Best yoga poses for managing arthritis
You’ve probably heard about yoga. It can be intimidating to think about getting started, especially at an older age, when the images and video that are so common in the media depict young hotshots twisting their body into seemingly impossible pretzel-like formations. Did you also know that Yoga is great for managing arthritis?
But the truth is that yoga can be very basic – and can be done in about ten minutes per day for those in a hurry. Here we’ve included five of the best yoga poses for arthritis, along with instructions. We encourage you to head over to YouTube and do a quick search for any that don’t make sense to you. After watching others, you should be able to get a general feel for how these poses work and how to come in and out of them.
In general, many of the best yoga poses for arthritis are Sun Salutations. For those unfamiliar with yoga (or at least its’ often confusing terminology!), sun salutations are a collection of yoga postures performed in a rhythm, also called a flow, in order to create consistent movement throughout the body and really stretch out the muscles and joints.
Many die-hard yogis use sun salutations primarily as a warm up exercise for more difficult poses, but for those with arthritis they can serve as the primary focus of your yoga practice.
Cobra Pose for wrist and elbows
Cobra pose, in particular, can be one of the most effective yoga poses for arthritis. Lying on your stomach, place hands on the floor. Slowly lift your head up, pulling back so that your neck and chest rise as well. Keep your eyes and face focus forward. The lower part of the body should remain still, but the muscles in your back will work hard on this one. It really stretches those mid-level joints and is also great for the wrists and elbows.
Other sun salutations
Cat Cow for the neck
To be technical, cat cow is a combination of two poses. Both are done on your hands and knees. Try to stack the bones – shoulders over elbows, hips over knees. Breath in and push the naval out, pulling in the back and stretching the neck. Then, on the exhale, suck the naval in as you thoroughly push the breath out through the mouth. If you make a heavy breathing noise here, no worries – I do to. Your back will be arched up like a cat here, as opposed to sucked in, hence the name Cat Cow.
Forward Fold for ligaments & hamstrings
Forward fold is a great stretch for the ligaments, hamstrings, and really for the whole body – it’s also quite enjoyable to just relax in it for a couple of breath cycles. Don’t strain yourself, but instead take the fold down from Mountain Pose (standing tall and upright) as peacefully and slowly as you like. If your joints allow you to relax, do so, if not, don’t linger.
Exhale as you lean forward at the hips, lengthening the torso and breathing out hard on the way down. Elbows and knees can bend naturally, there’s no reason to keep them locked up tight. The head should hang down with view behind you through the legs. Press the heels into the mat and extend your backside up.
In a supine manner, lift the legs in tandem as you lie on your back on the yoga mat. Slowly but confidently twist them to the left as far as is comfortable, trying to minimize the movement of the back and upper body. You can extend the arms out if you wish, or keep them closer to you, but you may have more luck with balance if there is some space between them and your legs.
Slowly rise the legs back to center and lower down on the right side. Be sure not to rush this stretch – it’s meant to be taken nice and slow in these circumstances.
Downward Facing Dog
Here’s one to really stretch the entire body, and challenge yourself a bit. We’ll start on all fours, similar to the cat cow routine. Bring your hands ahead of the shoulders, and keep them firm as you’ll be putting weight on them. Feet should be placed hip-width apart. Press into the outer edges of the palm and fingers and push yourself up so that your body is lifted, hands and toes on the ground.
This one definitely takes some practice – but once you get it, it feels great. Here’s a quick video to watch:
Pull the naval in towards the spine as you exhale, tightening the body and really working that stretch. Keep knees bent and lengthen the spine as much as is comfortable. If you can, try to lower the heels as far as possible and straighten the legs, but don’t go any further than is pain-free.
Best yoga poses for arthritis: Putting them into practice
If you can work on one or more of these poses a few times per week, you should start feeling more flexible and loose in the joints. With time, this may help arthritis pain – especially when combined with a healthy diet, other helpful exercises and lots of Omega-3 fatty acids.
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