Yoga For Arthritis (YFA)

You have likely heard the phrase: “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga”.  However, yoga also improves strength, balance, range of motion, and can lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression by contributing to better heart health and sleep. Yoga can be especially helpful for those living with a chronic illness.


According to the Arthritis Society, 1 in 5 or 6 million Canadians are living with arthritis and as many as 25,000 children seek healthcare for arthritis.  Women are more likely than men to have arthritis.  It is Canada’s most common chronic disease for which there is currently no cure and by 2040, it is estimated that 50% more people will have arthritis.

Leading Types of Arthritis

The two leading forms of arthritis are Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  Osteoarthritis is traditionally viewed as wear and tear on the weight bearing joints such as the hips, spine and knees as well as in the hands, feet, ankles or neck.  Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory autoimmune condition that presents as swelling and pain in the joints and loss of muscle tissue.

Please see the Table below for additional information:

A few myths About YFA:

  •  Practicising Yoga will make my arthritis worse:

Most participants should be able to do appropriate yoga movements guided by a certified yoga teacher which provides options, modifications and/or props to aid in balance and support.

  • Yoga involves twists and bends which will aggravate my arthritis:

Gentle, slow movements allow participants to move mindfully in and out of poses to notice how your body feels in any given pose.

  •  I am not sufficiently fit to do yoga:

It is a common belief that exercise will contribute to further wear and tear of the joints.  However, exercise helps to mobilize the joint and contribute to less joint stiffness and helps to strengthen the muscles around the joint.

Meditation can also be beneficial. It can change the way your body and brain communicate about your experience.  As Dr. Steffany Moonaz states in the book, Yoga Therapy for Arthritis: “ Meditation literally grows the brain, particularly in regions affected by chronic pain.  It can change pain pathways and alter emotional reactivity to the experience of pain.  Meditation also makes it easier to maintain equanimity in the face of pain…”.

The best approach is to always speak with your doctor and determine if there are any limitations or restrictions you should follow.  YFA can provide another resource for people living with chronic pain. Clinical studies at Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center and elsewhere have shown promising results with improvement in joint health, physical functioning, and mental/emotional well-being.  As Dr. Moonaz  states “..evidence suggests that, when combined with a program of good medical care, yoga may provide important additional physical and psychological health benefits for arthritis patients”.

Overall, when practiced carefully and appropriately, yoga can be a safe and effective way to improve the quality of life of the average person but may be especially helpful for those living with a chronic illness such as arthritis.

Interested in learning more? Join Tracy for a 4-week Class Series beginning January 11, 2023.


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