These easy yoga moves help soothe arthritis pain, while also boosting mood and relieving stress.
Rheumatoid arthritis – also known as RA – is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect your joints, skin, eyes, heart, lungs, and blood vessels (1).
RA is an autoimmune disease – a disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues – that affects the lining of your joints. This causes painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity.
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Studies have shown that yoga can improve the physical and mental well-being of those suffering from RA. Physically, the movements of yoga can help to increase strength and flexibility, relieving pain caused by RA (2). Mentally, the physical exercise, meditation, and breathing techniques of a yoga practice help you to sleep and handle stress better, leading to increased energy and happiness.
Other important benefits of yoga for those with RA include:
- Increased flexibility and range of motion
- Increased muscle strength
- Increased stability and balance
- Decreased physical pain
- Decreased feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression
When starting a yoga program for rheumatoid arthritis, it is always important to remember to start slowly, use yoga props like blocks and straps, and to always listen to your body.
This yogic breathing technique – also known as Alternate Nostril Breathing – has powerful relaxing effects that aid in soothing depression and stress. It also helps to calms the brain and promotes clear reasoning (3).
- Begin by sitting comfortably with your legs crossed. Place your left palm face up on your left thigh. Bend your right arm and place your index and middle fingers between your eyebrows. Then, place your thumb on your right nostril and your ring and pinky fingers on your left nostril.
- Plug your right nostril and take a slow inhale through your left nostril. Pause for a moment at the top of your inhale. Then plug your left nostril and exhale through your right nostril. Pause at the bottom of your exhale.
- Inhale through your right nostril, pausing at the top. Plug your right nostril and exhale through your left nostril, pausing at the bottom. That is one round. Continue your alternate nostril breathing for 9 more rounds.
Practice this yogic breathing technique as you continue through this routine to calm the body and mind, decreasing stress.
- To begin, find a comfortable seat with your legs crossed and your palms facing up on your thighs.
- Seal your lips closed and place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. When you do this, you should feel a slight constriction in the back of your throat.
- Begin to breathe slowly in and out of the nose. Your breathing should feel textured and your exhales should be audible. Keep this slow, deep breathing in and out through your nose and continue on to the following poses.
Seated Spinal Twist
This pose helps to relieve stiffness caused by RA in the spine.
- Start sitting on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you.
- Cross your right leg over your left and sit up with a tall spine. Engage your abs.
- Place your right hand behind you and inhale as you lift your left arm above your head. Exhale to twist right and hug your left arm around your right shin. Keep your neck long and gaze over your right shoulder. Use your inhales to sit up taller and your exhales to twist deeper. Hold for 8 breaths, then switch sides.
Revolved Single Leg Forward Fold
This spine and hamstring opener helps to relieve tension back and hip pain caused by RA.
- Begin by sitting on the floor. Straighten your right leg out in front of you and bend your left leg, placing your leg for on the inside of your right thigh.
- Sit up tall to lengthen your spine and place your left hand behind your left hip. On an exhale, twist your torso to the left and place your right hand outside of your left thigh.
- Then, inhale and reach your left arm up and over your head to reach towards your right foot. Breathe into your left side for 8 breaths, then slowly release. Switch sides.
This balancing pose helps to strengthen the core and small muscles surrounding the feet, ankles, knees, and hips. Stronger muscles help relieve pressure placed on the joints by arthritis.
- Start standing with your feet together and place your palms together in front of your heart. Engage your abs and find a spot to gaze at.
- Shift your weight onto your right foot and slowly start to lift your left foot up off the ground. Find your balance.
- Place your left foot on the inside of your right calf so that your left knee is pointing outward. Continue standing tall with your core engaged. Try to keep your left hip lifted in line with your right the whole time. Hold for 8 breaths and then switch legs.
This core strengthening pose relieves pain in the spine.
- Begin by lying down on your stomach. Place your forehead on your mat so that your neck is long. Bend your elbows and place your palms next to your ribs on the mat so that your elbows are pointing up towards the ceiling. Untuck your toes and press the tops of your feet firmly down against the mat.
- Inhale to lift your palms, forehead, and chest off the mat. Pause to feel your spine strengthening.
- Exhale to lower everything back down. Repeat 8 times.
This pose strengthens the core, hips, thighs, shoulders, and the stabilizing muscles around the knees.
- Begin by standing with your feet out wide and parallel to one another. Pivot your right toes to point forward and line up your right heel with the arch of your left foot.
- Bend your right knee towards a 90-degree angle and reach your arms out long so that your hands are in line with your shoulders. Keep your left thigh firm.
- Reach through your fingertips and engage your abs. Hold for 8 breaths, then switch sides.
Supported Fish with Supta Baddha Konasana
This restorative pose relieves stress and opens up the hips, chest, and shoulders.
- Start by placing a yoga block at the center of your mat on the medium height. Sit in front on the block and place your hands behind you. Bend your knees and place your feet on the mat.
- Carefully use your hands to lower your back onto the block so that it rests between your shoulder blades. Ly on the block and let your chin fall back so that the crown of your head rests on the mat.
- With bent knees, walk your feet together. Bring the soles of your feet to touch and let your knees fall out wide. Close your eyes and hold for 8 breaths.
Toe Pose with Wrist Rolls
This pose relieves tension in the joints of the feet, ankles, hands, and wrists.
- Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Tuck your toes under.
- Walk your hands back to lower your hips onto your heels. Then walk your hands up onto your thighs to lift your chest. You should feel a stretch throughout the bottom of your feet.
- Interlace your fingers and bring your palms together to touch. Roll your wrists clockwise 8 times and then counterclockwise 8 times.
Hero’s Pose with Eagle Arms
This pose relieves joint pain in the knees, ankles, shoulders, and upper back.
- Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees with your hips width distance apart and your toes untucked. Place a yoga block on the medium height between your feet.
- Walk your hands back to lower your hips onto the block. Then walk your hands up onto your thighs to upright your torso.
- Wrap your right arm underneath your left arm to find eagle arms. Either wrap your palms or take your hands to opposite shoulders. Lift your elbows up in line with your shoulders and then press your forearms forward. You should feel a stretch through your upper back and shoulders. Hold for 8 breaths and then switch sides.
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