Osteoarthritis is a chronic pain condition, associated with WEAKNESS of the joint & surrounding muscles, sometimes fatigue, and quite commonly joint STIFFNESS when first waking, then worsening over the day.
***Yoga describes arthritis as a disorder of joint, including metabolic & pranic imbalances, which may be reversed with early application of yoga treatment or managed in later stages ie when joint degeneration has occurred.
It is a disorder which can affect your whole well being…
Yoga has a lot to offer…
Historically yoga was not used for its therapeutic benefits; its primary focus was one of spiritual & mental well being. In the early 19th century, yoga as a therapy was first explored. Now there is a growing body of research* to support its use as an adjunct or management tool for many conditions, arthritis included.
One recent study* in 2015 found that twice weekly MODIFIED Hatha Yoga had great benefit for sedentary people with arthritis. It helped them both physically & mentally with their well being.
Interestingly a review of studies in 2010** found yoga helpful for arthritis, and not associated with any adverse outcomes. This supports the current recommendation that modified physical activity is helpful & not dangerous for arthritis.
So why is yoga so helpful to arthritis?
It is an holistic exercise, which improves how you feel, and addresses the mind body & spiritual aspects of your being.
1 Yoga can be ADAPTED to accommodate a person’s needs. Supports can be used to aid the practices, such as chairs, blocks, belts, blankets, bolsters, cushions, what ever is needed…
Yoga can be MODIFIED for comfort. For example one could do a standing chair Sun Salutation, rather than the standing to floor version, which places greater pressure on the joints.
The key is to be comfortable with your practice. One strategy to follow is the “Moving with Ease” process. More about this in the November eNews.
2 Yoga is all about Mind Body AWARENESS. Awareness correctly used can be quite therapeutic.
3 Yoga includes BREATHING. Slow Yoga Breathing can have powerful influences, reducing STRESS, calming the reactivity in in our bodies & minds, and so soothing the pain experienced. It also helps with our levels of energy, and can modify how we feel.
4 Yoga includes Body Movement. Many of the Yoga Movement Practices & Asana (postures) may be helpful to either reducing stiffness or building strength.
Reducing Stiffness: Viscosity is a measure of ease of movement of fluids. If the joint viscosity is higher then the joint will become stiffer. Joint viscosity increases with pressure, speed & greater weight bearing ie high impact exercises, while slow, gentle, low pressure movement can decrease joint viscosity and so reduce stiffness with movement. Yoga includes a variety of exercises which are low impact, slow, and gentle to aid joint mobilisation.
Strengthening: Yoga includes many isometric strengthening practices ie where the muscle is active, while the joint is held stable. Isometric exercise can sometimes be easier to tolerate than dynamic exercise, especially if the joint is irritable. An example is standing steady with the Virabhadrasana 2 (Hero Warrior 2) Posture, actively working the thigh & hip muscles, while holding the joint stable. Joint comfort can be adapted via altering the angle of the knee joint ie bending the knee more or less…
Pawanmuktasana (Part 1) is a specific series of exercises, specifically for loosening joints, and described to also reduce energy blockages in the joints. It is often described as the anti-arthritis group of exercises. The practice is based in awareness placed with the joint movement, breathing integrated to the joint movement, and awareness directed also to the flow of prana (energy), indicated by sensations felt in the body. The base position is a relaxed seated Staff position with legs extended and arms to the side behind, but it could be modified to sitting in a chair.
It includes movements of the toes, feet, ankles, knees, hips, fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck.
5 Conserving Energy: Chronic conditions can be fatiguing. So you need to learn ways to both build energy & also conserve energy. Historically yoga has been known as an inner exercise, meaning it is a type of exercise which helps us to gain energy, not just burn it up. Also it can teach how to relax excess tension, and so only use the amount of effort you need to do an activity. Excess tension can be very tiring.
6 Yoga can include Social Connections; feeling supported in social group can be helpful for managing arthritis. Yoga is often practiced in a supportive group environment.
7 Yoga is supported by many great meaningful texts, designed to impart WISDOM and help us better deal with “suffering”. For example the idea of Santosha – learning to accept what can’t be changed, and working on what can be positively done. Lack of acceptance can lead to much personal stress & inner tension.
8 Deal with “flare ups”: Murphy’s tells us that “flare ups” can occur. In such situations yoga still has skills which may be helpful. You may need to rest temporarily from exercise, but you can still breathe, practice relaxation, do a yoga nidra practice, meditate, or even do some simple supportive restorative yoga practices.
9 Meditation is also a part of yoga. Meditation has be shown to be helpful in pain management.
• *Steffany Haaz Moonaz, Clifton O. Bingham III, Lawrence Wissow and Susan J. Bartlett
“Yoga in Sedentary Adults with Arthritis: Effects of a Randomized Controlled Pragmatic Trial” The Journal of Rheumatology July 2015, 42 (7) 1194-1202; DOI:
• ** Steffany Haaz, PhD and Susan J. Bartlett, PhD “Yoga for Arthritis: A Scoping Review” Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 2011 Feb; 37(1): 33–46. Published online 2010 Dec 3. doi: 10.1016/j.rdc.2010.11.001 • ***Yogic Management of Common Diseases Dr Swami Karmananda Saraswati Bihar School of Yoga • Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha Bihar School of Yoga – Pavammuktasana