Benefits of yoga for rheumatoid arthritis
This is an excerpt from Adaptive Yoga by Ingrid Yang & Kyle Fahey.
Regular yoga practice has many benefits for patients with RA, including increasing muscle strength and endurance, proprioception, and balance, and emphasizing movement through a full range of motion (ROM) to increase flexibility and mobility. Additional benefits of yoga include improved breathing, relaxation, body awareness, and meditation, which can reduce stress and anxiety and promote a sense of calmness, general well-being, and improved quality of life. Research suggests that yoga may even help decrease inflammatory markers that signal the severity and activity of disease.3
In early stages of RA, relaxation, imagery, and biofeedback, as adjuncts to conventional therapy, can improve pain and mood as well as physical functioning and coping.1 Mindfulness has been shown to decrease stress, as well as improve mood in RA.16 Other aspects of yoga may be particularly important for individuals with musculoskeletal concerns, including the emphasis on acknowledging and accepting day-to-day variability in well-being and energy, enhancing body awareness, respecting limits, and modifying exercise (mode, duration, frequency) in response to transient changes in disease activity.
Half Sun Salutation: Ardha Surya Namaskar
The flowing motion of Half Sun Salutation provides many benefits for people with RA. One of the benefits is that the constant movement of the body improves aerobic capacity. Additionally, connecting with the breath teaches an important principle of exercise, which is that attention to breath during exercise reduces fatigue. The focus on taking long, deep breaths during the entire movement into each pose also exercises our diaphragm, and thus, strengthens our pulmonary system. Further benefits include minimizing pressure on the joints through flowing movement. Finally, the forward bend and half-lift movement offer a stretch in the knee flexors and improve spinal mobility.
- Improves aerobic capacity.
- Teaches the pairing of breathing with movement.
- Strengthens the upper body.
- Stretches the knee flexors.
- Increases mobility of the spine.
Be mindful and modify if you have back pain; in general, if you have low back pain symptoms, avoid deep forward bending.
- Start in Mountain (pages 150-151).
- Inhale and bring the arms overhead.
- Exhale and bend forward over the legs, with the knees slightly bent to protect your back.
- Inhale and extend your chest forward.
- Exhale and bend forward again.
- Inhale and sweep the arms up and out, standing up with the arms overhead.
- Exhale and bring the hands to the heart.
- Repeat for a total of 5 to 8 breath cycles.
- Place blocks under the hands to support the back when folding forward.
- If you have back pain or shooting pain down the legs, minimize the forward bend.
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