healthy diet as well. Regular yoga practice is often recommended for heart and cancer patients because of its usefulness in a healing aid and an aid to relaxation.

Benefits on arthritis

Yoga is one of the very best exercises for arthritis because it directly treats the main problems arthritis sufferers face: pain, swelling, joint stiffness and lack or flexibility, depression, and anxiety. Yoga is very gentle, so arthritis patients can learn the stretches and poses at their own pace, making very gradual progress that improves well-being rather than causes pain. The long term effect is increased flexibility and reduced or eliminated pain in the joints, as well as better general health and mental functioning, and better, healthier sleep and positive mood.


Finding a yoga class

Yoga classes are widely offered across the U.S. at YMCAs and YWCAs, through hospitals and community centers, at health clubs, and at senior centers. The website www.yogaalliance.org maintains a list of yoga teachers and yoga centers where classes are offered. Arthritis sufferers will probably be a able to locate a class specifically for people with disabilities or for older students, as these are becoming more and more popular as yoga becomes a more and more popular arthritis exercise.

Costs of yoga classes

Yoga classes can be very low cost or moderately expensive depending on what kind of class is chosen. Private instructors will cost more. Classes at senior centers and community centers are often offered for only a few dollars per session

Talk with your doctor about yoga movement and tell your yoga instructor about your health limitations

Before joining a yoga class, talk with your doctor about your interest in learning yoga as an exercise for arthritis. Your doctor probably has a list of resources and an opinion about where your needs would be best met. Ask for a note describing your physical limitation that you can give to the yoga instructor before starting your first class. Yoga instructors are trained to take disabilities and limitations into account and work individually with students at their own level, not matter how limited that may be.

No matter how disabled you may from arthritis, or how much pain you may be experiencing, you will be able to start a gentle yoga routine based on your abilities and begin to move forward. That is why many yoga classes specifically for older and disabled persons are springing up through hospitals and wellness centers. Yoga is one of the few exercises for arthritis that absolutely anyone can do.

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