Yoga for Knee Pain and Osteoarthritis
In many areas around the country Yoga is growing in popularity, and Portland is no exception. Despite your perceptions of yoga, it’s not just for health nuts and hippies. This ancient practice of stretching, fluid movement, breathing, and meditation is accessible in a variety of ways, and can not only help improve overall bodily function but gradually increase strength, reduce stress and pain, as well as instill a positive resting outlook on life.
If you are new to Yoga…
It can seem a bit intimidating to show up to a studio that’s home to experienced yogis (regular practitioners), but instructors and practitioners highly recommend beginners start by attending a guided class.
That doesn’t mean that video classes (which allow you to practice from the comfort of your own home) aren’t valuable – but without the help of a certified instructor it can be difficult to correct your form or match your breathing to your movement, both of which are essential for a successful practice. It’s imperative that alignment is correct, or positions are modified to your body’s specific needs to ensure you don’t injure yourself.
Additionally there are a few types of yoga that are better for beginners, as well as those suffering from knee pain and osteoarthritis:
- Hatha Yoga – A slow practice focused on breathing with movement.
- Iyengar Yoga – A form of Hatha that uses props such as blocks and belts which can help make some positions easier.
- Viniyoga – Great for semi-experienced individual practitioners who want to focus on their own flow.
The more advanced forms (including, but not limited to Ananda, Ashtanga, Bikram, and Kundalini) also provide many benefits to health and well-being, but are not recommended for beginners or those suffering with OA.
The Physical Benefits
Yoga is great for individuals suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee because it is a low-impact exercise. An absence of high-impact movements, such as jumping or running, in the practice represent a much-needed reprieve for the weight-bearing joints of your knees.
The stability exercises and lasting nature of the classes (most are no less than 1 hour long) yoga helps to slowly build up tendon and muscle strength, which improves overall physical function and can dramatically reduce OA symptoms such as aches, pains, and morning stiffness.
Because yoga focuses on proper alignment of the joints, regular practice can help correct any compensation patterns you may have developed due to knee pain over time. This attention to alignment and stability can also help increase balance which minimizes the risk for falls and additional damage to the joints.
The Mental Benefits
Ask any yogi and they will likely provide a glowing outlook on how yoga has supported their mental health. The regular practice of yoga can help increase positivity and feelings of well-being, often leading to increased mental energy, alertness and enthusiasm – and who couldn’t use more of that?!
Some have even found yoga to be not only a reprieve from, but remedy for frustrating symptoms that can arise from the depression or anxiety so often tied to pain and disability.
Finding a form of exercise that you enjoy is the most essential step in getting healthy. Studies show that 50% of individuals with sedentary lifestyles will quit their exercise regimen within 6 months. Those who find an activity they like are much more likely to stick with it long term, reaping the most health benefits from their chosen activity.
If you’re looking to try yoga in the Portland area, you have a wide range of choices. Don’t hesitate to call in and see what types of classes they offer, and ask about which practices might best fit your needs.