Posted on Jan 07, 2020, 5 p.m.
Gentle yoga may help to provide a lifeline for many people suffering with rheumatoid arthritis. Many people in desperate need to find a better way to deal with their condition are turning to gentle yoga which is more slow, and less physically challenging version of the discipline.
Gentle yoga may be good for those who are dealing with conditions such as endometriosis, fibromyalgia, arthritis, back pain, as well as those recovering from surgery. However, like any routine or change it is best to consult with your doctor or certified medical professional to make sure of what is best for your needs.
Estimates are that some 54 million Americans suffer from arthritis, this represents about 23% of all adults across the nation according to the CDC. The chronic condition is characterized by pain and stiffness in joints throughout the body, of which the most common form is osteoarthritis which is caused by wear and tear on the joints, while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder.
Research suggests that physical activity may be one of the best ways to help manage arthritis, and gentle yoga can help those with the condition to move more freely according to yoga instructors, therapists, enthusiasts, and rheumatologists. Gentle yoga helps people to exercise more, which makes it easier for them to manage their symptoms by helping to alleviate pain and stiffness.
"Physical activity is universally recommended as an essential part of arthritis management," says Steffany Moonaz, an International Association of Yoga Therapists-certified yoga therapist and co-author of the Johns Hopkins study. "Unfortunately, many people with arthritis tend to be sedentary or to reduce activity levels due to the interference of arthritis symptoms, including pain, stiffness, swelling and fatigue." Moonaz is also co-author of "Yoga Therapy for Arthritis: A Whole-Person Approach to Movement and Lifestyle," which was published in 2018.
This form of yoga may be better for those with arthritis and other kinds of chronic pain because they can modify their poses and how long they hold them according to how much pain and stiffness they are experiencing at any given time. Gentle yoga is not a specific type of yoga, rather a slower and more adjustable pace. It can be done with the use of foam wedges to support wrists and ankles, sitting in a chair if the floor is too difficult, and with the use of straps to execute poses that require grasping a body part that can’t be reached.
Benefits of gentle yoga will vary from person to person with arthritis, this includes but is not limited to pain management, improved mood, and better mobility. This is not a cure for the condition but it can help people to manage their pain, lead a more active life, and boost their moods according to research.
The Johns Hopkins study published in The Journal of Rheumatology involved 75 sedentary adults aged 18+ who suffered with rheumatoid arthritis or knee osteoarthritis; after eight weeks it was concluded that yoga can help sedentary people with the conditions to safely increase their level of exercise as well as improve their physical and psychological health.
"People with arthritis may be wary of yoga, but with a knowledgeable instructor, you can enjoy and get some really helpful benefits," says Marcy O'Koon Moss, senior director of consumer health for the Arthritis Foundation, which helped fund the study. "On top of that, it's relaxing (and) helps alleviate stress and improve focus. When you're dealing with chronic pain, that can be helpful."
Experts recommend that you talk to your doctor first; find an instructor experienced in teaching gentle yoga; discuss your condition with the instructor; know and pay attention to your limits; don’t neglect the meditative techniques/aspects of yoga; start slow and small while working your way up; and dress appropriately if you are living with pain from a chronic condition and would like to try gentle yoga as an approach to manage your symptoms and improve your physical and mental health.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.