By Rachel Baer
Yoga is a practice that comes in many different forms, including poses, breathing techniques and meditation. It has proven to help people with arthritis improve many physical symptoms such as pain and stiffness & psychological issues such as stress and anxiety.
Benefits of Yoga for Arthritis
People with various types of arthritis who practice yoga regularly can:
- Reduce joint pain
- Improve joint flexibility and function
- Increase bone density
- Improve balance while also lowering stress and tension to promote better sleep.
Chair Yoga for Arthritis: Increase Mobility & Reduce Pain
Poses that can help with arthritis include fluid movements to move the joints, such as hand/finger/knee/hip & shoulders. Movement in the joints is important as it increases the production of synovial fluid. Avoid sudden movements that might bring on pain & exacerbate the problem.
Start gently & slowly, listening to your body & go from there. Go at your own pace, listen to your body, stop or modify a movement if you feel it isn’t right for you on any given day.
Great news for seniors and those with disabilities who are unable to easily get up and down from the floor. Office workers can also benefit and can utilize helpful stretches during their workday whether at the workplace or in their home office.
Always listen to your body and be sure rest or stop if necessary.
Inhale and gently arch your back gazing towards to ceiling, exhale drawing your abdominals in and rounding your back, imagine a Halloween cat as you do this, repeat several times.
- Increases flexibility in the neck, shoulders and spine,
- Gives a gentle massage to the spine helping to increase the blood and nutrient flow.
- An important pose, often done as a warmup in a yoga class.
- Sit tall at the edge of the chair, with the right knee to the side knee over ankle,
- Stretch the left leg out behind you as you press through the heel.
- Reaching the right arm out in front of you, gazing over your fingertips, the wrist in line with your shoulder.
- Hold for up to five breaths and repeat on the other side.
Keep the back arm down on your hip whilst still opening up the chest, this option is better for anyone with shoulder issues. If necessary, keep both arms down.
This can also be done standing behind the chair, using the chair for balance as needed.
- Strengthens the legs and shoulders whilst also stretching the legs groin and chest.
- It is a great hip opener as well as a challenging balance pose, even whilst seated you are still working on balance in Warrior 2.
- Great for building stamina and for stimulating digestion.
Note the right hand is resting on the hip for shoulder comfort. Making the pose fit your body’s ability on each given day.
Seated Spinal Twist
- Sit tall in the chair, feet are hip width apart, always length the spine before beginning the twist.
- Take your right hand behind you towards the back of the chair with you left hand to your right knee.
- Inhale and lengthen through the spine, exhale gently twist towards the back of the chair.
- Inhale lengthen, exhale if comfortable twist a little deeper.
- Come back to center and repeat on the other side.
- Ease into the pose, if you feel any discomfort take a break & check in with your body before resuming the pose.
This pose helps to improve digestion whilst relieving backaches, sciatica and stretches the upper body.
Goddess Side Stretch
- Bring the feet wide with toes pointing out at eleven and one.
- Bring the right forearm to rest lightly onto the thigh or if you felt comfortable reaching further you can use a block, extend the left arm up towards the ceiling, if it feels accessible extend the arm over your head.
- You can gaze towards the ceiling or look down at the floor depending what feels best in your body on any given day.
- This pose helps to strengthen the hips legs and lower back,
- It also opens up the chest and shoulders enabling you to fully expand the lungs on your inhale.
- Helps you to feel strong and energized as more oxygen reaches the lungs.
Seated Pigeon Pose or Ankle to Knee
- Sit tall near the front of the chair placing your right ankle over the left knee with the right knee opening to the side.
- If comfortable hinge forward from the hips placing your forearms gently onto the calf until you feel a gentle stretch in the outer right hip and thigh, be sure to take it slowly and not force this pose.
- Do not push directly into the knee joint.
- Hold for up to five breaths, repeat on the other side.
Important – If you have had a hip replacement, unless told otherwise by your doctor cross the right ankle over the left ankle for a much gentler stretch.
This pose is a great stretch to relieve tension in the hips and glutes, it can also help relieve lower back discomfort for when you are uncomfortable after siting for too long.
This can be done seated or standing & is probably one of the best-known yoga arthritis poses.
- If doing this seated, please repeat the leg positions for the above Seated Pigeon pose & add in sitting tall in the chair with good posture.
- The hands can be together at the heart center or raised with the shoulders staying relaxed down away from the ears.
- If you have had a hip replacement, please keep the leg down on the ground & cross only at the ankle.
See picture below, using the chair for support if needed. I have both feet on the ground here, you can also have your foot resting on the inside of the calf for an extra challenge if you choose.
Note: Poses to do can vary from person to person so it is always best to check in with your doctor or trained yoga instructor before taking a class.
Rachel is an E-RYT 200 yoga instructor with many years of experience both practicing and teaching yoga. Amongst many additional trainings she has also completed a 100-hour yoga therapy certification. Her focus is now on Chair Yoga and Fall Prevention for seniors and those with disabilities.
Rachel shares how she is constantly amazed at the difference yoga regularly makes in the lives of her senior yogis, many of whom are in their eighties and nineties and are still committed to their yoga practice.