Arthritis and yoga

Hello everyone!

I'm back on HCQ on a lower dose now (200mg/day) after I had to stop because of the side effects before. So far it seems not much in the way of side effects (yet), so fingers crossed it'll help this time.

My other half suggested a while ago that he read yoga could be beneficial for arthritis and as I have done yoga a few years back and enjoyed it, I contacted a local yoga teacher and explained that I have OA and RA and if she could accommodate me.

She said she had no experience with arthritis but could try to show me posture alternatives etc. if I had problems in class.

Well I went for the first time a couple of days ago and as my lower back hurts at the moment ( unsure of related to the RA) I had real trouble getting into a few poses but tried slowly and gently. It got easier for my back towards the end but especially the poses that involved me bring on all fours or just putting any weight onto my (mainly right) wrist and fingers I couldn't tolerate long. I got some tips from teacher how to adjust to take pressure off those spots and tried. After the class I felt ok and was hopeful. But now my right wrist and fingers are killing me. I have had a steroid injection about 2 weeks ago and I was feeling loads better but am now back to taking painkillers to get through the day.

Sorry for waffling on but has anyone got experience with yoga and RA and can tell me if I just need to gently persevere or if it maybe was a bad idea and I should stop? Thanks in advance and hope you all have a good weekend!

10 Replies

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  • I did a yoga class (it was quite an energetic form of yoga) when my PsA was becoming a real problem but had not been diagnosed. I had swollen, painful knees and swollen wrists at the time.

    I would never do that particular form of exercise again. There are some fine judgements to be made about what we demand from joints affected by RD and OA and in that class the teacher strongly encouraged us to push ourselves in ways that I don't think did me any good at all. In fact I think my knees and wrists may have been that bit more damaged by some of the moves, for example those that involved twisting the knee and putting weight on hands.

    It takes time to know what we can and can't do. I now think I do need to really work my knees but most definitely not with twisting movements. And I'm very wary of putting too much stress on the tiny bones in wrists and hands.

    Overall I reckon that immobility does more harm than any form of exercise. But it's important to take care of affected joints. Might be a good idea to consult a physiotherapist about what you should and should not be doing.

    It's also not a good idea to push ourselves too much whilst on steroids because they make it so much harder to judge the effect on the body - they can definitely give a false sense of security.

  • I find yoga puts too much pressure on my joints, and made things hurt for days after, so I gave it up. Instead I do pilates now, which I find much more gentle and helps more with flexibility. The teacher knows about arthritis so always finds alternative positions, and we also use huge gym balls that make some positions much easier, so I flop over it for the on all fours positions and it takes some of the weight. Like you I can't put weight on my hands for more than a few seconds. But we're all a bit different so what suits one person & their joints may not suit another. I think having a good teacher who's arthritis aware is probably key to success as well. I like mine as she also specialises in "pink" pilates which is for women recovereing from breast cancer surgery, so is very sensitive to individual needs.

  • Hello Eisbaerin: I have had active RD since August last year and my elbows have become a little crooked now. I asked my specialist about physio and he said that this would not be a good idea as things stand as it would provoke inflammation and not to walk for more than 20 mins daily for the same reason. I used to love Yoga and have a set of 7 CDs on Kundalini Yoga by Maya Fiennes which is quite frantic as far as yoga goes but focuses on energy release through the chakras and used made me feel wonderful. These days most of the positions are too difficult and if I attempt some of the more advanced weight bearing stuff, like yourself, there is quite a payoff next day! So I now sit on a little stool rather than the lotus position and fast foward to the few exercises I can at my new rheumatoid pace so still get the benefit of the lovely music and the meditations which are very calming and can help release a lot of emotional stress.

  • I can recommend an excellent book :

    Suza Francina (1997) The new yoga for people over 50. Publisher: Health Communications Inc., Florida.

    Introduction- welcome to the new yoga for people over 50

    Chapter 1. Our changing view if ageing

    Chapter 2 How yoga slows down and reverses the ageing process

    Chapter 3 In praise of props (people over 50 often come to yoga with problems

    ranging from back, neck, joint pain, or knee problems. The more

    problems a student has, the more useful yoga props are. Props allow

    You to hold poses longer, so you can experience their healing effects.

    By supporting the body in the yoga posture, muscles can lengthen in a

    passive, non-strenuous way)

    Chapter 4. Key yoga postures for reversing the ageing process

    Chapter 5. Yoga for feet and knees over 50

    Chapter 6. Yoga: A reliable companion during menopause

    Chapter7. Weight-bearing yoga postures help prevent osteoporosis

    Chapter 8. Yoga techniques to prevent or overcome arthritis

    Chapter 9. Opening the heart with yoga

    Chapter 10. Backbench open posture, lift spirits and expand perspective

    Chapter 11. Restful inversions: The elixir of life

    Chapter 12. Savasana, pose of deep relaxation

    Chapter 13. Tips on teaching and hints for home practice

    This book describes and illustrates how older beginners can adapt the practice of yoga to their special needs, including medical considerations such as heart disease, arthritis, hip surgery and osteoporosis, and also how they can safely progress.

  • I started going to hot yoga. it seemed to help my joints regain their mobility. even though I could not do some of the poses because my knees and shoulders had inflammation, after the meds started kicking in and working I was able to regain some of the joint mobility. I felt like yoga really helped mostly because of the hot yoga the room was nearly a 100 degrees and all the poses were very slow easy movements that didn't strain the joints and the poses got easier the more I went. And it felt like I was sweating out toxins because of the heated room. Felt better after each class.

  • Hi,I go to Yoga every week as my pain consultant recommended it!! I do a lot of it on a chair and adjust to suit me. My yoga teacher did a lot of research and then a course. Some physios or OT will come out to advice and help yoga teachers. Anyhow it is helping me with my stiffness. All the best x

  • I highly recommend yoga to anyone, RA or not. Its not for everyone, some try it and hate it. Others fall in love with it. Sometimes it takes the right teacher, to inspire you.

    I once had a teacher that went way too fast, and pushed students beyond what was a beginner class, lacked compassion, expected everyone to do what she was doing at the front of the class, tried to correct you if you didn't!.....I almost quit....then I took a different class, and found the most wonderful, spiritual, inspirational teacher....I even joined her on yoga retreats with a master Guru from India, to learn deep meditation.

    I go to yoga 2-3 times a week. I usually do two hot yoga classes and one regular room yoga class.

    There are many different styles of yoga, and you need to find the one that is suitable to your fitness level and your ability level. There are modifications in all forms of yoga to accommodate something you can not do or have difficulty doing. EX. many people with RA have issues doing 'Downward Dog' as it puts a lot of stress on your wrists, the modification is instead of using your hands on the mat, you lay your whole forearm down..... no pressure on wrists. The idea in yoga is not to keep up with the class or compete with the neighbor on the mat beside you, go at your own pace, and set your own goals. A good teacher will tell you not to look at what your neighbor is doing, focus inward on yourself.

    Hot yoga is great because the heat will loosen up your joints and you can get a way better stretch, feels fabulous! but not everyone likes this kind of intense heat, the Hot Yoga I go to uses infrared heat, so its not all humid like some hot yoga classes, I find the humid ones difficult to breath, as my nose is usually stuffed up..

    You could try Gentle Hatha and/or Restorative Yoga to start, then once you progress, move up into a Hot Flow class. It took me several years of Gentle Hatha, then regular Hatha before I could get through a Hot Flow class. Whenever I have RA flares or issues, I go back to the Hatha classes.

    I tried Ying Yang Flow.....once...... and thought I was gonna die! right now its beyond my level :)

    I have been to Recreation Centre Yoga classes (Very affordable) but usually only one type of yoga is available, and you have to go at a specified time and day/evening. Studios are much more expensive but offer many styles of yoga and some offer Hot yoga and regular room choices, and there is a greater variety of times, classes, dates to accommodate into your schedule, and best of all, there are many teachers, so if you get one you are not too keen on, you can easily switch up your class.

    I wish you all the luck!

  • Also the comment above from uist51 is great! yes a good teacher will offer you modifications, i have had several ladies and one gent use chairs in class!

  • Thanks to everyone for your replies. I'm still not sure if I will go back but if I do I will certainly be very careful and take it easier than I did last time. Thank you all!

  • I too used to be a fan of Yoga but most positions now cause me pain. I have recently started attending TAI CHI for Arthiritis and this is much gentler and our teacher says we should only do what causes no pain. I have found this very good and my balance and confidence are greatly increased.

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