Yoga for Arthritis
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is inflammation of the synovial joints of the body and is one of the most common of all disabling diseases, afflicting an estimated one out ten people, thirteen million in the USA alone. Arthritis is a crippling degenerative process which can result in irreversible destructive of the joint. The condition is characterized by pain, swelling, redness, heat and loss of function in one or more joints. Those most often affected are the large, weight-bearing joints (hips, knees and ankles) and the small joints responsible for repeated, finely articulated movement, such as fingers.
In the science of yoga, arthritis is not considered to be a disease in itself, but as one symptom of a widespread metabolic and pranic malfunction which begins early in a person’s life.
Yoga for Arthritis is a way to arrest this process. In fact, in the early stages, before irreversible damage to the joints has occurred, a complete reversal is often possible. In the later stages, yogic practices can reduce drug dependency, maximize remaining mobility and function in the joints, and make the life of the arthritic more tolerable and acceptable. Remarkable restorations of function and a vastly improved outlook on life have been obtained in severely crippled patients who have followed a daily yoga for arthritis program with determination.
The Physiology of Arthritis
The normal synovial joint is a remarkable self-lubricating living structure. The ends of the bones which form the joint is covered with the hard yet resilient tissue called cartilage and are bound together by ligaments which surround the space between the bones (joint cavity). The joint cavity is lined with a delicate synovial membrane which secretes synovial fluid to lubricate the joint.
The cells of the joint depend on a fairly tenuous blood supply for their vital requirements. If the circulation of prana in a joint is blocked or deficient over a long period of time, the supply of blood and lymphatic fluid becomes sluggish and the joint fluid grows stagnant. When this occurs, the waste products and poisons of cellular metabolism build up in the lubricating fluid of the joints, rather than being efficiently transported to the skin and kidneys for elimination from the body.
Acidic wastes and toxins accumulating in the joint fluid irritate the sensitive nerve fibres in the joint, causing pain and stiffness. If the circulation of the prana in the joint remains blocked for the longer period, the structure of the joint itself begins to degenerate. The joint fluid begins to dry up, the soft cartilage lining corrodes and the bones themselves begin to accumulate excessive calcium, forming new bone growth which limits movement. As the process continues, the whole structure of the joint is destroyed, movement becomes impossible, pain and deformity arise and the sufferer eventually becomes crippled.
Type of Arthritis
Modern medical science has recognized several distinct types of arthritis. From the yogic point of view these are different stages of the same basic blockage of prana rather than different diseases. The underlying process is the same, but variations in the rate of symptom development had led a number of diagnostic tags being assigned to different sufferers of arthritis.
This transitory condition is well known to all. It is a common symptom of many illness and infections, such as colds, flu, fevers and diarrhoea, and occurs because the viral or bacterial toxins liberated into the bloodstream during the illness readily accumulate in the joint fluids. This symptom usually diminishes soon after the purifying process is completed or the infection is overcome.
This is a special form of acute arthritis which seems to be due to dietary self-poisoning. Gout is suffered by people whose intake of proteins, especially red meat, exceeds their capacity to metabolize them. Uric acid, a toxic by product of the digestion of protein, is usually excreted in the urine, but in gout it accumulates in the joint fluid also. Eventually acid crystals form in the joints, just a excessive amounts of sugar crystallize in the water solution. Gout exemplifies the significant role of dietary self-poisoning in arthritis.
This severe, crippling and rapidly progressive form of joint degeneration often occurs in the young and middle-aged people, and is becoming increasingly common. Though the cause remains unknown in the majority of cases, it is frequently triggered by a severe emotional shock, or may be precipitated following the sudden introduction of foreign substances into the circulation, perhaps from the administration of a powerful drug, or an acute infection. If these foreign substances accumulate in the joint spaces, the immune system sends white blood cells there to wage a violent inflammatory reaction against them. Offending substances can be eliminated fairly readily from those tissues which have a good blood supply, but in the joint spaces, which are more isolated in general circulatory system, their removal becomes more difficult. The joint tissues themselves are not attacked, but they are the battleground upon which the war is waged. This fierce inflammatory reaction can completely destroy a major joint within a few months. A period of remission follows, but the disease frequently recurs in another joint, until finally the body is left crippled and deformed.
This chronic degenerative arthritis is commonly seen in the middle and old age, especially afflicting those who are overweight have a heavy or toxic diet and have avoided exercise. Osteoarthritis frequently develops in the joint which suffered injury in the earlier in life, the injury causing pranic and structural derangement which was not fully correctly at the time. Osteoarthritis may also be associated with an excess of calcium in the body, either due to high dietary intake, or to imbalance of the parathyroid glands in the neck.
Causes of Arthritis
A number of factors, including mental and emotional stress and faulty lifestyle and diet, are responsible for upsetting the balance of central controlling mechanisms in the brain and endocrine system, on which the ultimate health of the organism depends.
Unbalanced Diet Causes Arthritis:
Overeating and an excessively rich diet, especially one based on meat, animal fat, heavy fried foods, highly refined and synthetic foods, and excessive milk, ghee, sugar and salt, play a large part in initiating and aggravating arthritis. Constipation aggravates the disease.
Lack of Exercise Causes Arthritis:
Lack of regular exercise causes the joints and the ligaments to become stiff and inflexible. Habitually sitting in chairs and rarely sitting the cross- legged causes stiffness of the legs, hips, spine and shoulders.
Mental factors Causing Arthritis:
Deep subconscious tensions, suppression of emotions, fear and hypersensitivity can lead to rigidity of the personality, which then translated into physical tenseness, allergies, endocrine imbalance and so on. Psychic rigidity – stubbornness and fear of letting go, leads to physical rigidity in the form of arthritis, Rheumatism, fibrositis, and constipation. Individuals with arthritis may fail to express their deeper emotions and feelings, especially anger, adequately. They will say things like, ”Don’t worry about me; you go out and have fun.” Yet all the while they suffer internally and this internalization of feelings creates poisons which upset the total body metabolism.
Arthritis Treatment – Medical
Modern medicine has not yet fully come to terms with the overall dimension of arthritis. It concentrates on the relief of arthritis pain, but fails to treat and correct its underlying causes. Wide spectrums of drugs are prescribed, beginning with aspirin derivatives, which act both as analgesics (pain killer) and anti-inflammatory agents. Aspirin is effective, although tolerance develops and increasing doses are required. Prolonged use of aspirin in large doses can have damaging effects on the stomach, liver and kidneys, so the patient is graduated to the next stage in drug therapy. More powerful anti-inflammatory agents, such as indomethacin and phenybutazone, are prescribed until a tolerance once again develops or harmful side effects again prelude continuation.
Arthritis Management – Natural
Osteoarthritis can often be significantly improved with glucosamine and adequate quantities of fish oil and flaxseed oil, all of which have anti-inflammatory effects. It is also worth avoiding the nightshade foods like potato, tomato, eggplant, chilly and capsicum, for a trial period, as these foods are known to aggravate the arthritic condition in many patient.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune inflammatory disease. There is growing evidence that it may be the reaction to large protein molecules absorbed from incompletely digested foods. These molecules stimulate the gut immune system to produce antibodies, which, unfortunately, cross-react with our connective tissues and can cause inflammation in joints and muscles. Comprehensive assessment and management of the digestive function, food tolerances, gut dysbiosis, essential fatty acids and antioxidants will often lead to a significant improvement or resolution of the condition.
Yoga for Arthritis
Yogic management of the arthritic process is all-embracing and effectively complements standard medical measures. However, yoga will never advocate drug management of symptoms in isolation, while neglecting to correct the underlying deficiencies of diet, exercise, lifestyle and so on.
All therapy should ideally be learned in an ashram setting, to benefit from its positive and supportive energies. This is especially important if the individual is exposed to the negativity at home or workplace, or if the family is creating a dependent attitude in the sufferer, for example: “oh the poor thing, he is suffering so much. You must rest, dear, let me do that for you.” Karma program is as much a part of the sadhana of the arthritic individual as asana and pranayama. A well-rounded program of yogic therapy includes the following elements:
Asanas in Arthritis:
The major series of Asanas for prevention and management of arthritic conditions is the anti-rheumatic group of pawanmuktasana, which puts the body through its full range of improvements and fully relaxes and massages all the joints. Before commencing the pawanmuktasana, the patient should soak the limbs in cold and/or warm salty water to encourage blood circulation. As the flexibility of the joints increases, other asanas can be added; however, never strain or inflict pain. Major asanas include Shashankasana, Marjariasana, Shashank bhujangasana and Akarna Dhanurasana. Vajrasana should be practiced after meals if possible. Ultimately, Surya Namaskar should be adapted to capacity. Six to twelve rounds each morning should prove sufficient to prevent further arthritic degeneration throughout life.
Poorna and laghoo shankhaprakshalana, kunjal and neti are important in alleviating constipation and eliminating any metabolic acids and other wastes which accumulate in joints, bloodstream and tissues. Arthritis will never be fully cured while constipation remains.
Including abdominal breathing, Nadi shodhana and Bhastrika bolster the digestive and eliminative capacities.
Meditation in Arthritis:
Meditative practices release pent-up mental and emotional tensions. Antar mouna stage 2, where thoughts are observed, is especially useful in recognizing self-limiting and fixed attitudes and behavior patterns. Then in stage 3 the sufferer should be encouraged to create mental scenes in which he or she is expressing deep-felt anger and aggression, thus releasing suppressed emotional conflicts which contribute to arthritic rigidity while at the same time remaining a detached witness. Deep relaxation and meditation will develop a positive state of mind in the sufferer.
Diet in Arthritis:
The following simple diet will reduce pain and allow to eliminate and regenerative processes to work at optimum efficiency. A strong, clean digestive system readily absorbs all necessary nutrients from the following diet:
- Cooked light grains and cereals in the form of whole meal bread, chapatis, rice, millet, barley, etc.
- Boiled pulses especially the lighter types such as mung, are a sufficient source of protein.
- Boiled and baked vegetables, especially greens but not onions
- Salads using green leafy vegetables, celery, tomatoes, beetroot, carrots, cucumber, sprouted pulses, seeds and so on.
- Fruits (except bananas), both fresh and dried, and nuts in small quantities. Instead of sugar, a little honey can be taken.
- Reduce intake of milk ans dairy products such as cheese and ghee. Avoid highly refined, processed and synthetic foods, including white flour (maida).
- As a rule, only fruits and vegetables that are in season and grown locally should be selected. If absolutely necessary, small quantities of white meats, chicken and fish can be taken occasionally.
- Meals should be eaten between 10 am and 12 noon and between 5 and 7 pm. The midday meal should be the largest one and the evening meal should be the lighter. This ensures that food is in the stomach when the digestive energies are high and digestion is well underway by sleeping time.
- Missing a meal or fasting one day per week will ease pain, especially during acute phases, and accelerates relief and recovery of health. Do not take snacks or eat between meals.
- Take some leaves of mint (Pudhina) or dried mint leaves and boil it in a glass of water till water in the glass reduces to half. Strain and drink twice a day to help reduce the Arthritis pain.
Amroli in Arthritis:
Drinking one to three glasses of fresh urine per day, massaging the joints with old or boiled urine, applying packs soaked in urine, can all have a place in arthritis therapy, especially in long standing cases which have outlasted analgesic or steroid therapy.
Rest in Arthritis:
During the acute, inflammatory stage, rest is essential. Subsequently, periods of activity must be alternated with periods of rest.
Exercises for Arthritis:
It is very important to maintain a determined and positive attitude towards activity and exercise, even to the extent of pushing oneself, in order to maintain an active self sufficient life style. Walking, swimming, gardening and other gentle forms of exercise help to keep the muscles strong and the joints limber, and can be integrated into the daily routine in conjunction with simple asanas.
Heat and massage therapy for Arthritis:
Total immersion in a hot bath and the local application of moist or dry heat, especially in winter relaxes the muscles and loosens painful contractions. Heat also reduces pain and inflammation, increases the metabolism, aids elimination of poisons, speeds up the production of natural lubricants, reduces swelling and aids in the re-absorption of undesirable calcium deposits, bone formations in and around stiff muscles, ligaments and joints. After heat therapy, general massage of the joints and limbs towards the heart invigorates and relaxes the sensory and motor nerves, promotes circulation and irrigation of blood and lymph and has an overall relaxing effect.
Mental attitude in Arthritis:
The arthritis person who undergoes yogic therapy must strive for patience and positivity and try not to be discouraged by the pain and discomfort which will have to be endured at the beginning. It is well worth the initial struggle in order to break down the viscous cycle of disease which causes Arthritis. Yoga Nidra is most beneficial here and should be mastered as a form of pain relief and mental transformation which reduces drug dependency and pain sensitivity. The strength of mind gained and the joy which is experienced when the disease process is controlled and reversed is something that the sufferer with arthritis can earnestly aim towards.
It’s a proven traditional method of Chinese medicine for centuries. What I love about Acupressure for Arthritis is that it cures the root of the problem, and not just treat the symptoms like so many of the modern medicine nowadays do. If you get the flu, the antibiotics get rid of the flu, but they don’t boost your immune system to help you counter the next flu virus that comes around. Acupressure for Arthritis serves to get to the cause of what’s affecting you daily.
Unlike acupuncture for arthritis, acupressure for arthritis doesn’t require needles to be penetrated into the skin. Acupressure for arthritis uses massaging techniques to stimulate energy flow between the meridian points of the body.
What is Acupressure? How to do Acupressure? what are meridian/ acupressure points? where are meridian/ acupressure points located in our body? how meridian/ acupressure points are responsible for flow of energy in our body? how we can utilize meridian/ acupressure points to cure any problem in our body?