Fitness, Health, wellness, Yoga

Yoga Teacher Training for Arthritis

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By Bhavan Kumar

Although a specialist work shop or yoga teacher training course for arthritis is rare, there is much information available.  We know that controlled movement such as traditional asana practice can give pain relief.  We also know that too much repetitive motion will cause pain.  Therefore, if a student has arthritis, holding asanas are fine, but flowing through them isn’t recommended.

General Information

There are many different types of arthritis. The two major types of arthritis include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms, which affects millions of people around the world. It is the result of premature or natural wear of the joints, causing the cushion between bones, or cartilage, to break down over time. Osteoarthritis can be hereditary, it can come with age, or it can be the result of previous stresses on the major joints. Many athletes suffer from osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis also affects over a million people in the United States, but it is a bit different than osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body begins to attack the joints with chronic inflammation. Over time, this can lead to severe damage or deformation. Along with the swelling and joint pain that is common to all types of arthritic disease, the symptoms of rheumatoid include fatigue, loss of appetite and fever.

All types of arthritic disease can include symptoms such as joint pain and stiffness, swelling, pain, aching joints and difficulty performing certain movements. Regardless of the cause or type of arthritis, yoga can be an effective solution for lessening or even eliminating many symptoms.

The Yogic Solution

Regular yoga practice helps lubricate the joints, allowing them to move more easily and smoothly. Yoga poses increase the blood flow to all areas of the body, allowing the blood to remove toxins. This can benefit anyone suffering from the symptoms of all types of arthritic disease. Yoga also helps improve joints’ range of motion by moving and strengthening them gently on a regular basis. Many sufferers avoid using the affected joints because it hurts. The result of disuse, however, is more stiffness and pain. In order to work through the pain and stiffness, arthritis sufferers must continue to move the joints. Yoga instructors should remind their students to understand one’s pain threshold.  Movement (vinyasa) may cause pain, but holding the asana for longer periods (up to 3 or 4 minutes) will give students long-term pain relief.  Therefore, students should respect pain, but hold asanas for the best results.

There are many basic yoga poses to choose from, but arthritis sufferers should focus on stretching the joints that give them the most trouble. Some basic exercises and asanas to try include Sukasana, modified leg raises, mild shoulder stretches, linear neck stretching, standing side stretch pose, hand clenching and wrist stretches, ankle rotations and Shavasana. Students should also remember to breathe deeply with each pose. This can reduce the pain of the stretch and help fresh blood keep circulating within the body.

Side Notes for Yoga Teachers

Each student is different.  The exact type of arthritis, the level of pain, and the joints affected will often be unique to each person.  As always, learn all you can by independent research.  To find a specialized yoga teacher training for arthritis isn’t realistic at this time, but we can collect data, which will enable future generations of teachers to help their students, while those who suffer will find relief.  The medical industry and yoga can continue to make progress now and in the future.


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