Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that originated from India, developed by the Indus -Sarasvati civilization in the North. The goal of yoga is to discover one’s true Self and become free from desires and materialistic attachments through mindful exercise and meditation. For 5,000 years, yoga has evolved into the many different types that we know today, with millions of “yogis” practicing all around the world.
In the modern world, however, yoga is seen more as a way to improve one’s mental and physical health. The ancient practice has long since been proven to provide many benefits to physical and mental health, including improved flexibility, reduced joint pain, better balance, and a more positive state of mind, among many others.
One health benefit that many people associate with yoga is the reduction of arthritis pain. Many believe that doing yoga can even prevent different forms of arthritis. But is there any truth to this? In this article, we will find out once and for all. Before that, let’s talk about the causes of arthritis, the risk factors that contribute to arthritis, and how to prevent it.
What are the causes of arthritis?
Arthritis is a condition wherein there is swelling and tenderness in the joints, leading to pain, stiffness, redness, and decreased range of motion. There are two main types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the body’s joints experience excessive wear and tear. The cartilage in our joints allows almost frictionless motion. However, enough damage to the cartilage tissue can lead to the bones grinding directly onto one another, causing pain and decreased motion.
Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is the result of the immune system attacking the joint capsule lining, thus causing swelling and inflammation. Eventually, the disease can destroy the cartilage in the joint and cause bones to grind together.
What are the risk factors of arthritis?
There are several risk factors that contribute to your risk of developing arthritis, including:
Certain types of arthritis are hereditary, especially rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disorder. If someone in your family has arthritis, you have a higher risk of developing the disease as well.
The risk of arthritis increases with age. This is because as we grow older, the more wear and tear our joints undergo. Rheumatoid arthritis, however, can develop at any age.
Previous trauma to a joint can increase the risk of developing arthritis in that area. A lot of people with arthritis have experienced injuries in their knees and wrists at some point in time.
According to the arthritis foundation, women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men, while men have a higher risk for gout than women. Gout is a complex type of arthritis that stems from the accumulation of urate crystals in the joint.
The heavier you are, the more stress your weight puts on your joints. This excess force can increase joint wear and tear, and eventually lead to arthritis.
How To Lower Your Risk For Arthritis
There is no way to prevent rheumatoid arthritis as it is an autoimmune disease. Osteoarthritis on the other hand, can be prevented with the right lifestyle adjustments. Regardless of your risk level for arthritis, here are some ways you can decrease your chances of experiencing this condition:
Manage your weight
People that are overweight or obese are more likely to develop arthritis due to the excess stress on their joints. Furthermore, being overweight can cause your body to produce more uric acid, which can lead to gout.
If you are overweight or obese, getting back to a normal weight is the best way to reduce your chances of developing arthritis.
Avoid foods that increase your risk
The arthritis foundation recommends avoiding foods rich in purines (which break down into uric acid). Purine-rich foods include tuna, mussels, scallops, and trout. Similarly, avoid drinking alcohol and fructose-sweetened beverages. Alcohol and fructose can increase your uric acid levels.
Protect your joints
Playing contact sports, lifting heavy weights, and other activities that are heavy on the joints all increase your risk of arthritis. That said, jobs that involve frequent squatting and lifting are most likely to cause joint problems (e.g. construction worker, farmer, warehouse worker, etc.). The same goes for weightlifters and athletes.
To minimize wear and tear on the joints, it is important to lift with the right technique. Whenever you’re lifting something heavy, use your legs–not your back. Hold the load close to your body to prevent excessive strain on your wrists. More importantly, do not lift anything that is too heavy for you.
When it comes to sports, the arthritis foundation suggests using proper safety equipment and warming up before playing to prevent joint injuries.
How Yoga Can Help Prevent Arthritis and Arthritis Pain
Yoga by itself cannot prevent arthritis. It can, however, help reduce your risk of developing the condition. And if you already have it, yoga is a great way to reduce arthritis symptoms, making it a viable addition to most arthritis management plans.
How Yoga Can Help Reduce Your Risk For Arthritis
If you are at a higher risk of developing arthritis, we recommend incorporating yoga into your exercise routine. Here’s how yoga can help reduce your risk of developing the disease:
Doing yoga helps strengthen the muscles around your joints, thus increasing the joints’ protection against wear and tear. Most yoga poses engage certain parts of the body. For example, the crescent lunge helps build up the strength in your knees, while the plank pose aims to strengthen your wrists.
However, if you find certain poses hard on your joints, ask your yoga instructor to modify them for you. It also helps to choose the right yoga mat for maximum comfort, particularly in your knees and wrists.
Beginner yoga practices are effective at building muscle and improving endurance. Muscle burns more calories than fat. Thus, building more muscle helps accelerate weight loss efforts. More advanced yoga sequences, such as Bikram yoga and power yoga, are more effective at burning calories as more intense yoga poses speed up the heart rate more effectively.
If you are overweight, yoga is an excellent addition to your exercise routine. Whether you are at a beginner or advanced level, yoga can help increase your muscle mass, which, in turn, can speed up your metabolism.
Certain types of yoga positions also help improve balance. The tree pose, for example, requires you to balance on one foot for five to ten breaths. Better balance helps prevent injuries, especially if you play sports and/or have a health condition that causes balance issues. With less risk of injury to your joints, you have a smaller chance of developing arthritis.
These are just some of the benefits that yoga provides. To find out more, check out this article: What are the health benefits of doing yoga?
How Yoga Can Help Reduce Arthritis Pain
What if you already have arthritis? Does this mean yoga can’t help anymore? Absolutely not. While arthritis can prevent you from doing certain poses, yoga can still provide many health benefits, particularly the reduction of arthritis-related pain. Here’s why:
Gentle forms of yoga involve soft, flowing movements that allow you to stretch your joints with minimal risk of pain. Many yoga styles can also be done with props for additional support on the back, hips, knees, and hands. For example, you can use an organic yoga block when you head to your next yoga class to help your body settle into a pose.
Moreover, yoga improves joint flexibility and muscle strength even when you stick to beginner yoga classes. Compared to other types of exercise that can aggravate arthritis, gentle styles of yoga are generally safer for people with arthritis.
One of the main benefits of doing yoga is improved flexibility. If you already have arthritis, you may already be experiencing a lower range of motion in your affected joints. Doing yoga helps stretch those joints and make them more flexible, which, in turn, can lead to less pain when your joints are moving.
If you want to learn more about this, we recommend reading this article: Can yoga improve flexibility?
Relaxation and meditation
Relaxing and meditating are primary elements of yoga. When you start taking yoga classes, you will have to learn to silence your mind as you perform the poses. Doing so helps reduce your body’s natural tendency to become rigid when experiencing pain or discomfort. People with arthritis find this an effective way to minimize their reaction to pain, which results in less pain due to the relaxation of the muscles.
Reduce Your Risk of Developing Arthritis Through Yoga Today!
Yoga, by itself, cannot prevent arthritis. But in conjunction with a good exercise plan and a healthy diet, you can avoid the risk factors that lead to arthritis, such as obesity, joint injuries, and high uric acid levels, among others. If you already have arthritis, doing yoga is an excellent way to reduce arthritis-related pain and improve your mobility.
Before you start your yoga journey, equip yourself with high-quality organic products from Pureful Yoga! We have cork yoga mats, cork yoga blocks, and even cork yoga mat bags. With our anti-microbial, all-organic yoga products, you can stay as comfortable as possible while working through your poses.