Yoga for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Aching, swollen joints can keep you out of the gym and off the trails, but they don’t have to keep you from getting a good workout. The stretching, strengthening, and gentle movement of yoga can help increase your flexibility and range of motion without taxing your joints, which makes it a perfect choice for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients.
The right sort of exercise is just as important as the amount of exercise you get, which means you should take a bit of time exploring all the variations that yoga has to offer before jumping into a yoga routine.
The Benefits of Yoga for Rheumatoid Arthritis
You’ve probably heard that yoga can help you get in shape, but it goes further than that. In fact, the movements, breathing, and diversity of yoga routines can help your mind and body cope better with RA in several different ways:
Improves Flexibility and Range of Motion
There is no doubt that yoga opens up the joints, encourages flexibility, and gently improves range of motion – with time and patience. RA patients absolutely need to monitor and maintain their joint health, but slow progress is the safest progress. Yoga is based on low impact movements that are practiced at each individual’s pace and fitness level; the focus is on small gains rather than competition.
Another wonderful aspect of yoga is the flexibility of the routine itself. If your ankles or hips are bothering you, you can adjust or eliminate certain weight-bearing poses to avoid discomfort. If your wrists are sore, your routine can focus on standing postures, and ignore poses like downward dog that may strain your arms and hands.
Boosts Mood and Reduces Anxiety
Yoga has long been praised for its ability to reduce stress, calm anxiety, and improve mood. Each practice promotes respect for your body’s abilities and limitations, feeding your confidence and building better self-esteem. Since RA can attack you emotionally as well as physically, the psychological benefits of yoga can make a big impact on your quality of life.
The breathing techniques and careful postures of yoga keep you in the moment, and that can have a profound effect on your ability to calm yourself. Like biofeedback or cognitive behavioral therapy, yoga not only connects the mind and body, but teaches you how to mentally alter your physical state – namely, muscle tension and stress response.
Offers Interest and Variety
One big barrier to maintaining an exercise routine is boredom. Jogging, biking, or swimming laps are undoubtedly good for you, but they are also repetitive and can be monotonous. This is where yoga diverges from the pack: different yoga styles, sequences of poses, atmospheres, and instructors will always keep things interesting, so it can feel like a whole new activity every time you practice. Moreover, switching up movements and pace will challenge your muscles to adapt, which can get you fitter, faster.
There are many types of yoga, and many places you can practice. If you prefer to roll out your mat in the comfort of your own home, get a few classes under your belt so you understand the basic movements, then opt for a video that clearly guides you through the poses. Do you work better with the motivation and energy of a group? Check out a class at a local gym, community center, or yoga studio. There are even classes held in candlelight, to support a relaxing, soothing atmosphere.
Next page: best and worst types of yoga for rheumatoid arthritis patients, and precautions to keep in mind.