How Therapeutic Yoga Helps #RAWarriors
Before starting any yoga or exercise program for that matter, it is crucial to consult a physician.
Yoga is a 3,000-year-old practice based in India. Today there are a variety of different types of yoga to practice. The ones of note that can benefit #RAWarriors are Ashtanga, Hatha, Vinyasa, and Restorative. Read more to find the best combination of styles and postures for rheumatoid arthritis yoga.
Vinyasa and Ashtanga
Vinyasa and Ashtanga are very similar types that are more aerobic. With minimal resting in between poses, Vinyasa and Ashtanga combine body strengthening, stretching, and cardiovascular activity. It’s definitely considered a full-body workout. (Note: There are beginner level classes out there for these two styles of yoga.)
Hatha and Restorative
Hatha and Restorative approaches are both non-aerobic. Hatha combines strength-building with stretching. Restorative is mainly stretching and relaxation-inducing postures
Therapeutic yoga combines yoga from these four styles to optimally deliver a soothing, pain-relieving practice. More specifically, therapeutic yoga is the application of yoga postures in health treatment plans.
Benefits of Therapeutic Yoga
Therapuetic yoga has a variety of benefits for the practitioner. Of note, it can:
- enhance muscular strength
- improve body flexibility
- promote better respiratory and cardiovascular health
- reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
- diminish chronic pain
- improve sleep patterns
- enhance overall well-being and life
RA and Yoga
Yoga firstly creates an overall sense of well-being for any practitioner. It can tangibly give someone space to relax and a community of support. Yoga enthusiasts claim the practice releases “stress” stored within the body.
As there needs to be more medical evidence to support the physiological and biochemical effects of yoga, one study showed yoga helped individuals with RA actually relieve pain.
How to Get Started
As mentioned before, talk to a medical provider and get a firm list of what you can and cannot do. Then do some research and reach out to different yoga studios and teachers. There are some yoga teachers specialized in certain areas such as helping those with rheumatic conditions.
Enjoy the Little Improvements Each Day
If practicing a Vinyasa or Hatha sequence—don’t be a stretch junkie. Sounds funny, but it’s true. Let go of your ego and the future when you’re practicing. Be in the present and notice the subtle differences your body makes each day. It’s impossible to go from beginner level to advanced in a week—so, enjoy the journey.
If suffering from neck problems, do not push the body to do any posture involving the neck. There are numerous resources available to find modifications and variations of different poses to work for with body and even injuries. There are also a variety of props such as yoga blocks, straps, neck pillows, blankets, chairs, etc, that one can use to fully customize a sequence for their body.
Additionally, choose the style that is not going to unnerve. Yoga can be relaxing, but it’s also challenging. Relaxation, pain relief, and movement should be the goals for #RAWarriors who want to practice yoga.
Bonus: 10-Minute Chair Yoga Sequence
Chair yoga is perfect for any #RAWarrior wanting to begin a yoga practice. It’s mildly strengthening, low-impact on the joints, and good for flexibility.
Opening: Sit in a chair with a straight back and tall spine. Put blocks under feet if they don’t touch the ground and a blanket under pelvis for comfort if needed. Begin breathing into the lower belly/diaphragm area and slowly work up the torso with the breath to the top of the chest.
Head and Neck (if okayed by a doctor): Move head up down, left right, and side to side. Inhale as the head is going into its position, and exhale into neutral or facing forward.
Shoulders: Raise arms to a T shape and bend at the elbows to stretch pectoral muscles. Inhale and twist to one side. Exhale back to neutral. Repeat as many times as desired.
Feet and Ankles: Lift feet off the floor to point and flex with inhales and exhales. Move feet in circles afterward.
Ending: Lie down on the floor with a pillow underneath the knees. Have palms face up and close the eyes. Stay here for 3-4 minutes, focusing on the breath. Namaste.