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YOGA & Arthritis

I spoke to my junior high school forever friend over the week-end. I felt sad to hear she rushed back home before the end of her Austrian vacation in a middle of a RA -Rheumatoid Arthritis- crisis, not only in deep pain but also completely depleted of vital energy.  Since the diagnosis of her disease, a few years ago, her life condition has changed drastically keeping her to enjoy fully what she used to enjoy and is now adapting to her new condition with changes in diet and lifestyle that includes now the practice of yoga.

*Arthritis is a category of chronic conditions that includes over one hundred different diagnoses. When we break down the word “arthritis” we see it literally means inflamed (itis) joint (arthro). Common symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, and even deformity resulting from chronic inflammation and/or tissue damage. Tissues surrounding the joints are also affected, as are other connective tissues. Arthritis conditions can be autoimmune, and may also impact certain organ systems, muscular strength, and mood.

*One in five adults in the United States is diagnosed with arthritis, it is suspected the actual rate is closer to one in three, while one quarter of all Europeans have some form of arthritis. Despite how its impacts are often minimized, arthritis is often so severe it has become the number one cause of disability in the United States.

*There is no cure for arthritis, although medications and other treatments can ease the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

*RA is an autoimmune disease that affects women two to three times as often as men. Although RA most commonly begins when a person is in his or her 30s or 40s, the disease can strike at any age.

*Swelling in just one joint is enough for an arthritis diagnosis. Other symptoms include morning stiffness, joint pain, or tenderness that is constant or comes and goes, and redness or warmth in a joint. 

* Self-care is not an option; it is a necessity. Nutritional choices, activity levels, rest, and letting go of draining commitments are a few examples of how arthritis patients can promote wellbeing.

1) Yoga is proven to help people with arthritis improve many physical and psychological symptoms. Recent scientific studies of people with various types of arthritis show that regular yoga practice can help reduce joint pain, improve joint flexibility and function and lower stress and tension to promote better sleep. Yoga comes in many different forms, but generally involves positioning the body in various poses along with coordinated breathing and meditation. Yoga is gentle enough for most people to do every day.

2) Finding the right instructor and practice is key. A good instructor not only understands that you have arthritis and shows you how to modify the moves, but should help create an overall program that fits one’s goals. Mind-body connection, meditation and physical poses will lead to calm and flexibility benefits, find an instructor or class that focuses on what you need.  It might take some time for people to the find the right yoga practice for them. Once considered an obscure, even esoteric practice, yoga is gaining in popularity among a wide variety of people with various health conditions. Yoga Therapy has become a mainstream option. It is a great choice of physical activity for people with arthritis. They just need to be careful not to overdo it, and be mindful if they experience any pain or discomfort and  never overtax a flaring joint

Sources: Stephany Moonaz Yoga for Arthritis & Arthritis Foundation