Arthritis is a term that refers to over a 100 different types of joint diseases and related conditions. A combination of factors including injury, inheritance, infections and an over-active immune system can lead to arthritis.
The most common types include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by mechanical wear and tear on joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints. Age and speed of onset, pattern of joints affected vary based on the type of arthritis.
ROLE OF YOGA
Research has shown that yoga can reduce symptoms such as pain, swelling and tenderness in joints as well as improve mental health and energy levels. Yoga engages the participants on all levels — physical, mental and emotional — through postures, breathing and relaxation techniques, and meditation.
It is important to note the different aspects of physical fitness essential to manage arthritis — flexibility, strength, endurance and balance. Yoga will improve flexibility of joints through specific movements including pawanmuktasana series, as explained below. Strengthening of the muscles that support the joints is achieved through systematic contractions without putting undue pressure on the joints. Endurance is built through consecutive movement between postures or repetition of a movement in the same posture. Balance is achieved by shifting load between the right and left side of the body. Yoga also enhances postural alignment which reduces strain on joints.
Breathing and relaxation techniques reduce stress levels and pain as breathing techniques bring a feeling of calmness. Meditation practices encourage the participant to turn inwards and focus the mind on a single object, thought or sound. This increases self-awareness, induces a sense of detachment (even if only momentarily) and helps increase understanding of pain and the body-mind connection.
Pawanmuktasana (wind releasing) series
Practice rotation of ankles, knees, wrist, shoulder and neck 5-10 times, clockwise and anticlockwise. Lie down, practice cycling forward and in the reverse direction at least 10 times each side. Then raise your leg straight up, moving from the hip and rotating clockwise, followed by anti-clockwise movement. Next, pull one knee to your chest and hold for 10-20 seconds. Pull both and repeat the same as shown in the pictures. This will improve flexibility and range of joint movement.
Follow this up with merudandasana (spinal twist) to relax the back.
To strengthen muscles, sit on the chair with your legs stretched up and tighten your quadriceps while you curl your toes inwards. Release after 10 seconds, pointing your toes out. Stand with your back straight while you take support of the chair and raise your leg in different directions repeatedly — up and down, sideways, back and forward while you tighten your gluteus, quadriceps and hamstrings. Repeat each movement at least 10 times on each leg.
Sit with your back straight on a chair. Practice abdominal, thoracic and clavicular breathing as described in last week’s column in tabloid! (July 25), along with brahmari pranayama.
There is increasing research in the effects of brahmari pranayama (humming bee) and nada yoga (yoga of sound) on the body and brain. It is understood that the tissues respond to the vibrations generated by specific sounds or words. This has a healing impact on the entire body.
Use a chair or the wall for support when you begin practice initially. These make the movements and stretching far easier.
Breathe deeply and slowly through out the practice. This helps the muscles stay relaxed and reduces agitation.
Exercise or yoga benefits are maximum only with proper medical care and healthy dietary practices.
Practice yoga under the guidance of a professional who understands arthritis and its limitations.
NEXT WEEK: Improve flexibility in the hip joint