with a rheumatologist or physical therapist to learn what exercises
you cannot do, and for warning signs of unacceptable pain.
For example, some yoga postures involve putting your weight on your
hands and knees. Is this safe for your hand and knee joints? Is there
a way to modify the exercise so it will be safe?
If an exercise is okay in moderation, what are the warning signs that
you are overdoing it? Ask for a list of specific restrictions for each
- If your
arthritis is not too bad and you can basically get into the positions
of people without arthritis - try a regular yoga class
- If permitted
movements are limited by the arthritis, try a private teacher who is
willing to work with your limitations. Look for a class or a videotape tape that
is designed for specifically for seniors.
am in a yoga class with others and they get to a posture that isn't good
for me, I either modify the posture or do a different posture that is
safe for me, or I sit quietly and focus on my breath.
I do yoga stretches, morning and evening. In the morning they help me
loosen up. In the evening stretches keep me from cramping up and hurting
while I sleep. A good yoga exercise session with a good teacher has a
meditative quality that is very relaxing. It starts with soft, full breathing.
A good way to learn the yoga breath is to lie on your back, place one
hand on your stomach and breathe deeply. While learning the yoga breath,
you rest your hand on your stomach, so you can experience the feel of
your hand rising and falling with each breath.
When you inhale imagine that the air goes first to your stomach, then
to your diaphragm and then your chest. As you inhale, your stomach should
push your hand out as your stomach expands. With each exhalation your
hand lowers as the stale air is pushed out, first from your chest, then
your diaphragm and then your stomach. It is best to breathe through your
Use this deep breathing technique with all your stretching exercises,
whether you learned them in yoga class or from a physical therapist. The
effects of all the exercises go deeper, with less risk of hurting yourself.
When you are finished you feel at peace, centered, more focused. When
I am breathing fully, my back and neck are more relaxed and hurt less.
It is very worthwhile to take a yoga class or buy a good yoga video, simply
to learn to do the yoga breath and then to coordinate it with your other
In the United States, most yoga classes consist of a series of positions
(called postures) that stretch the muscle groups of the body. If you have
arthritis, yoga practice itself may contain some postures that you can't
That is why it is helpful to get information from your doctor or physical
therapist about what exercise positions are safe before you start. This
is better than asking, "Is yoga okay for me?" If the doctor doesn't understand
what yoga is, she may discourage you from trying.
On the other hand, most yoga teachers don't know a lot about all the different
kinds of arthritis. (Even when they say they work with people with arthritis
all the time, be careful. There are many kinds of arthritis. They may
not be familiar with your arthritis.) It is up to you to be informed so
that you can judge individual exercises yourself without needing to be
spoon-fed exercises by a physical therapist.
If your arthritis seriously affects your joints, you may be frustrated
by the number of yoga postures that you won't be able to do. Do not give
up. Some places are starting to offer yoga for seniors, and there are
good videotapes with yoga for seniors. Even if you are not that old, so
many seniors have arthritis that a class for seniors is likely to accommodate
the postures to your needs. A yoga class designed for seniors will have
postures appropriate for anyone limited by their arthritis. Many traditional
postures can be modified so you can do them sitting on a chair.
The value of yoga training is the approach of breathing and relaxing with
each exercise or posture. When I finish listening to one of my videos
I feel peaceful and relaxed.