Is Chair Yoga the Miracle Cure for Your Arthritis Pain?
New research suggests that osteoarthritis sufferers can benefit from this super simple yoga routine.
What is osteoarthritis?
In 2017, more than 30 million people in the United States suffered from the debilitating effects of OA according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition, also known as degenerative arthritis, is characterized by breakdown of the cushy cartilage between bones. The loss can turn simple movements such as going downstairs, getting up from a chair, or simply walking around the house into agony.
Could a simple yoga program ease pain for arthritis sufferers and get them on their feet again? A group of researchers led by Juyoung Park, PhD at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton tested a simple program called Sit ‘n Fit Chair Yoga for eight weeks in a group of 131 seniors with osteoarthritis. The moves incorporated breathing exercises, stretches, and relaxation. The results were recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.
Half of the seniors did the program twice weekly, while the rest took health education classes. After the eight weeks, the yoga group reported less pain and fatigue, and they were able to walk more easily. Study co-author Ruth McCaffery, a doctor of nursing practice, says the findings are valuable because the program provided a safe exercise option for persons with OA who were unable to participate in standing yoga or other types of exercise.
Dr. McCaffery points out that nearly 50 percent of Americans will suffer arthritis, and chronic pain is the most common problem. “Chair-based yoga is a therapeutic way to combat the symptoms of OA without drugs and other medical intervention,” she says. Try the moves below, and remember that you can put also chair yoga to good use at the workplace for a mid-afternoon energy boost.
Alternate nostril breathing
Yoga places a large emphasis on breathing and chair yoga is no different. Concentrating on your breath will prepare both your mind and body by easing stress. We’re not typically deep breathers; learning mindful breathing techniques can allow you to tap into the relaxing properties of filling your lungs.
Find a chair that you feel secure in. Sit upright, relax your shoulders and place the index and middle finger of your right hand on the bridge of your nose between your eyes as an anchor. Place the thumb and ring finger on either side of your nostrils. Close your right nostril with your thumb and take a deep breath through the left nostril. Hold for a moment, and then pinch your left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through your right nostril. Repeat, inhaling through the left nostril and exhaling through the right. Continue to alternate for about 30 seconds.
Begin by rolling your head gently in a circular motion. Then roll your shoulders up and around. Extend your elbows out to the sides and place your fingers lightly on your shoulders and slowly trace circles with your elbows. With your fingers still on your shoulders, rotate shoulders. Make circles with your feet by rotating your ankles. Now do circles with your fist circles by rotating your hands at the wrist. Finally, press the heels of your hands forward straight out from your shoulders, then move the fingers to the right, back up, then to the left. Find some more natural home remedies for joint pain here.
While sitting in the chair and facing forward, slowly rotate hips, rib cage and chest from right to left and back. Follow by crossing knees or ankles and repeating the same movement. Hold each position for about 30 seconds. The spinal twist not only increases spinal health and flexibility it helps tone abdominal muscles. But you don’t need to wait for a yoga session to benefit from a spinal twist; try it while binging on Netflix. (See more yoga demos at askauntyoga.com.)
Cervical vertebrae release
Practicing this extension exercise right from your chair can help increase space and right the alignment of your spine and joints. It also helps release tension and stress. Bend your left ear towards your left shoulder while lowering your right shoulder. Inhale as you extend your left hand up, place on right ear and let the weight of the hand and gravity increase the stretch in the right shoulder and neck, exhale deeply. Reverse and repeat on the other side. Hold each position for about 30 seconds.
The eagle pose, is a great hip opener exercise. At the same time it also releases tension in the shoulder area. While sitting upright, make an “L” with your arms and cross them at the elbows; now cross legs at knees or ankles, as seen on Ann Pizer’s demonstration here. Hold the pose for about 30 seconds and release. Reverse arm and leg crossover and hold again. Eagle pose may feel uncomfortable initially, but like many other yoga poses it takes some time to adjust. If you don’t feel like a pose works for you, there is always an adjustment. Ask your instructor for a recommendation and remember to listen to your body, it knows what it needs. More importantly, make sure to follow these rules before you try yoga. (See more yoga demos at askauntyoga.com.)
Here, Ann Pizer, of askauntyoga.com, demonstrates the sciatic stretch, or chair pigeon. This move relieves pain by lengthening hip muscles. Start in a comfortable seated position, cross your ankles or place an ankle on the opposite knee. Sit tall, and slowly bend forward. Come back up, switch legs, and repeat. Hold each position 30 seconds and don’t forget to breathe deeply. (See more yoga demos at askauntyoga.com.)
In the study, the instructor ended chair yoga session by suggesting participants sit quietly, eyes closed, and reflect on the goodness of life, the beauty of nature and anything else that makes them feel good. If you’re looking for more ways to relax, here are tips for managing stress and finding calm.