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April 27, 2015
There are several conditions, classified under the heading of arthritis, which all involve joint pain. Studies reveal that yoga can cause significant relief from this debilitating condition.
Although anyone with arthritis will tell you, that to move at all, sometimes hurts, remaining completely sedentary is not healthy either. Arthritis patients are encouraged by their doctors to participate in low impact exercises to improve movement. Many higher impact activities can cause further damage and discomfort. As a result of this, yoga has increased in popularity, among doctors and patients, alike.
Studies have shown the importance of moving affected arthritic joints. Doing so has significant long-term effects on relief of pain and increase in mobility. Exercising the joint has the overall benefit of health for the entire body. Movement of the body is necessary to provide essential nutrients to joints and circulation to muscles. Yoga is the best activity there is to strengthen, nourish and heal, the body with arthritis.
Before you begin to work with any student that has arthritis, understand their reluctance to move. The pain can be excruciating, and it will take time and patience to improve. There must be patience, both on behalf of the patient, and you, as the instructor. Never force a student, with arthritis, to push past the point of pain. The student must keep pushing their limits, but never force the arthritic joint. This could cause damage of the joint.
Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in people over fifty-five. People as young as 20 years of age are also affected, with rare cases of children having some form of arthritis. Scientific studies have been sparse in the past, though plenty of real life evidence is prevalent anywhere you look. These early studies show promising improvement in joint health, physical mobility and mental and emotional health. That is reason enough for many to try yoga for their arthritis. This is why we are seeing a heavy increase of students with arthritis.
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 Trikonasana (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.
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