Yoga is fantastic for any individual, at any stage of life.
It can be easily tailored to various skill levels, physical abilities, energy status and can even be adjusted to accommodate for an individual’s emotional and psychological state. Yoga has been deemed physically and psychologically therapeutic and can be particularly beneficial for individuals suffering from ailments such as arthritis!
Firstly, yoga can improve your mental health and change your relationship to pain
As arthritis is often characterised by chronic pain and discomfort, training the mind to adapt to this pain should be considered as an important cornerstone of treatment. Research has highlighted that meditation and breath work, both of which are involved in a yoga practice, aid in changing certain brain structures that are involved in pain perception. This leads to an improvement in sleep, mood and emotional state, ultimately leading to a better quality of life.
Yoga improves strength and joint health
Individuals often report that they’re surprised by the physical nature of yoga - it isn’t only about stretching! This is because many of the poses require your muscles to be held under tension for long periods of time. As muscles are held under tension, they gain strength. This is important for those with arthritis as maintaining muscle tone is protective against joint and bone damage.
Yoga aids with posture and alignment
Spinal alignment is also a main focus in yoga. This may aid in reducing the pain associated with arthritic joints that are susceptible to misalignment. Working with an experienced practitioner is key here, more on this below.
Yoga helps to maintain a healthy weight
Regular resistance based exercise such as yoga, will also aid in weight management. Another important factor when it comes to reducing pressure placed on joints that are already vulnerable to wear and tear.
A note on finding the right practitioner..
Due to the therapeutic potential of a yoga practice and the requirement of pose modification to accommodate for arthritic limitations, it is important that you find an experienced instructor and begin by practicing in person rather than online. There are a few ways you can go about doing this but a great place to start is by finding a studio that has a practitioner who has experience with chronic conditions like arthritis. Start by a Google search of yoga studios around your area and then call prior to attending. Once at the studio, ensure that you introduce yourself and tell the instructor about your condition - this is very important as they’ll be able to modify the poses to suit your ability and reduce the likelihood of injury.
And lastly, no, you do not need to be flexible to start!