You may be surprised to find out that arthritis is actually not one disease but a blanket term for a family of over 100 diseases and conditions that may cause swelling, pain, and stiffness in the joints, as well as a decreased range of motion. Arthritis is difficult to treat because symptoms can be so variable and unpredictable, and everyone’s body uniquely responds to their arthritic issue.
While some yoga poses and regular yoga practice may be beneficial to some people, those with arthritis or symptoms of arthritic should consult their doctor before beginning any yoga routine. This will ensure that it is safe and suitable for them.
With that said, yoga and its associated stress-lowering and flexibility-enhancing benefits can help reduce inflammation and stiffness that may be contributing to your pain and discomfort. These four yoga positions can provide you with immediate and long-term pain relief.
You can make your knees as big as you want to be comfortable. Then, lower your chest slowly until it rests on the top of your thighs (or between them). Sometimes, I will spread my legs as wide as the mat to challenge my hip range of motion. Other times, I keep my knees so narrow that they are touching my thighs. This can also test my flexibility.
With a flat back, lower yourself until your forehead is on the mat. Stretch out your shoulder joint with your fingers, keeping space between the top of your shoulders and ears. You can gently open your chest by placing your hands on your lower back and putting your elbows on the opposite palms.
You can stay here for 5 minutes or more. Use your breath to sink deeper and feel more comfortable. Gently open and challenge your hips and ankles. Release synovial fluid in your knees. This will lubricate the joints.
Supine Leg Openers
Stretching the legs and rotating the spine can help relieve tension in the lower back.
Grab a strap, and lay on your back. Bring one leg to your chest and the other down the mat (this is a gentle stretch on its own!). Wrap the strap around your foot and gently lift your leg into the air. Be careful not to lock your knee.
Stay here as long as you like, then engage your core and bring the leg back up to center, across the midline of your body, falling over the other side while keeping both shoulders and hips grounded on the mat. You can stay here for as long as you want, but then engage your core to bring the leg up to center, across the middle of your body, and fall over the midline to the opposite side.
The lower back will become more mobile as you open up the inner and outer thighs, as well as the hamstrings. Then, switch legs and do the stretch on the opposite side. From here, it is a good idea to do a passive turn! Bring your knees up to your chest, then let them fall one way. Repeat the same motion on the opposite side.
You can also relieve lower back pain by stretching out your hips. Try the Modified pigeon pose. Place one foot on a wall with the knee bent at 90 degrees. Then, place the ankle of your opposite foot on the thigh on the leg on the wall. Flex that foot. Next, bring your glutes up as close to the wall as possible and open the top knee.
Keep your entire back, including your tailbone, on the floor. This pose is a great way to stretch the lower back and outer hips while being gentler on the joints.
Stretch out the Wrists
Hands and wrists are often the most affected areas of the body in those with arthritis. Begin in a forward fold, and bend your knees to the extent necessary to place your hands palms up underneath your soles in Gorilla Pose. You can use your feet for a soft massage, or you can gently pull your wrists.
Experts in arthritis recommend yoga as a great exercise for both treating and preventing arthritis. Yoga is low-impact and gentle, and it promotes healthy circulation to your joints. Some health experts recommend that you keep moving as much as possible during an illness flare-up to reduce symptoms.
Always consult your doctor and pay attention to your body. These poses shouldn’t hurt. If something breaks, it is not the right pose for you or your body. If you’re still not satisfied, try something similar with modifications and props. Or, if that doesn’t work, sit comfortably and meditate or practice mindfulness as long as possible.
Try to use as many grounding and positive visualization techniques as possible to prepare you for times when you might not feel at your best.