Yoga's gentle exercises designed to provide relief to needed joints had been found to be very effective in relieving arthritis.
"Exercise has been recommended as treatment for arthritis for a long, long time - about 75 years," says Morris K Bowie, M.D., a rheumatologist at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Pennsylvania. "People were exercising their arthritic joints before yoga was ever introduced into this country. Exercise is very important to try to reestablish a complete range of motion. Of course, that doesn't mean you should induce a long continual strain. We encourage a moderate amount of non-strenuous, non-weight-bearing exercises tailored to the individual's needs. Some yoga postures are not tolerated well, particularly by those past 50."
Yoga's slow-motion movements and gentle pressures reach deep into troubled joints. In addition, the easy stretches in conjunction with deep breathing exercises relieve the tension that binds up the muscles and further tightens the joints. Yoga is exercise and relaxation rolled into one - the perfect antiarthritis formula.
A major problem in prescribing exercise is in getting the patient to follow through. If an exercise program is painful and too strenuous, it isn't likely to be continued. An arthritis sufferer probably will be startled at the mere mention of the word "exercise." Yoga eases you into exercise without causing strain or undue pain. Even if you are only able to move an inch and hold a position for five seconds, you are already enhancing your body's flexibility.
Some physicians have long recognized the advantages of yoga like exercises. Dr. Bowie recommends the pendulum, an arm-swinging exercise "devised by an orthopedic surgeon for bursitis and shoulder stiffness. He also favors deep-breathing exercising for ankylosing spondylitis, an arthritis related condition affecting the joints of the spine.
It is important not to overdo these exercises. It will do more harm than good. Start with a few of the simple stretches. The simple leg pull, the chest expansion exercise, and the knee and thigh stretch are especially beneficial to the joints. If your arthritis is severe, use a modified version of these stretching exercises that suit your needs.
Then try some slow rotation exercises. Head circles performed in the yoga fashion - that is, slowly, with pauses in the forward, side and back positions - will help loosen up a stiff neck. Similarly, ankle rotation will improve arthritis conditions in those joints.
The Flower is a great yoga exercise for arthritic fingers. Whenever you think of it, make a tight fist and hold for five seconds. Then release and stretch your hand open as far as you can for an additional five seconds.
Ready to concentrate on those major problem areas? if your arthritis has come to rest in your spine, limber up that area with the seated spiral twist, the cobra, and the neck and shoulder stretch. Got it in the hips? Then lie down in bed and try some hip rolls.
Take a few days rest if the pain gets too intense. Resume again when you're feeling better.
Of course, on days that movement comes easy, don't overdo it. Overworked joints can be as painful as neglected ones. So, no matter how good the exercises feel, don't continue for more than a few minutes at a time. For people with severe arthritis, it's usually better to divide the daily yoga routine into about three or four segments of about five minutes each. Rest periods and deep-breathing exercises interspersed throughout the day's yoga sessions will help relax the muscles that tighten up joints.