Yoga As Self-Care For Arthritis

In a recent study “A pilot study of yoga as self-care for arthritis in minority communities” published in Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, April 2, 2013, arthritis is cited as the most common cause of disability in US.  Fifty million people are diagnosed with arthritis.  The point of this government-funded study is to measure how acceptable and feasible yoga is in urban, minority populations with arthritis.

Even though the affliction is more widespread in the white population than the Hispanic and African-American minorities, the impact is worse on these minorities. The study states:  “Published analysis of racial/ethnic differences from the NHIS [National Health Interview Survey] shows the prevalence of activity limitation, work limitation and severe joint pain are significantly higher among blacks, Hispanics, and multi-racial or ‘other’ respondents than among whites.”

In this ongoing pilot study, 20 minority adults diagnosed with either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis go through  an 8-week program of yoga classes. While the results are not yet out, here is what the study aims to do:

It is believed that by attending yoga classes designed for patients with arthritis, with racially concordant instructors; acceptability of yoga as an adjunct to standard arthritis treatment and self-care will be enhanced. Self-care is defined as adopting behaviors that improve physical and mental well-being. This concept is quantified through collecting patient-reported outcome measures related to spiritual growth, health responsibility, interpersonal relations, and stress management. Additional measures collected during this study include: physical function, anxiety/depression, fatigue, sleep disturbance, social roles, and pain; as well as baseline demographic and clinical data.

Moving the body, exercising, helps relieve stiffness and pain but because of the existing pain, there is a reluctance to move. Yoga helps mood, sleep, and quality of life.

Here is what the pilot study includes in its yoga classes  (headstands and handstands are associated with high risk of injury and are not included):

Table 1

Overview of yoga poses

Description Yoga poses
Laying foundation:




Classes 1-2


Warm-up:


Upper body stretches, staff with leg lifts


Sun Salutations (one side):


Forward fold, mountain (two sides for class 2)


Standing poses:


Tree, warrior II


Sitting poses:


Head to knee, spinal twist, yogic seal


Relaxation:


Sivasana, tense and release, progressive body scan


Closing:


Side lying, cross-legged


Class 3


Discussion of balance poses


Tree, king dancer


Classes 4-5


Arm balancing and reclining poses


Inverted plank, (lying) extended leg pose, (lying) spinal twist


Classes 6-7


Arm/leg extensions and hip openers


Table and cat/cow-extend arm & opposite leg, downward facing dog-extending one leg, bridge with leg extension, butterfly


Classes 8-9


Intro to gentle back bends


Sphinx, locust, bow, camel


Classes 9-10


Stamina building


Four sun salutations


Class 11


Poses for sciatica


Class 12


Pose modifications using the wall


Class 13


Restorative poses


Classes 14-16 Review, practice, wrap up

According to the American College of Rheumatology, both range-of-motion (ROM) and stretching exercises help to maintain or improve the flexibility in affected joints and surrounding muscles. This contributes to better posture, reduced risk of injuries and improved function. They recommend activities such as yoga because it incorporates both ROM and stretching movements.

Source:  doi:  10.1186/1477-7525-11-55

PMCID: PMC3637098

In the senior classes I teach, the population is almost exclusively white and female. We have a seasonal routine and many of the simple and highly effective positions that are taught are also available to the readers of this blog at:

https://mahasriyoga.com/asana/upperbody.html

https://mahasriyoga.com/asana/lowerbody.html

https://mahasriyoga.com/asana/chair.html

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