For centuries, people around the world have relied on yoga for managing physical health. More recently, however, a Johns Hopkins University study has shown that maintaining a regular yoga practice can actually benefit rheumatoid arthritis. On the surface, the flexibility and movements that are characteristic of yoga might seem too challenging for those with chronic joint pain and severe inflammation. After all, many arthritis sufferers find that resting their joints and limiting mobility offers the greatest relief from pain.
On the contrary, the study reveals that nearly half of arthritis patients don’t get enough exercise, while over three-quarters of patients don’t maintain a sufficient level of activity. For those who lead relatively sedentary lives, guided yoga can make a world of difference. As the study shows, patients who engage in a yoga practice three times per week experience noticeably lower pain levels. Many also find that they have less stiffness and greater range of movement.
Not just any yoga class will help arthritis sufferers achieve lower pain levels, though. Classes geared toward beginners or seniors or practices designed for those with arthritis or disabilities are best for patients who live with pain, inflammation, and reduced flexibility.
Maintaining a healthy exercise practice with rheumatoid arthritis is a smart step toward physical health, but it can also provide patients with mental clarity. After all, yoga involves much more than a typical exercise regime. Instead of long cardio sessions or intense weight-lifting repetitions, yoga promotes overall wellbeing.
In addition to stretching, strengthening muscles, and improving flexibility, yoga encourages patients to focus on healthy breathing techniques, achieving healing postures, and finding true relaxation. For arthritis sufferers, this leads to lower stress levels and a greater sense of mental clarity.
Arthritis patients who struggle with chronic pain and feel as though aches and soreness are a way of life have the potential to benefit even more from adopting a yoga practice. After all, at the core of yoga is a belief in non-harming and self-care, which go hand-in-hand with observing rapidly changing physical limits.
Those who enter into such a supportive and welcoming environment often experience emotional release. Many also find that they can finally emerge from a depressive state and leave those emotional challenges behind.
For many arthritis sufferers, the benefits they experience from yoga are by no means short-lived. While the study shows benefits as soon as eight weeks from the program starting date, most participants continued to benefit from yoga for months. Some even continue to maintain a regular practice and enjoy the related benefits for years to come. If you’ve been seeking physical relief, mental clarity, and emotional release, consider trying a gentle or beginner-level yoga class and assess how well it works for you.