Yoga Practice, Yoga Teacher

Yoga and Arthritis

September is both Arthritis Awareness Month and National Yoga Month! Coincidence? I doubt it… Yoga can be very beneficial for those who suffer from the painful and sometimes debilitating symptoms of arthritis, as Yoga offers both slow and gentle movement that can reduce stiffness in the joints. Optimizing overall joint health and reducing flare-ups, Yoga poses are designed to rebalance our physical body and strengthen the muscles that surround our joints. The result is less pressure in the joints and therefore less pain, more mobility.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation of the joints.  There are many types of arthritis, but the two most common are: Osteoarthritis & Rheumatoid Arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage surrounding the joint becomes damaged or worn down and bones begin to rub against one another. Causes can be genetics, old injuries and poor postural habits. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune inflammatory disease that causes swelling and redness of the joint causing joint deformities particularly in the hands and feet.

Often those with arthritis feel weak and vulnerable. This can also be accompanied by exhaustion or even depression from the day-to-day life of chronic pain, leading to a decrease in overall health and even a decrease in immune system functioning.

Ensuring that our clients with arthritis are moving in a pain free range of motion is the best way to keep them safe. Taking extra time for a full body warm-up is also imperative.

When working with arthritic clients, props such as chairs, straps and bolsters or pillows are helpful. The YogaFit senior strap is ideal as it combines loops down the length of the strap, creating an ability to slide hands inside the loop allowing for easier gripping. Props in general give individuals with hesitancy, stiffness or balance problems to practice with confidence and safety.  Here are some key poses to use with your clients after a sufficient warm-up.

Key Poses:

  • Downward Dog with the Chair: Standing facing the back of a chair, place hands on top and slowly walk back until a stretch can be felt through back and arms.
  • Warrior 1: Facing the back of the chair and keeping hands on top. Step one foot back, straightening back leg and bending front knee. Using chair for balance, gently move in and out of knee flexion with front leg to build strength.
  • Chest Expansion: Standing in Mountain Pose with feet hip distance apart. Taking strap behind body and looping hands gently pull back with arms while opening and expanding across the chest.
  • Chair: Sitting in a chair, practicing hovering off of the seat for 1-5 seconds to build strength in legs.
  • Relaxation: Practice meditation techniques including deep breathing to relax stressed and tense muscles.

Source: YogaFit Seniors Training Manual. YogaFit Training Systems Worldwide.

YogaFit Canada is pleased to be a major sponsor of the Power of Movement, a one-day National Fundraising event for Arthritis research. This event is happening in 14 cities across Canada on March 4th 2012 including GoodLife Fitness Upper James Club in Hamilton, ON. For more information: www.powerofmovement.ca

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