Yoga Rx for Arthritis
Arthritis is a real
pain, usually a very intense pain in one or more joints of the
body, effecting almost 20 percent of the population. One of the
most important therapies for treating arthritis is exercise, and
yoga is one of the best types of exercise for this condition.
Arthritic joint pain is a big discouragement to do any exercise or
move the body at all, but without exercise the joints become
stiffer and lose range of motion that exacerbates the progression
of the disease. There is no known cure for arthritis, but several
studies have shown yoga effective for reducing and even
eliminating the symptoms of this disease.
A gentle yoga
practice is recommended, using repetitive movements to warm
up the body, then holding postures to build strength and
flexibility and finally resting in Savasana, relaxation pose.
Postures that focus on flexibility will help open up the joints
and increase range of motion and the circulation of blood, energy,
and oxygen. Postures that focus on strength will build muscles
around the joint, nourishing and stabilizing it. Savasana is
essential to allow the body to rejuvenate, integrate, and use the
energy that was created and released in the postures to now heal
the body. Using restorative yoga postures will be especially
beneficial for relaxing and healing the body.
With osteoarthritis, focus on a warming and energizing yoga
practice using more standing and strength building postures and
using Kapalabhati and Ujjayi pranayamas.
With rheumatoid arthritis include appropriate inversions to
increase circulation of the lymphatic system and balance the
immune system. Focus on a cooling and balancing yoga practice
using more floor postures and Dirga,
Shtiali, and Sitcari pranayamas.
Yoga is contraindicated in acute flare-ups of pain, swelling,
or inflammation. Avoid postures that torque or put excess or
direct pressure on the joints.
At the beginning of a yoga program, you may feel pain in the
effected joints as they move and open. If this pain exceeds what
is normally experienced in daily living, back off or modify the
postures. You may feel some continuing pain after a yoga practice,
but not for more than one to two hours. If longer than this,
modify or reduce your program. With consistent practice,
preferably two to four times a week, joint pain, swelling, and
inflammation will slowly decrease. Start slowly with easy postures
and gradually build up the intensity and length of your practice
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