Yoga is an ancient practice that dates back to ancient India, more than 5,000 years ago.
There are many different yoga styles, but they generally involve positioning the body in different poses that are coordinated with breathing and meditation techniques. Although yoga is an ancient form of exercise and therapy, the practice did not grow significantly in Western countries until after the 1960’s which saw its popularity grow tremendously.
What are the Benefits of Yoga?
There are some studies that have indicated people who practice yoga regularly experience reduced joint pain, better joint flexibility and functioning, lower levels of stress and better quality sleep. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that an 8 week course of modified Lyengar yoga was effective at reducing pain and improving physical functioning for people with knee osteoarthritis.
People living with arthritis often have higher levels of stress and anxiety, which can further exacerbate the disease. Yoga teaches techniques that calm and relax a person, which decreases the muscle tension.
What Do I Need to Know to Practice Yoga Safely?
People living with arthritic conditions should practice the more gentle forms of yoga, like Hatha and Lyengar and avoid some of the popular but more vigorous yoga styles like Power Yoga, Bikram and Hot Yoga.
Hatha Yoga is a generic term associated with the teaching of physical poses. Generally, a Hatha yoga class will give you an introduction to some of the basic and most gentle yoga poses.
Lyengar Yoga is a yoga style that focuses heavily on getting the alignment in a pose just right. In Lyengar yoga, you will often work with supportive aides, such as chairs, blocks, blankets and straps. It is generally the yoga style most often recommended for people living with an injury or a chronic condition.
Power Yoga, Bikram and Hot Yoga are Yoga styles that involve some very difficult poses, like head stands, deep bending, lunges and stretches. These more extreme types of poses put you at a greater risk of falling and injury.
While yoga can be beneficial to health, like any other sports and physical activity, injuries can result. Talk to your doctor first about any limitations caused by your joint condition and take yoga lessons from a properly trained yoga instructor who has experience teaching people with joint conditions. Always inform your yoga teacher of any physical limitations before a session begins so that he or she can offer modified poses as needed.
Kolasinski SL; Garfinkel M; Tsai AG; Matz W; Van Dyke A; Schumacher HR. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. August 2005; Volume 11, Issue 4, Pages 689-93.