By Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

When a student, with arthritis, joins your class, make sure you ask them if their doctor has put any specific limitations on their movement. You want to make sure that you can provide the proper modifications to poses, if necessary. Yoga should be a safe and healthy exercise for your arthritic students. It is the responsibility of students to communicate with their instructors, but make sure you stay observant to their difficulties.

Make sure that you encourage students with arthritis to begin with what is comfortable. Some students may have limited flexibility or may not be able to kneel. Remind them that overcoming difficulties, while accepting your capabilities, is an essential part of yoga. Yoga is not about competition; this should be a core value already present in your instruction.

Single leg raises, shoulder stretches, and neck exercises, are a good start to get the student ready for more challenging poses. Hand clenching, and wrist bending, will help those with arthritis in the hands and arms. Ankle bending and rotation increase circulation and flexibility in the lower legs. These very basic movements, along with full body poses, such as the corpse pose, are a good place to begin.

Care should be taken in the number of repetitions and the length of time a position is held for students with arthritis. Poses recommended for osteoarthritis include Trikoasana (triangle pose), Urdvha Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog), and Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog). Also recommended are one and two-legged forward bends, Navasana (the boat), twists, and resting in Savasana (corpse pose). Rheumatoid arthritis differs from osteoarthritis in its manifestation and can require different poses. Encourage students with Rheumatoid arthritis to focus on breathing pranayama and smoother, wavelike, movement.

© Copyright 2008 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

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