Guest Author - Tracy Webb
It is well documented that yoga has many health benefits with an increasing number of doctors now advising patients to seek out classes. Arthritis can be a crippling and painful condition, but through yoga practices and a change in diet you may be able to reduce the symptoms and assist in recovery without a lifetime of toxic drugs.
Finding a yoga teacher should be relatively simple as yoga is very popular, with many teachers providing classes for elderly students who want to increase their flexibility. Some are specializing in health specific classes purely to help ease pain and promote healthier joints. The asanas they teach should be gentle and easy for all to practice.
No matter your age, since arthritis affects both young and old, taking up a yoga practice can assist your recovery. There are several yoga asanas that are recommended for pain relief and improved joint function. Mostly the hands, neck and shoulders are affected by this condition, so I offer some basic asanas to practice.
Sukhasana (easy pose) Although this may not seem particularly easy at first, the benefits of sitting in Sukhasana include strengthening of the back, increased flexibility of knees and ankle joints, opening the hips and is also credited with have a calming effect on the mind.
To practice Sukhasana:
Sit on a cushion on the floor with your legs crossed and slow down your breathing.
Ensure the cushion is just under your sitting bones so the pelvis is tilted slightly forward.
Sit as relaxed as possible with your spine straight and breathe deep into the abdomen.
Place cushions under your knees to take pressure off the legs if they don't reach the floor.
Place your hands on top of each other resting on your legs.
It is highly beneficial for you if you are able to hold this posture for some time. It can be uncomfortable to begin with, however with perseverance you usually start to notice positive results. In addition your body should start to yield to the position as flexibility increases. If you find it impossible to sit on the floor then sit comfortably on a chair. To ensure proper posture, place a same size book under each back leg of the chair as this tilts the pelvis forward and puts the spine into alignment. Place both feet flat on the floor. If they dont reach then put a cushion on the floor to rest your feet on.
While sitting in Sukhasana or on a chair, try doing hand clenches. Hold your arms out in front of you. Clench the hand into a fist and then release the clench by releasing the fingers quite forcefully. Do this for approximately 10 rounds. If you feel that is too much, then stop when it is indicated by your body. Always listen to your body and never do anything that aggravates pain.
Wrist rotations are also very beneficial to joint function. Rotate the wrists slowly in a circular motion to the left for a few rotations, then to the right. When completed, bend your hands up and down from the wrist a few times. Always be aware of your breath and never try to rush your yoga practice. Keep your neck relaxed and shoulders down.
Neck stretches, foot rotations and ankle bending are also recommended for arthritic joints. They have the effect of strengthening, increasing joint mobility and reducing the associated pain. Reducing acidic foods from the diet can also bring about improvements relatively quickly.
It is important to perform all asanas slowly with a focused and calm mind. As you progress on the yoga journey, you will soon experience freedom from stress along with peace of mind and a stronger more flexible body. Yoga promotes well being through its slow and steady application.
Depending on your age, abilities and any health condition you are experiencing, it is advisable to consult your doctor before undertaking any physical exercise.
For further support with arthritis, I recommend Yoga for Arthritis by Loren Fishman. The book is available from Amazon.