yoga and arthritis that was recently presented at an American College of Rheumatology meeting. Dr. Bartlett's group studied 75 people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and found that those who practiced yoga twice a week in small groups and once a week on their own felt significantly better both mentally and physically. Bartlett, who also teaches at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, says, “They had better flexibility, and their mood was more positive.”
The study focused on hatha yoga, which is a gentle approach. Bartlett recommends that people with osteoarthritis start with the easier forms of yoga. “The ones you want to avoid are those that are intermediate or advanced,” she says. However, she adds, "a good yoga instructor will know how to modify any of the poses for people who have foot, knee, hip, back, or hand arthritis.
You can practice yoga on your own at home, Moonaz says, but it’s best to start with a class, where a teacher can supervise your poses and help ensure that you are doing them correctly. The books and DVDs that are available are good, she says, but they don’t necessarily address the needs of people with arthritis. Look for a yoga studio near you, or try a local YMCA or community center. Many senior centers offer chair yoga. “You can start in the chair and gently work your way into more advanced physical activities,” Bartlett advises.
You don’t want clothes that are too restrictive and don’t allow you to move your body into the correct poses. But you also don’t want clothes that are so loose-fitting that your instructor can’t tell whether you’re doing poses properly.
Ask your instructor whether mats will be provided or you have to bring your own. If you have arthritis, you don’t want to be sitting or lying on an extremely hard surface.
As with any physical activity, it is important that you stay hydrated. Bring a water bottle you can keep near you during class.
Look for a qualified instructor. “As a rule of thumb,” Bartlett says, “it is the more experienced yoga instructors who often teach gentle yoga classes, but it is important that your instructor be well-qualified and experienced and know that you have arthritis and may need to modify some poses or breathing techniques.
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