In the UK, around 8.5 million people suffer with arthritis. This painful condition leaves people with inflamed, painful joints that can become difficult to move and, consequently, almost half of the people diagnosed with arthritis admit to doing no exercise. Naturally, this debilitating effect can then trigger other medical conditions, such as depression and obesity, due to the pain caused when partaking in physical activity. However, a new publication by the Journal of Rheumatology has found that arthritis sufferers can benefit greatly from the physical, mental and spiritual practice of yoga.

The study, published in the Journal of Rheumatology, looked at the effect practicing yoga three times a week had on people with arthritis. The results revealed that those who were practicing yoga saw a noticeable improvement on not only their pain levels, but also their mood and energy levels. This is no surprise when you consider the great physical impacts exercise can have on the human body. Benefits include reducing inflammation, improving muscle mass – which can help improve posture, which in turn improves confidence – and, perhaps most importantly for this study, improving the stability of joints. Arthritis makes it incredibly painful to move your joints, and if you don’t move them, they can become weak. Gentle exercise such as yoga can greatly help strengthen them again.

The 75 people that the study focused on were all suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, which affects the body’s smaller joints like the wrists and ankles, or osteoarthritis of the knee. One group of these 75 people took part in an hour-long yoga class twice a week that had been specially adapted to take the stress off their painful joints. They were also instructed how to do an at-home yoga class once a week too. After the eight weeks, and for nine months thereafter when they were checked upon, the yoga group saw an improvement in all measures compared to the control group who didn’t do any exercise.

Dr. Clifton O. Bingham III is one of the authors responsible for these recent findings. As the director for the John Hopkins Arthritis Centre, he acknowledges the “myth” that surrounds arthritis, suggesting it’s more beneficial to rest your joints. However, this journal clearly shows that the evidence would suggest otherwise. Whilst all yoga classes won’t be safe for those suffering with the condition, he recommends consulting with an arthritis specialist who might be able to point you in the right direction of an instructor who has experience in practicing with patients with the disability. Some yoga schools and teachers will have classes that are already specially adapted for older or disabled students, which tend to be a good start.

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