Yoga for Arthritis

Yoga has helped arthritic patients with improving confidence, mood, self-awareness, range of motion, relaxation, blood circulation, concentration, stress and pain reduction, health of bones, tendons, muscles and joint ligaments.

Classes and instruction are often offered at health and fitness centers; check out public library resources, too (books, videos, audio cassettes, DVDs, etc.) Not much is required to begin: pillows and a mat, some type of blanket or carpet piece for padding and comfort.

“Lets Do Yoga,” an article by Christina DiMartino published in Arthritis Today, mentions six basic yoga positions that offer a wide range of benefits (dont perform any that cause strain and remember to confirm with healthcare provider):

Mountain Pose This position is for helping develop posture. With feet a comfortable distance apart, legs and knees straight, stand and distribute weight evenly, tightening thigh muscles. Keep pelvis in a neutral position, not arching the back, not leaning forward, and expand ribcage by opening chest and shoulders. Hold head comfortably straight with arms loosely hanging at your sides, body vertically aligned.

Child Pose This position is for help with stretching the back and neck, and for stomach stress, for improving digestion. Begin by sitting in a chair, draping your torso over your knees. After strength and endurance build over time, gradually extend this position by
sitting on bent knees with feet and toes straight behind you, and spread knees wide enough to allow the torso to fall forward between your legs. Gently release tension by inhaling and exhaling slowly, falling forward, using pillows and blankets for padding and support.

Down Dog Variation This position is for alignment, balance upper and lower body strength and flexibility. In a standing position, with feet parallel and straight beneath the hips, pointed forward, face a wall. Point knees straight ahead, bend them slightly and place your hands against the wall, slightly higher than your shoulders, shoulder-distance apart. Gently drop your head forward till the ears are between the elbows, while pressing with your arms and pushing back with your hips.

Cat-Cow– This position aids in stress reduction, increasing circulation and range of motion in the spine. With hands and knees shoulder-length apart, squat down on all fours.
Breathe in slow, steady and deep while gently arching the back, tilting the pelvis upward, and stretching the neck and head forward. Exhale while tucking the head. Repeat, focusing on movement and breathing coordination.

Reclined Twist This position stretches and opens the hip joints, massages the sacral area and back, and stretches the spine. In bed or on your mat or blanket, lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat. Lift hips, shifting them slightly to one side, and place knees one on top of the other, falling in the opposite direction of your hips as you inhale. Exhale, turning the head opposite the knees. Wait 30 to 60 seconds, then release. Then raise knees back to the center and stretch in the opposite direction, using other side. Tip: Beginners may want to extend one leg at a time and bend and twist the other.

Deep Back Rest This position is to help with relaxation. Usually the final pose in yoga classes and performed in bed before sleeping, it aids in mind and body relaxation. Flat on your back with feet comfortably apart and facing out, place arms a comfortable distance from the body. Face palms whichever way are most comfortable for your wrists. And dim lighting or place something over your eyes.

Some people combine their favorite soothing music or sound tracks, like nature or ocean sounds, with the positions. And some vary lighting colors, depending upon the season and their mental and physical health. For more techniques and information, check with additional resources from your public library and medical clinics.