Yoga yourself better!
According to several research studies, yoga is a good exercise complement for people with rheumatic conditions. It provides both physical effects such as increased mobility and strength and also better mental well-being, increased energy and improved pain management.
Yoga comes in many different forms. It is originally from India and has been used as a way to increase physical and mental health for over 5000 years. But does yoga work to improve rheumatic pain and stiffness or psychological problems such as stress and anxiety? According to several studies, the answer is yes!
New scientific studies show that regular yoga training can contribute to reduced joint pain and improved mobility and function. Yoga also affects stress levels, tension and contributes to better sleep. It can also help you get to know and understand your body better and deal with pain and anxiety.
Research: yoga and RA
According to a new study, yoga training makes a big difference to the physical and mental health of people with RA. 72 patients took part in intensive yoga training for 120 minutes for five days a week for eight weeks. They were also treated with RA medication in the meantime. The results after eight weeks showed reduced inflammation in the body, reduction of depression, disease activity and increased function in muscles and joints. The study shows that yoga not only promotes health but can also be part of the treatment to reduce the disease activity of RA. (1)
Another study involved 75 people with knee osteoarthritis or RA. They were placed randomly either in a control group, where they were put on a waiting list for yoga, or in a test group where they were allowed to participate. The test group received eight weeks of yoga training twice a week, plus their own workout program to perform at home each week. Compared with the control group, those who had been allowed to practice yoga reported a 20% improvement in perceived pain, energy level, mood and physical function, including their ability to perform physical tasks at work and at home. There was also a slight improvement in walking speed. In those who continued to do yoga, the positive results of a check-up lasted a full nine months. (2)
How should I do yoga?
The advantage of yoga is that it can be adapted to suit your needs and experience. Start at an easy level and don’t worry about expectations. Practice accepting what your body can do today. There are also different aids that can be used to help in different positions, for example in different balance exercises. You could use a chair, a block or a strap to help you maintain certain positions.
Step by step guide:
Find a place where you can have peace and quiet. Maybe sitting on a chair (sitting so you can lean your head against something) or lying on a rug. By relaxing, you help your body recover and replenish.
Try simple breathing techniques. Inhale slowly and completely in from the nose and then exhale from the nose and repeat. When you inhale, lift your chest and torso, and when you exhale, let it drop.
Once you have felt your own physical ability for the day, you can start testing yourself on different movements that suit you.Find a natural flow and see what feels good to you without forcing it.
Try to create a routine with your favorite exercises. Maybe at the same time and day, or when it suits you. When you end up in a routine, iit will just start to feel natural.
Do not overload a joint if it is swollen and hot: adjust your exercise that day. If you are unsure, talk to your rheumatologist, physiotherapist or similar before starting a yoga program to make sure this type of yoga is right for you. It is always good to go to a yoga instructor at the beginning.
There are several yoga instructors that you can look at to get inspiration if you want to try a workout. Here are some links: click and see if you find something that seems interesting to you!
Want to know more?
Download the Elsa app and follow Elsa's program. You can also find tips and thoughts from people living with a rheumatic diagnosis.
Gautam, S., Tolahunase, M., Kumar, U & Dada, R. Impact of yoga based mind-body intervention on systemic inflammatory markers and co-morbid depression in active Rheumatoid arthritis patients: A randomized controlled trial. Department of Rheumatology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, India.