Yoga Beats Joint Pain – Holistic Practice to Ease Arthritis Pain

Joint pain is an unfortunate fact of life for millions of people, but yoga is one of the best ways of addressing joint pain without the use of drugs. Joint pain as well as inflammation of joints (arthritis) may occur as a result of years of everyday wear and tear on joints. It may occur in the aftermath of an injury, or it may occur as part of a systemic disease like rheumatoid arthritis. Medical professionals say that avoiding exercise is one of the worst ways to cope with joint pain, because atrophied muscles and weakened ligaments will only end up lessening support of the joints and making the problem worse. On the other hand, vigorous exercises that put strain on painful joints can cause further injury. Yoga is one of the best forms of physical activity for joint pain because it improves flexibility, increases strength and bone density, and does not put undue stress on joints.

Asanas and Joint Pain

Asanas are the various physical poses involved in yoga practice. Yoga emphasizes smooth, controlled movements from one asana to the next, so that the body avoids jarring motions which can aggravate pain. Yoga classes specifically designed for people with arthritis and other joint problems take into account the restrictions that many people face when they have chronic joint pain. Classes may make use of props such as slings, blocks, or straps so that those with limited flexibility may perform versions of the asanas as their physical conditions allow. A good yoga instructor does not demand that students perform poses “perfectly” and would never ask a student to “push through” pain in order to achieve a particular asana. Rather, every student should be able to follow along at his or her own pace, with the goal of increasing individual levels of flexibility and strength. It can take several weeks of yoga practice to notice improvement in flexibility and strength, but these improvements come with much lower risk of injury than with other forms of physical activity. One of the first benefits that yoga students notice is improved posture. Proper body carriage alone makes an enormous difference in energy levels, and improves the look of the body instantly. Good posture helps people breathe better and move more freely. Coupled with increased fitness, the result is an enhanced ability to move through life in spite of joint pain. As tendons and ligaments strengthen and become more elastic, these supporting structures of the joints reduce wear and tear on joints in everyday activity.

Breathing and Joint Pain

When people are under stress or are in pain, breathing tends to become shallow and rapid, and this causes tension to build throughout the body. The result is often even more pain, resulting in a negative spiral of poor breathing and increased tension. Yoga always emphasizes deep, modulated, cleansing breath. Expanding the diaphragm and abdominal muscles so that the lungs can expand optimally, and then exhaling fully instantly reduce bodily tension. This is true whether a person is in the yoga studio, driving in heavy traffic, or attending an important meeting at the office. The breathing techniques taught in yoga can be used anywhere at any time to lessen stress. Lower stress levels lead to decreased sensations of pain. What’s more, optimal breathing supplies all systems of the body with better blood flow and increased oxygen, and this, too improves function of all the body’s systems. Learning correct breathing in the course of yoga instruction helps the student concentrate on the connection between the mind and body and makes them more comfortable and willing to attempt the various asanas that improve joint functioning.

Meditation and Joint Pain

Yoga integrates the body with the mind and spirit, unlike some forms of physical activity which emphasize the body only. The peaceful atmosphere of the yoga class encourages a meditative state, where the student can become mindful of the present moment, as well as physical and mental sensations. Joining a yoga class designed for people with joint pain provides a supportive environment and a sense of camaraderie with the other yoga students, who understand joint pain from personal experience. Along with correct breathing and asanas that help alleviate joint pain and strengthen the body, yoga teaches mindful meditation which also relieves tension and pain. When the body and mind are aligned in yoga practice, the brain actually releases natural pain relieving chemicals called endorphins that provide natural pain relief from within. Yoga doesn’t claim to be a substitute for necessary medical interventions, but it does aim to bring the body, mind, and spirit together in a healthier state, so that medical interventions and drugs may do their work optimally. Meditation focuses on feeling rather than thinking, and it can be used to actually alter the way the body reacts to pain. Rather than the instinctive response of tension and shallow breathing, the yoga student learns to be present with bodily sensations and relax anyway, and this is one of the keys to reducing the impact of joint pain on everyday life.