The Remarkable Benefits of Yoga for OA
Yoga is an ancient practice, traditionally bringing together the physical, emotional, and spiritual states for good health and enlightenment. However, you need not subscribe to every aspect of the yoga tradition in order to get something out of it.
Hatha yoga focuses on physical health and psychological relaxation (typically without the added spiritual element), and over 75 scientific trials agree that it can provide the gentle healing and strengthening that osteoarthritis (OA) patients need. Like physiotherapy, the right yoga practice will target the most troublesome joints and muscle groups, and like certain medications, it can help you reduce the tension and anxiety that make your symptoms more difficult to manage.
Before starting a yoga program, you’ll need to talk to your doctor about what activity your body can and can’t handle. Once you start a suitable yoga practice, you’ll begin to see results quickly, regardless of your current fitness level.
How Yoga Goes Beyond Joint Health
OA management generally involves a varied approach, one that involves medicine and non-medicinal treatment. Physiotherapy is the leading drug-free treatment for arthritis, helping to restore your range of motion and keep your joints moving as easily as possible. Yoga integrates many physiotherapy principles, but it also adds an extra level of conditioning.
Working with static or slow muscle movements and controlled breathing, you can stretch, strengthen, and calm your body all at once. In fact, yoga will help you manage your condition in a few distinct ways:
Think strenuous activity is the only way to shed some weight? Think again. Yoga may not have the high impact of running or the sustained exertion of biking, but you will certainly burn calories and build muscle for a stronger metabolism with a regular practice.
Since every pound you lose lifts about four pounds of pressure off your knees, even a modest weight reduction can have a remarkable difference in how you move and live with your OA. If you can’t comfortably walk, jog, swim, or bike right now, give yoga a try for a few weeks – you may soon find that your body is ready for more activity.
Stronger Surrounding Muscles
As the muscles strengthen around your weight-bearing joints (knees, hips, and ankles), you will begin to walk and move more easily, and for longer amounts of time without discomfort. Studies have found that Hatha yoga therapy reduces swelling, crepitus (friction between bone and cartilage), and morning stiffness in the joints.
In order to strengthen your muscles, you will have to put weight on them for stretches of time. While that may seem impossible to do at your current fitness level, rest assured that you can safely build up the weight bearing and resistance with modified exercises that will still build muscle (albeit a bit more slowly).
Less Stress, Better Sleep
Your joint health is a top priority, but there are other ways OA affects your health – and yoga can help with those challenges, too. Regular yoga sessions have been found to decrease anxiety and sleep problems significantly, especially when the practice involves a good measure of pranayama breathing.
Deep belly breathing can help you calm your mind and body in surprising ways. With the right breathing and a bit of practice, you can begin to control your blood pressure and improve your mood, which all results in less stress, and in turn, less pain.
Next Page: Best Yoga Poses for OA and Postures to Avoid