When your joints hurt and swell due to a form of inflammatory arthritis, exercise is usually the last thing on your mind. But, doing yoga in a slow, controlled way can build balance, flexibility and strength, according to The John Hopkins Arthritis Center.
Why Yoga is Helpful
Being inactive increases pain, stiffness and arthritis flares. When I started to doing yoga, I noticed a same-day reduction in lower joint pain. Although morning ankle and knee swelling continues, yoga has lessened my bouts of joint swelling throughout the day.
When a group of 30 sedentary adults participated in an 8-week yoga course monitored by John Hopkins University, the participants noted fewer swollen and tender joints, according to The Arthritis Foundation.
Yoga Works for Me
Somewhere I read something to the tune of, “Don’t let you joints get rusty. Use them!” For me, yoga is a low-impact slow stretching routine that not only burns calories, but also builds muscle which ultimately reduces the amount of strain on my joints. That’s a win-win.
I try to do 20 to 30 minutes of yoga four to five times per week. It may not sound like much to an avid gym rat, but it definitely eases arthritis swelling. Although I change my routine on occasion to add variety to my exercise sessions, the following three yoga poses always make it into my workout.
My routine usually starts with this pose. Fully elongating your body at the start of the pose helps stretch a stiff back. When I sit too long — a definite work-related hazard for a writer — my back gets sore. The second half of this yoga pose stretches your lower back and calves. Here is an animated guide to perform the Sun Salutation, or Salute to the Sun. I only do steps 1 through 3 to prevent strain on my wrist and ankle joints.
When my hips are stiff and swollen the warrior pose gently stretches my hip flexors. When I’m especially sore, my stance isn’t very wide. As I become more limber I space my feet further apart for a more thorough stretch. Here is an animated guide for the version of the warrior pose that I enjoy.
The Tree Pose
I have quite a bit of swelling in my ankles due to rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory form of arthritis. When my ankles are visibly puffy, but not in pain, I enjoy doing the tree pose. The act of balancing not only uses my ankles and moves fluid away from the joints, it also stretches my inner thighs and hips. Use this link to see an animated guide of the tree pose.
Talk with your rheumatologist or family doctor about starting a yoga routine of your own. Your physician can recommend which joints and muscles to focus on stretching to benefit your form of arthritis.
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