Yoga has been the subject of scientific research in the West since it was first introduced to the United States in the 1950’s.
Each particular topic covered was chosen because it has been studied and has received scientific validation.
We will explore the research and show how yoga for arthritis can help with each condition.
There are several forms of arthritis; the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Both types are characterized by severe joint pain and stiffness, with limited mobility. According to yoga philosophy, poor diet coupled with a sedentary lifestyle can cause such pain and limitation of the joints.
A 2011 study by the Patanjali Research Foundation found that just one week of intensive yoga practice was enough to help control symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers determined that yoga for arthritis not only helps with pain levels, but can improve strength and overall function as well.
The following yoga exercises practiced on a daily basis may provide relief of arthritis symptoms. Since arthritis is in essence a joint problem, these postures are designed to not only tone muscles, but improve flexibility in the joints. Be sure and consult your health care provider before beginning this or any fitness program.
Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Downward-facing dog pose helps to open the shoulders and strengthen the arms and legs. It also improves flexibility in both the ankles and spine.
Begin standing upright on your mat with your feet together, hands at your sides. Inhale and reach up overhead. Exhale and reach for the floor, coming into a standing forward bend. Walk your feet back behind you until you come into an inverted “V” position. Do not sink in the shoulders and make sure your back is straight.
Try to press the heels into the mat. Hold this pose for several deep breaths, up to one minute if possible. Walk your feet back up to your hands in a standing forward bend. Gently roll back up, one vertebra at a time and come back to standing.
Cobra pose is a gentle backbend. It helps to strengthen the arms and support the low back. It also improves flexibility in the spine.
Begin lying flat on your mat, face down. Place your hands directly under the shoulders. Inhale and press the upper body up off the mat, supported by your hands. Do not sink in the shoulders, but keep the arms strong. Squeeze the buttocks together firmly and keep the hips and thighs flat on the mat. Look slightly forward like a cobra ready to strike. Hold this pose for several deep breaths, then relax back down onto the mat. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Half-Lord of the Fishes Pose
Half-Lord of the fishes pose is a deep spinal twist. It releases tension in the back and improves flexibility in the spine. It also stretches the hips and opens the shoulders.
Begin sitting upright on the mat with the legs stretched out in front of you. Bend the right knee and step the right foot over the left leg. Inhale and raise the right arm up, reaching behind you. Exhale, and twist around to the right, pressing against the outside of the right knee with the left arm for leverage. Remain erect while looking over the right shoulder. Breathe deeply. Hold this pose for several deep breaths, up to one minute, then repeat on the opposite side.
Cow-face pose is a seated posture which stretches the shoulder joints and long muscles of the arms. It also helps release tension in the shoulders and upper back.
Begin sitting comfortably on the mat with the right leg crossed over the left. Inhale, and reach up with the left arm, bending the elbow and reaching down the back. Bring the right hand behind you and grab onto the left. If you cannot reach your hand, hold onto a yoga strap or belt with both hands. Breathe deeply as you stretch the left shoulder. Relax, then reverse the cross of your legs and repeat the stretch for the right arm.
Pigeon pose is designed to open the pelvis and stretch the hips. It also helps lengthen the quadriceps muscle and improve flexibility in the legs.
Begin in cobra pose. Bring your right knee up between the hands, but keep the left leg extended back behind you. Walk the right foot out toward the hands so that it makes an “L” shape. Support your upper body with your arms. Hold and breathe deeply. If you have the flexibility, lie down over the right leg and stretch the arms out in front of the body. Hold this pose for several breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.
Lord of the Dance Pose
Lord of the Dance pose is a balancing posture which also helps to stretch the shoulders, hips and large muscles of the legs. It improves balance, posture and strength in the thighs and calves.
Begin standing upright on the mat, legs together. Shift your weight into your right leg. Bend the left leg and reach back with the left hand, grabbing onto the foot. Move your hand to the inside of the foot and roll the shoulder back. Inhale and reach forward with the right hand, rocking forward slightly on your hips. Hold this pose for as long as possible, up to one minute, then repeat on the opposite side.
- “BMC Research Notes”; One Week of Yoga on Function and Severity of Rhematoid Arthritis; S Telles, et al.; 2011 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21481278