If you’re looking for a simple yet effective way to ease joint pain and improve flexibility, yoga may be the very best activity you can take up at any age and at any level of fitness. (Not to mention, chair yoga may even be an effective treatment for arthritis.)
While the art of yoga was originally intended as a practice to unite the mind, body and spirit for greater peace and happiness, in recent years newer forms of yoga have emerged that focus more on the physical aspects.
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Hatha yoga for instance can provide the benefits of increased flexibility, postural alignment, strength, endurance and balance ― exactly what a person with limited joint mobility needs for an improved quality of life. And that’s not all. Along with your physical health, adopting the proper breathing techniques as you move into and hold various yoga poses, promotes a wonderful sense of relaxation and tranquility to soothe and clear your mind.
4 Simple Yoga Poses to Try Today
To get you started, here are some simple yet effective poses from Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center to try at home. You can increase and diversify your yoga routine by looking for beginner classes offered at yoga studios and senior centers.
1. Forward Fold
Slowly roll down your spine to hang forward, with weight in the middle of your feet, not your toes or heels. Be sure not to lock your knees or roll in/out with your feet. Your upper body should just hang without tension, including relaxed head. You can take hold of opposite elbows or interlace fingers behind your back.
Lay face down with tops of your feet resting on the floor. Palms are flat on the floor alongside your chest, elbows in close to the body. If unable to place your palms on the floor, you can use fists or elbows. Head, neck and chest are lifted off the floor, gaze forward, keeping the feet and legs down. Upper back muscles should be engaged and arms should not be used to execute the movement. You can test this by trying to lift hands from the floor and maintain the pose. For more of a challenge, interlace fingers behind your back to draw shoulder blades together (or hold opposite wrist).
3. Extended Leg Balance
Stand up straight and slowly shift your weight onto one leg (using a chair or wall for support if necessary). When you feel comfortable, lift one leg and hold the outside of the knee. Your other hand can be placed on your hip, or extended overhead. From this position, your leg can be brought out to one side, ensuring that the hip does not lift. It is also important to keep your other hip aligned with knee and ankle, without leaning to the outside of the supporting foot. If feeling stable, you can take the other arm out to the side and/or turn the head to look the other way.
4. Seated Spinal Twist
Begin by sitting with legs extended. You can sit up on a cushion or folded blanket if you feel any rounding in the lower back. Pull one knee in, lift the foot and cross it over to the outside of the extended leg. If possible, plant your foot on the floor as if making a footprint on the floor. Foot is pulled in as close to the opposite hip as possible. Wrap the opposite arm around the bent knee, hugging it into your body. This can happen by wrapping your elbow around the knee, or just the hand. It is most important to sit up tall, lengthening the spine.
We encourage you to maintain the health of your joints by being physically active and engaging in activities like yoga that promote strength and flexibility.