Yoga for Arthritis


Arthritis a Greek word means, arthro-, joint + -itis, inflammation; Arthritis is a general term that describes inflammation of the joints, which can manifest as variable amounts of pain, stiffness, and swelling. There are many kinds of arthritis, of which the two most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Biomedical inventions have given great mobility and functional ability for damaged joints with joint replacements. This has definitely saved an arthritic from the side effects of steroids intake. But have we been able to cure or prevent joint diseases? The answer is a clear ‘No’. Increasing problems of aging changes in the joints are expected but what about the other types of arthritis which are hitting younger people? Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the bodies own immune system attacks the membranes that line the joints. It can affect people of any age. Although the causes, severity, and treatments vary greatly, all types of arthritis have one thing in common: there is no cure, so patients must find ways of living with their conditions.

Our knowledge with advances in technology helps us to understand interrelationship between the brain, immune system, genes and all other organ systems of the body. This understanding has made us recognize the role of the mind over matter (the body) as well as the influence of cellular activities on the mind. The feedback loop of connections, point out that many of these common disabling diseases of the joints can be related to the life style that triggers off the underlying family (genetic) tendencies and shows in joints in very early age. Yoga with its holistic understanding of the human body mind complex provides a well developed program of practices to set right or correct these deep internal imbalances caused by the erratic life style.


Can Yoga help in Arthritis?

1. Compared to expensive medicine, it’s a budget-friendly and healthy approach.

2. Yoga can relieve arthritis pain by creating more mobility in the joints and increasing flexibility while stretching and strengthening the muscles around the joints. Yoga may also help to prevent or minimize the erosion of cartilage. Yoga therapy is actually one of the best forms of exercise for people with arthritis and dependence on medication, and also be greatly reduced.

3. People tend to stretch from their more flexible areas and rely on better-developed muscles for strength. This makes some muscles work harder than others, creating an imbalance in alignment. The goal of yoga is to restore alignment by stretching muscles equally.

4. Yoga also improves bone quality by stimulating bones. Holding a asana in one position for more than 10 seconds help in this stimulation. Thus the movements rehabilitate you, instead of causing injury.

5. Improve body balance which help control and absorb the impact, reducing the chance of injury.

6. Yoga decreases stress anxiety and depression by giving new confidence which comes from decreasing pain in their body. They discover that they can rehabilitate their own bodies and regain their earlier ease of movement.

7. Concentrating on their breath gives a chance to break the negative thinking loop of being sick. This promotes healing within.

8. Decreases autoimmunity which is considered a cause of Rheumatoid arthritis.


What diet should be taken for Arthritis?

1. Eat lots of fresh fruits, boiled and baked vegetables, boiled pulses, and lightly cooked grains and cereals.

2. Drink plenty of water.

3. Consider periodic fasting, it helps relax the nervous system.

4. Avoid bananas, curd and rice, or other rice items in your diet along with underground vegetables.

5. Avoid tea/coffee completely or at least reduce its intake.

6. Avoid eating heavy meals in the evening.

7. Eat warm food. Heated food is much easier to digest than cold food. Prefer food which is freshly prepared.

8.  Avoid leftovers as they become hard to digest and very clogging in nature.

9.  Avoid excessively hot spices, sour and acidic foods form as it forms toxins in body called ama according to Ayurveda. This clogs the body and accumulates in joints producing pain and inflammation.

10. Go to bed by 10:00 P.M. between 10:00 PM and 2 AM is the body’s natural rhythms for metabolic process of internal cleansing. If we are always active at this time we are losing the chance of body’s natural cleansing activities and toxins ama starts to accumulate in joints

11. Some useful herbs in arthritis are- Ginger, Turmeric and garlic. Garlic is considered to have effect on prostaglandins which help control inflammation


What Yoga practices are done for Arthritis?

There will be different practices for different types of arthritis depending on the location and severity of problem. But a general thing which we need to be kept in mind is to begin very slow for first week. The practices should only be done within the comfort zone. All practices should be done with breath awareness. Once you become comfortable start moving out of the comfort zone. Some examples are-

1. Loosening practices of all joints with breathe awareness.

2. Tree pose for balancing

3. Vajra asans

4. Shashank asana

5. Back stretch

6. Viprit karni with wall support

7. Knee tightening

8. Ankle stretch

9. Cat breathing

10. Meditating on breath at tip of nose

11. Deep relaxation

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