Before starting a yoga-for-osteoarthritis exercise plan, please talk with your physician or qualified healthcare provider to ensure it is right for you.
Yoga for Osteoarthritis Pain Management
Osteoarthritis affects an estimated 26.9 million Americans, and this estimate is likely to increase in the next 10-20 years.1 Because of this growth in prevalence and the pain associated with arthritis, holistic approaches have recently been studied and added as therapeutic tools for managing the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
One such management tool is to exercise every day, or as often as possible. What kind of exercise, however, is best for someone with osteoarthritis? The answer, of course, depends on symptoms. Some sources suggest power exercise to help add muscle and cushion around the joints whereas others suggest something more gentle—yoga.
Listed below are some light and simple yoga moves to help you manage your symptoms of arthritis.
Of course, before launching into aggressive sun salutations, it’s always good to speak to your doctor about incorporating a new treatment regimen.
Gentle Yoga Poses for Osteoarthritis
Each move works on specific areas of the body, so you can focus on the areas where you suffer most from osteoarthritis symptoms, or do a holistic program to maximize your body’s range of motion.
The Forward Fold, in which you bend from the waist towards your knees from a standing position, is crucial in opening up the spine and creating a balance of flexibility in the lumbar area.
You need to move your spine backward as well as forward, which brings us to the Cobra Pose. In the Cobra Pose, you lie on your stomach and then raise yourself up onto your forearms, repeating the motion several times. Combining Forward Folding with the Cobra Pose may improve your spinal health.
The Mountain Pose is one of the more basic yoga poses. Start with your feet shoulder distance apart and palms facing forward at the side of your body. The pose relaxes your body as you remain in a neutral, tall posture. Add a gentle toe wiggle or finger wiggle, after holding the Mountain Pose for about 30 seconds to help keep the joints lubricated and loose. This stretch may reduce osteoarthritis pain in your toes and feet.
The Warrior II pose adds strength around the knee joints and can help with feet, ankle, and toe movements. You move one foot about four feet in front of the other, keeping the back one at a right angle to the one in front. Then you raise your arms, so they are parallel to the ground and stay in the position for about 60 seconds.
In the Butterfly Stretch, you sit on the floor with your feet pressed together in front of you, and your knees butterflied out to the side. While it is not a true yoga pose, it is often found in classes because of the benefits it provides to the groin and hip flexor areas.
If you have any hip osteoarthritis, start lightly with this pose and work your way into it. People who are very flexible can touch their thighs on the mat while holding on to their feet. However, listen to your body. Just go far enough to feel the stretch in your groin.
It’s always helpful to have visuals of positions to understand how to do them properly. If you don’t have access to a yoga class at a gym or locally, you can find videos and photographs online quite easily.
Tips to Get the Most Out of Yoga for Arthritis
Do It Early
Many individuals often experience osteoarthritis pain early in the mornings shortly after waking, which leads to the suggestion of performing your yoga early in the morning before the pain increases.
Keep It Gentle
Join hatha yoga classes or any class format that states “gentle” or “beginner.”
Keep the Cold at Bay
If cold conditions exacerbate your pain, consider yoga in a warm room or performing yoga at home in a heated room to help loosen your joints and decrease the pain.
Like most osteoarthritis management options, you’ll need time to see the full results of yoga, however, by consistently working joints affected by arthritis, you’ll be likely to feel better.
1 Lawrence RC, Felson DT, Helmick CG, et al. Estimates of the prevalence of arthritis and other rheumatic conditions in the United States. Part II. Arthritis Rheum. 2008;58(1):26-35, Sourced 7.17.15.
2 Cholam A Chasemi, Ainaz Golkar, Sayyd M Marandi. Effects of Hata Yoga on Knee Osteoarthritis. International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2013 Apr; 4(Suppl 1): S133–S138. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665019/. Accessed July 17, 2015.