What type of yoga is best for arthritis ?

Yoga is loved all around the world for it’s healing properties. It has a myriad of different purposes and benefits attached to it. 

One of those is the effective management and mitigation of arthritis. Yoga is seen as a form of low-intensity exercise. Almost a gentle giant of sorts, but sometimes very underestimated amongst its critics.

The Painful Truth

The condition known as arthritis refers to the inflammation, or swelling of the joints, in conjunctions with tenderness. In some cases, this can be extremely painful, and the pain can either have a constant prevalence, or alternatively it can come and go on occasion.

Two of the symptoms that are associated with Arthritis are stiffness, and/ or a nagging ache  in the joints. Unfortunately, more bad news ensues as this condition tends to get worse, based on research conducted.

The two most common forms for Arthritis are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Osteoarthritis refers to the deterioration of the tissue in between the bones, called cartilage. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a disease that forces the body’s own immune system to launch an attack on the joints, starting with the cartilage.

There are over a hundred different types of arthritis that are found.

The Development of Arthritis

One of the causes of arthritis is when you put added pressure on your joints. However, it has also been proven, via medical studies that arthritis can be developed due to normal wear and tear on a daily basis as well.

Something like injury or infection can intensify the symptoms experienced, and also turbo-charge the breakdown in the cartilage between the bones. You are also at a higher risk for Osteoarthritis if the condition is known to have family history origins as well.

Rheumatoid Arthritis forms as a result of an auto-immune disorder, whereby the immune system attacks the tissue between the bones. However the cause thereof, is a mystery that still boggles the minds of medical professionals today.

Which Yoga Types are best for Arthritis

It said that the two most effective yoga practises associated with helping to relieve some of the symptoms associated with Arthritis are Vinyasa yoga and Ashtanga yoga.

Start off by attending a class in one of these two niche types, or explore both, and find which one works best if you are not able to attend classes for both. The instructor will start off the class by asking which individuals have got pain and other issues.

It might be embarrassing to have to confess this in a class full of students, but it is imperative that the yoga teacher is informed of this prior to class commencing, in order for them to manage the situation properly if you require guidance.

If you find that at any point in time during your sessions in class, or even if you are practicing by yourself, you have to stop immediately if you feel any kind of pain whatsoever.

Even though Vinyasa Yoga and Ashtanga yoga are recommended to be practised to help manage arthritis, ultimately the best type of yoga is the class and practice that you will firstly enjoy, and the yoga style and form that actually works for you.

Everyone is different and what might be suitable for one, might not necessarily work for another.

Vinyasa yoga places the emphasis on making a match with every breath being linked to a movement. There is a specific sequence attached to this style of yoga.

It is gentle enough in that certain poses only require partial weight to be placed on joints, and this makes it less strenuous than some of the other yoga types. 

A strong comparison that is drawn is that between Vinyasa yoga and Ashtanga yoga. Both of these yoga styles form the basis of what is known as Power yoga, and both of them are great for building and maintaining the muscle that will afford you adequate joint support.

Benefits of Yoga Towards Arthritis

There are an array of different advantages that have been associated with the regular practice of yoga by arthritis sufferers in particular:

  • Ability to exercise in a somewhat gentle manner
  • Reduce anxiety, stress and tension
  • Improved flexibility of the joints
  • Allows you to stay active, which will eliminate stiffness overall
  • Deeper body and mind connection with self
  • Some yoga types have great relaxation benefits attached to them

It has been proven that regular 90 minutes sessions over an eight week period of practicing Igenyar yoga, has aided in an optimum pain management strategy and overall physical functions in patients suffering with Osteoarthritis.

Again heroing Iyengar yoga, doctors have noticed considerable improvements in patients that have adopted this style of practice have shown dramatic improvements

Arthritis-Friendly Yoga Poses

There are quite a few poses that are fairly easy to do on a daily basis, that you can do in the comfort of your own home.

You can start off with a few belly breathing exercises. Belly breathing helps you to relax and relieves stress. You even get into shape at the same time by doing this simple technique:

  1. Stand up straight
  2. Place your hands on your stomach, underneath your rib cage on either side of your body
  3. Breathe in and feel how your hands move when you do that
  4. Focus on how many counts you spend taking in the breath
  5. Now release the breath and exhale for the same amount of time that you inhaled for

If you struggle the first few times, do not force it and then end up not doing the exercise properly. Rather take small breaths and continue to deepen your practice as you progress in your journey.

Cat Cow Pose

  1. Roll out your yoga mat on the floor or quiet area that you will be practicing in
  2. Start off by standing on your hands and knees
  3. Your knees should be below your hips and your hands should be below your shoulders
  4. Hollow your back up toward the ceiling by rounding it up, whilst slightly dipping our head by dropping it
  5. Tuck in your glutes (buttocks)
  6. Return to your neutral position, that you started in
  7. Arch your back by dipping your abdomen towards the floor
  8. Lift your head up slightly and raise your eye so that you are looking straight ahead
  9. Repeat the process.

The process can be made easier by placing a towel underneath your knees, and also by balling your fists and using this instead of palms flat on the floor.

Chair Pose

  1. Roll out your yoga mat on the floor or quiet area that you will be practicing in
  2. Stand with your feet facing in a forward direction, not further than shoulder-width apart
  3. Raise your arms along the side of your head and breathe in deep
  4. Lower your arms half way down and enter a squatting position as if you are sitting down in a chair. Ensure that your feet remain closed together
  5. Repeat.

The exercise can be made slightly easier by keeping your arms straight next to you.

Cobbles Pose

  1. Roll out your yoga mat on the floor or quiet area that you will be practicing in
  2. Sit up tall, with a straight back, diagonally on your yoga mat
  3. Join the soles of your feet together, and open out your legs at the same time
  4. Keep looking forward and keep you chest and chin up
  5. Slowly bend forward from the hips
  6. Push the elbows into the inside of the thighs and perform a deep stretch
  7. Return to your initial position and repeat

Seated Spinal Twist

  1. Roll out your yoga mat on the floor or quiet area that you will be practicing in
  2. On the length of your yoga mat, sit with your legs together and extended out in front of you
  3. Bringing your right knee up, place it over the left knee and use the inside of your elbow on the outside of your leg and hug your right knee into your chest
  4. Twist to the right from the hip section, as you look over your right shoulder.
  5. Relax for a few moments, then repeat on the left hand side and repeat again in a few repetitions.

Intense Side Stretch

  1. Roll out your yoga mat on the floor or quiet area that you will be practicing in
  2. Stand with your feet slightly apart
  3. Take a big step backwards with one of the feet
  4. Bring your arms together behind your back and bend forward from the waste
  5. Bring your head forward and hold the asana for a few moments
  6. Straighten your back and step forward
  7. Relax for a few moments, then repeat on the left hand side and repeat again in a few repetitions.

Standing Forward Bend

  1. Roll out your yoga mat on the floor or quiet area that you will be practicing in
  2. Stand with your knees slightly bent
  3. Bend forward from the waist as far as you are able to go
  4. Let your arms hang down towards the floor in a comfortable spot
  5. Keeping the weight distributed evenly, slowly return to the standing position, one vertebrae at a time

Standing Side Bend

  1. Roll out your yoga mat on the floor or quiet area that you will be practicing in
  2. Raise your left hand over your head and bend to the right at the same time simulating a crescent shape
  3. Keep your head neutral and your eyes looking forward
  4. Repeat on the other side, and repeat all the steps a few times

Supine Twisting

  1. Roll out your yoga mat on the floor or quiet area that you will be practicing in
  2. Lie on your back and draw your knees in towards your chest area
  3. Wrap your arms around your legs, like you are giving yourself a hug
  4. Rock on your back, side to side for a few moments
  5. Make a T shape with your arms, extending them out flat on the floor, palms facing in a downward motion
  6. Scoot your hips to the right , move the bent knees over and towards the left elbow, looking over your right shoulder
  7. Repeat on the other side

Sun Salutations

These are a great way to start off each and every yoga session. They are very calming and ideal to transport the mind into a deeper meditative state.

You might experience some discomfort after yoga class. Here is a list of a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to yoga practice:

  • Drink plenty of water and ensure that you are well hydrated at all times
  • Try to get a decent night’s sleep and that is sufficient for you
  • Don’t drink too much beverages containing caffeine
  • Avoid using supplements of any kind if it can be avoided 
  • Exercise as much and as often as you are able to
  • Incorporate a foam roller in your post workout session
  • Eat a balanced diet as often as possible. It is important for muscle recovery
  • Try and stay away from anti-inflammatory drugs and medicines
  • Enjoy a long, hot bath
  • Stretch as often as possible, but not intensely
  • Gently practice yoga as often as possible

Common Myths Debunked

Yoga will make my arthritis worse. Nah! The gentler forms of yoga are suitable and safe for arthritis sufferers, and other yoga props can be incorporated if required.

Yoga is not adequate enough and too gentle to make a meaningful difference in my arthritis use case. This is incorrect! Even though yoga is known to be more friendlier on your joints, regular practice does improve overall strength and stability.

Yoga is for the fit. Wrong again! This is perfectly suited for any age and any fitness level.

Yoga won’t worsen my arthritis condition. It is recommended to rather not engage in any poses that require balance on one foot. Again, everyone is different, if it hurts, stop doing it immediately.


The good news is that if you are suffering from Arthritis you are still able to enjoy practicing yoga, and if you are completely new to it, there is no better reason to start the practice and discover these amazing benefits for yourself. Namaste!

Quote of the day:

“Be where you are, not where you think you should be”