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Yoga Benefits Arthritis Sufferers

by John Cahill


Arthritis is one of the most common diseases in the world. Forty percent of Americans between the ages of forty-five and sixty-four are affected; this percentage increases with age. There are many types of arthritis, the most common being osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis affects the joints, hips, knees, back, neck and fingers. The disease is acquired from wear and tear of joints, injury, and a sedentary lifestyle. Another less common but more severe condition is rheumatoid arthritis . Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation leading to swelling and redness in the joints, and if not treated may result in deformities. Rheumatoid arthritis afflicts women earlier in age and at a rate of 4 to 1 compared to men. Yoga, meditation, and proper nutrition may help reduce pain and improve flexibility and mobility for many arthritis sufferers.

Yoga postures (asanas), meditation, and breathwork (pranayama) improve arthritic symptoms. This combination helps to bring nutrients and a fresh blood supply to improve respiration as well as relieve physical and emotional tension by feeding the body and brain with oxygen. The postures also assist in flushing out toxins and waste products. Yoga improves flexibility and mobility, which causes the joints to produce synovial fluid over the cartilage. Synovial fluid is a lubricant that the body naturally produces to assist the joints in gliding over one another without wear and tear. Healthy joints increase the transport of nutrients to the cartilage in a process is known as "squeeze and soak". Underutilized joints tend to degenerate, so this process is necessary for better health and mobility for those affected by arthritis.

The Yoga plans will differ for osteo or rheumatoid arthritis. In osteoarthritis the use of standing postures will be popular barring any pain during practice. In rheumatoid cases it is best to delay the use of standing postures until the individual is comfortable with such practice. At first it is recommended to use props and modifications while gradually advancing to standing postures. Postures should be held briefly and repeated two or three times on each side, with increased duration as practice progresses. If there is a flare up, redness, pain or swelling it is often a good idea to add meditation and breathwork leading to restorative postures.

Those arthritic individuals with knee or hip replacements must be extremely cautious when participating in a Yoga practice. The best course of action is to obtain medical clearance from doctors and or physical therapists outlining what type of postures to use and which ones to avoid. Often recommended to avoid are postures like twists, forward bends, backbends and many postures that require rotation of the hips. Other postures to avoid include tree (vrksasana) and chair (utkatasana).

Proper diet and nutrition resulting in weight loss will reduce arthritic symptoms, such as pain in joints. It is recommended to consume diets low in fat and rich in whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Vitamins and antioxidants can reduce arthritic symptoms. Bioflavonoids found in berries can reduce inflammation in joints. The use of ginger and turmeric in cooking may have anti-inflammatory properties.

In conclusion each arthritic condition needs to be handled on a case by case basis. Doctors and therapists need to be included for valuable medical information. The individual should start slow and build gradually over time. The use of all of these techniques can assist in making people affected by arthritis feel better by reducing pain, and increasing flexibility and mobility. Overall, by including Yoga and meditation, along with a more healthful diet and proper nutrition, arthritis sufferers can experience a better quality of life.

John Cahill of East Northport N.Y certified Hatha Yoga and meditation instructor with training In Nidra Meditation Conducts both group and private instruction. Each private lesson is methodically planned to achieve goals specific to the needs of the client for improved health and wellness. Each client is individually assessed and provided a personalized program for optimal success. John may be reached at john@northshoremensyoga.com 631-560-0283 You may also visit his website at www.northshoremensyoga.com  


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