7 Tips for Practicing Yoga With Arthritis
WHEN SHE WAS A teenager, a doctor told Marina Nellius that her rheumatoid arthritis would eventually force her into a wheelchair. “He said I’d be crippled by the age of 25,” she says. “I remember his exact words. It utterly broke me.”
Gentle yoga provided a lifeline for Nellius.
Desperate to find a way to get better, Nellius joined a study about 10 years ago on the effects of yoga on arthritis patients at Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center in Baltimore. During the study, Nellius learned how to practice gentle yoga, a slower, less physically challenging version of the discipline.
This type of yoga is good for people dealing with:
- A chronic condition, like arthritis.
- Back pain.
- Recovery from surgery.
Nellius is 37 now, and the gentle yoga she learned during the study helped her ward off the doctor’s grim prediction that she was wheelchair-bound.
Today, Nellius exercises five or six days a week, working out with light weights or doing high-intensity cardio. She often prepares for her workouts by doing gentle yoga, which prepares her body for exercise.
“When my body’s stiff, doing yoga poses helps open it up,” she says.
What It Is
Nellius is one of the estimated 54 million adults in the U.S. who have arthritis. That’s 23% of all adults in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Arthritis is characterized by pain and stiffness in joints throughout the body. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, caused by wear and tear on the joints; rheumatoid arthritis, meanwhile, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s own immune system attacks joints.