Arthritis can be just an occasional pain in some fingers or joint to an incapacitating pain that keeps you from enjoying life to the fullest. Most doctors agree that some form of regular exercise can help by keeping our muscle tone intact and in helping to prevent stiffness in the joints. Whatever your level of arthritis is, it can be helped by the practice of Yoga.
When the pain of arthritis hits, it causes the rest of the body to stiffen up to keep the part that’s hurting from hurting more. Most of us would respond to that by doing even less exercise, but inactivity is the worse solution to combating the pain of arthritis. Inactivity weakens the muscles and can increase stiffness and pain. Yoga encourages you to keep moving, although gently, to allow your body to heal and preserve muscle tone. Yoga practice also helps you psychologically, it increases your confidence that you can still function as a normal person and do all the regular activities you do in a day. You don’t have to let arthritis confine you to a wheelchair.
Some gentle Yoga exercises begin with movements while sitting in a chair. These are adaptations of the regular Yoga poses, and help to loosen joints and relax muscle groups. With a regular breathing pattern, you will gradually increase the level of difficulty in your Yoga practice. Breathing helps bring fresh blood and the proper nutrients to muscle tissue. It also helps relieve physical and emotional tension. As you slowly start to loosen up from these gentler Yoga movements, you can gradually add standing poses to your routine. By adding additional Yoga poses, you are improving strength, flexibility, and balance. If it’s necessary, do your routine with a sturdy chair as a prop so you will feel safer and steadier. As time goes by and you become more flexible you can gradually stop using supports. If you can’t, don’t beat yourself up because of it that defeats the purpose of Yoga. The idea is to relax and loosen the muscles. Yoga will also make those joints less painful.
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Self-massage is also a way to bring improved circulation and warmth to the joints affected by arthritis. The American Yoga Association has instructional tapes and books to show you how to effectively massage the areas of pain.
Breathing, meditation and other relaxation techniques should be a part of your daily routine. They help improve respiration, ease anxiety, and help take your mind off the pain. Oxygen flooding the body gives relief for both physical and emotional tension and the best part of that is, you can do it anywhere! There are many books and tapes that are developed to help with coping with the pain of arthritis.
Arthritis doesn’t have to be a disease that will turn into an insurmountable disability. By practicing breathing, gentle exercises, and meditating every day you can rebuild your strength and pursue your daily activities with renewed energy, better health, and less pain.