Discover how yoga can do you good by taking the load off your joints.
Exercise is an essential in everyone’s life but especially so if you have arthritis. Keeping the muscles strong to support the joints is necessary in addition to eating the right diet to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Better movement translates to lesser stiffness which means reduced friction between the joints. Apart from exercises like walking, swimming and biking, another activity that is gaining a lot of attention is yoga.
Yoga originated in India and the word comes from a Sanskrit word that means “to unite,” and that is exactly what it does. Yoga unifies the mind, body and spirit to bring about a greater awareness about one’s self and their surroundings. Apart from creating awareness, the activity improves physical health and promotes mental well- being and emotional balance in one’s life. Throughout history, yoga was performed with religious connotations attached to it but with its increasing popularity in the West, the form has taken that of a health practice.
Yoga is an effective way of increasing physical activity with added psychological benefits. Yoga is meditative in nature because it lays a lot of focus on breathing and clearing the mind of clutter. In this process, muscles strength is increased and more oxygen is supplied to all the cells without tiring out the body. If you notice a person who goes to the gym and one who practices yoga, you will find that the one who does yoga will spend lesser energy through a session but will come out with more energy after the session.
Yoga is also associated with increased energy and fewer bodily aches and pains. It is associated with increased positive energy like alertness and enthusiasm and fewer negative feelings like anxiety and depression. People living with chronic illnesses can take away a lot from yoga because of these physical and psychological benefits
In persons with arthritis, being stationary can worsen the condition because the muscles, nerves and cells do not get enough blood flowing to them if no activities are undertaken. On the contrary, exercise plays a vital role in promoting joint health and no activity can bring discomfort to the patient. Arthritis patients have lesser muscle strength owing to which undertaking heavy cardio exercises are not recommended. To avoid being sedentary, practicing yoga on a regular basis can bring flexibility to the muscles and make the joints remain well lubricated. In addition to this, yoga brings about additional benefits like reduced stress, fewer symptoms of depression and it increases the body’s immunity functioning which promotes better overall health.
Anyone who has been to a yoga session can vouch for the evidence of positivity it brings about in one’s life in terms of mental and physical health. However, scientific studies conducted on this are still underway with not many journals publishing about the benefits of yoga on arthritic patients. Doctors often recommend introducing yoga in to an arthritic patient’s lifestyle because it shows promising results in helping the person deal with the condition. The studies that are being conducted on the topic show that yoga promotes joint health and has tremendous results on the positivity it introduces into one’s life. Since it doesn’t involve intensive cardio work, arthritic patients also enjoy the exercise better than traditional forms of exercise. But, the real challenge usually involves keeping the person involved in their yoga practice because, on average, 50% of sedentary individuals drop out of the practice within a few months of starting it. Staying consistent with yoga classes can be easy with the help of a good teacher and keeping the motivation only requires introducing different asanas and poses into the practice as time passes by. The results are almost immediate with some arthritic patients reporting lesser morning joint stiffness and overall reduced pain within a few classes of yoga itself.
Like with the case of all illnesses, talking to your doctor about starting yoga is essential. Your doctor might recommend some precautions and limitations that you have to stick to. You can take a note of these and communicate them to your yoga teacher so that they can plan a routine that is in sync with reducing the symptoms of arthritis while at the same time ensures that you do not overexert yourself. Once you have the go from your doctor, you can enroll in a yoga class in your area. You can find information regarding certified yoga instructors from the Yoga Alliance which lists out registered practitioners in every area. Choosing a qualified instructor is required so that they can guide you properly and can curtail a plan that is safe for you to execute. Private yoga lessons usually cost more but they are more specific to the condition you suffer and so can be better for you initially. There are several yoga studios that offer special classes for older and arthritic people so keep a look out for these. Before your first class, get to the venue early and get introduced with the yoga teacher so that you can educate them about your condition before starting. If you doctor has placed certain restrictions on what you can practice, communicate these to the yoga instructor so that they can guide you appropriately.
Staying motivated to continue your classes might be a challenge. You can curtail this by involving family and friends in the practice to support you. The benefits of yoga can help them also tremendously, even if they do not have any ailment. Since it is a holistic practice, it only promotes a better lifestyle and increases one’s standard of living.
Have a good night’s sleep before the day of your first class and head to the venue with an open mind. There are three main components to most yoga classes- poses known as asanas, breathing methods called pranayama and meditation and relaxation techniques. Chanting is also a common feature that is included at the conclusion of every class. A beginner’s or special arthritic care class usually consists of simple seated and standing poses that stretch the joints and muscles gently. Advanced poses are introduced as one proceeds to higher levels. The introduction classes usually gets a person in touch with their body and bring greater awareness about their energy and their surroundings. Arthritic patients are often mistaken that they might have to perform difficult poses lie standing on their heads. But, the difficult poses are usually introduced in advanced level yoga classes, so know that there is no need to fear. Also, yoga classes are created in a non-competitive atmosphere where every student works at their own pace to improve their body within their limits. Being aware of any pain is crucial because it is an indicator that the body is not ready to move that way. All poses can be modified to suit your condition and help your body push itself just the right amount. Communicating with your yoga practitioner is crucial so they can help you at the optimum.
Some classes might involve a period of meditation in the seated or sleeping position so that the body can absorb the stretches and get ready for the next pose. These can be deeply relaxing and can alter a patient’s mood and mentality drastically. Chanting involves repeating a sound vibration to create healing energy within the body. Arthritic patients can gain huge milestone sin terms of flexibility, balance and strength when these practices are performed regularly. Wear comfortable clothing that is stretchable for the class and ensure you are well hydrated. However, avoid going on a full stomach because that can hinder your stretches and put additional burden into digesting food. The best recommended time is in the morning before breakfast but performing asanas at any time of the day is also alright. Once you have a good grasp of the beginner level, you can practice the poses at home and increase your confidence and flexibility. You can also try out new poses by checking out good online yoga forums. When you feel ready, you can opt for an advanced level class and introduce your body to new and more difficult stretches.
To conclude, yoga can be a nourishing alternative to traditional, fast paced exercises like aerobics and can provide additional health benefits as well. Apart from reducing your pain and joint stiffness, you can gain peace of mind and a more relaxed way of thinking and looking at life. Medication can only relieve your pain so much and in the long run, it might have side effects that are detrimental to your being. Yoga can balance out these negative effects and some arthritic patients even recommend just going yoga and cancelling out on the drugs altogether.
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