Features October 2015 Issue

Strike a Pose for Pain Relief

Improve your functioning by practicing a few yoga positions daily.

The evidence of yoga’s power over arthritis continues to grow. Recent research in the Journal of Rheumatology (July 2015) suggests yoga may help sedentary individuals living with arthritis to safely increase physical activity and improve their overall quality of life.

This finding reiterates a mantra Judi Bar, E-RYT, yoga program manager at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, lives by. She believes, and instills in others, that “gentle yoga is a wonderful modality to bring the body, mind and emotions into alignment with one’s highest values.”

As evidence of yoga’s power continues to flood the medical field, the practice is becoming another important piece of solving the pain-management puzzle. Read on to learn how yoga can help connect the physical, mental and emotional elements needed for improved overall functioning.

Movements for mobility

Living with arthritis doesn’t mean you need to accept progressive waning mobility. In fact, studies continue to demonstrate how the ancient practice of yoga is beneficial to counteracting the effects of arthritis.

“Physically, yoga brings alignment of bones, lengthens muscles to increase range of motion, and brings mobility into the joints with focused awareness—all so that one can move with greater ease,” explains Bar. “Movements can be slow so that one can come into a relaxed state and move with grace.”

As yoga increases one’s mobility, individuals will begin to notice their overall physical well-being improve steadily as well, Bar explains. “Yoga provides better functional movement and range of motion from varied stretching and strengthening of the muscles, and moving the joint stimulates the synovial fluid in the joints,” she says. “Also, because you are being mindful when moving, you can gauge how much you do in a day depending on how you are feeling.”

Bar recommends full yogic breathing, based on the Hindu philosophy, to assist in improving physical and psychological health, “[Full yogic breathing] opens internal space,” she says. “We can take in more essential nutrients from oxygen when relaxing the belly on inhale and allowing the navel to come toward the spine on the out breath.”

The mind-heart connection

Modern day life has its way of speeding us up to the point where we often end up moving quickly through the day. Because of this, we miss key insights we would have picked up on if we were more focused on the present moment, explains Bar. This daily race often leads to missed opportunities to improve your physical function as well.

“Linking movement with breath helps you to better feel a stretch,” Bar says. “Yoga connects our mind and our heart through the breath. This mind-heart connection sparks an individual to be more present.

“Empowered with a systematic proven ancient practice, we can integrate gentle and functional movement into our day to smooth out movement within the body systems,” says Bar.

“By smoothing out the mind and creating open hearts to be gentle we become grateful for all our body does for us each day,” she says.

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