About 54.5 million adults in the US have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. – Barbur MMWR, 2017
That’s more than thrice the amount of depressed adults living at the time of the survey.
So, many people know the word “ arthritis ”, or have arthritis, but how is it to really live with one?
I’ve had arthritis, so let me tell you about it.
Life with arthritis
Painful. Depressingly painful.
If you want the simplest definition of what arthritis actually is, its joint pains. You get joint pains so much that you feel like doing nothing. It means that if you enjoy playing tennis thrice a week, joint stiffness can be a real bummer. It means you can’t take pleasure in simple daily activities. Like playing ball with your dog every morning while you bend and chuck his poop.
You feel like doing nothing but resting for the rest of the day on the couch. And while you think that may help your aching joints, it doesn’t.
Many people underestimate fatigue. Fatigue is one of those things which breaks you down and forces you to take breaks throughout the day.
It could mean working for an hour and feel so tired and taking a power nap to recharge. It could mean having a shower and needing a nap. It’s like many people enjoy taking a shower, and as much as we enjoy a relaxing shower, it still makes some of us tired.
Fatigue can be a real productivity killer in your workplace. Imagine having a deadline and you just need to rest to have another hour of serious work, only to take another rest-break.
Let’s say you have been having fatigue very often lately, and have also been taking little power breaks in between. Now you may think that completing your 8 hours shall be a perfect way to wake up the next morning with a new zest for life.
Well, wrong again, chickens.
What happens when your joints start paining so much just when you sink into your warm and cosy bed? And what if it hurts so much that you can’t sleep? You keep tossing and turning, trying to find a comfy position, and you’ll soon find out that you have very fewer options for a comfortable position.
Sometimes you can’t sleep on your side, and the rest of the time you can’t sleep at all.
Thinking of popping pain-killer pills? Sure, that’ll give you temporary relief. But your body can’t afford to take pain killers every night. And they have side effects as well.
Yup. That’s how living with arthritis is really is.
What types of yoga can help with arthritis.
Restorative and gentle yoga can help with arthritis since they are the gentle yoga types. The most important aspect of any kind of yoga practice is knowing the limits of your body and accepting it. You may want to be the pretzel-shaped ‘cause that looks really Instagram worthy and maybe your lover also likes it.
But you are also scared that if you sit on the floor, you’ll never be able to get up again.
It is up to the yoga instructor to make you feel comfortable in your skin and never judge you for the way your joints function.
The best part of doing gentle yoga is that it works wonders for your mental and emotional balance. Even if you are just doing simple breathing exercises, you’ll be surprised at the energy levels after your yoga practice.
When you do gentle yoga, your stiff joints get moved little by little. Physiologically, that’s what helps in easing the pain, because more of the lubricating fluid in and around your joints move around. That’s like getting a sweet body massage after a tough day at the gym.
Watch this Yoga for Arthritis video:
Restorative Yoga poses for arthritis
Starting the sequence, we’ll be starting on our back, with our legs apart and arms away from our body. You can have your palms facing up or you can have your palms facing down. If you suffer from anxiety, palms facing down would be a good option for you since that makes you feel more grounded. If you wanna feel a little bit more energy, then palms facing upwards would be a good option.
If you feel uncomfortable lying flat on the ground, then you can always have a pillow underneath your knees, or bolster underneath your knees. Maybe you can have a layer of extra thick mat lying.
- Starting with closing your eyes and breathing in through your nose and breathing out.Feel your chest rise with every inhale, and feel your chest lower with every exhale.2. Bring your right knee into your chest and join hands in the process. You can have your hand above the knee or you can put it below the knee. If having your hand on the knee brings too much pain to your knee cap, just put it underneath.
So now, you’re just stretching out, not too hard, just a little bit.
Still breathing, focus on your breath and feel your chest rise and dip.
Continue the same process for the left knee as well.
3. Now bring both your knees to the chest and join your hands below the knees, and slowly move left and right. Give your lower back little massage.
4. Next, put down your feet flat on the floor, close to your bottom and hand be kept palms down and near your hips. Now open your eyes and look straight ahead and slowly lift your bottom off the floor, forming a bridge.
Really try to not push your knees apart, just keep it close to the centre. Continue breathing in and breathing out.
Now slowly lower down your bottom and breathe in and out, and feel your chest as you breathe.
Continue this step two more times.
5. Now bring your knees towards your chest again and put your hands aside. You can put your hands aside in 90 degrees bend towards it. You can put it up or down, and then You can drop both your knees towards the left now do a nice spinal twist of your lower body.
If you don’t have any issues, you can actually turn your neck and look over to your right.
Continue breathing in and breathing out. This is a perfect way to start your day, especially if you wake up with aches or pain in the morning with a stiff from being in one position all night.
6. Slowly you can help your knees with your hands. So first you are gonna bring your head to the centre and help your legs back to the centre and do the same yoga pose on the other side, i.e, to the right now.
Sometimes when you sleep all night in one position, maybe on your side or fetal position, this can be a good “cardio” exercise for you.
7. Now you gonna bring both your knees and head up to the centre. Now we’re gonna roll over to our left side, push yourselves up…
And go into a tabletop position.
8. So we are gonna go on our hands and knees once again. And if it’s hard upon your knees and wrists, you can always lower your elbow. You can always have something extra thick under your knees. .
Now we are gonna try to do some cat and cows.
9. So we’re gonna breathe in, drop your belly and lift your head up. And when you are gonna exhale, you are gonna lift your belly button up, dropping your chin to your chest, pushing your spine up toward the ceiling. Then we inhale, drooping your belly and continue these two poses for a few times more.
10. And now we have come into a neutral stand. Now what I want you to do is really widen out your knees, you’re gonna push back towards your feet, gonna walk your hands out, and you’re gonna try to bring your head down to the floor.
So we’re going into child’s pose.
Stay in the child’s pose for a minute or so. Then we’re coming up and are back to our tabletop again.
11. Now we are gonna walk our arms forward into a modified plank. So our feet are flat, toes are down. And then we are just gonna rock from child’s pose to plank.
Do this for a few times and then lower all the way down to the belly. Our hands are right under our shoulders.
12. Now we’re just gonna lift our head and shoulders gently and lower down to the ground.
13. Now we are gonna push and sit back to normal position.
How can yoga benefit arthritis?
Gentle stretching builds flexibility over time and improves your balance as well. As you dive into restorative yoga, your body will learn to accept pain as a part of life, an opposite to what many people are currently facing.
The best part of all is that you will be able to have a good night’s sleep, and your dependence on painkillers will reduce to the point of being zero.
But yoga cannot give you results overnight. You need to practice it regularly, you need to get moving regularly.
Research has been done about the effect of yoga on people who suffer from insomnia. So what these researchers at the Harvard Medical University did is take 20 people suffering from insomnia and taught them basic yoga for 8 weeks. After 8 weeks, they found out that there were broad improvements in the sleeping patterns, both in terms of quality and quantity.
When must you stop
Being a yoga instructor, I have seen many people who like to stretch their limits try newer and more difficult poses, but that is a BIG NO NO.
When you have arthritis, and you have been practising yoga for even three years, and having great results, you must never risk your body limits.
For example, in the cat and cow poses, people having neck injuries should not drop their neck forward or backwards. pregnant women having injuries in their backs must not suck in their navel and drop it dramatically.
The reason it is always (always, ALWAYS!) recommended to have an experienced, certified yoga instructor around while practising yoga is that each body is different and each body’s way of functioning is unique. It might be tempting, to try to do a pose due to its benefits, but if your body does not allow you to, listen to it.