reduce arthritis symptoms with yoga

Exercise is often a central component of arthritis pain management. Integrative medicine practitioners often advise arthritis patients to consider tai chi or yoga for managing symptoms. Let’s look at how you can reduce arthritis symptoms with yoga.

reducing arthritis symptoms with Iyengar yoga

This type of yoga is often recommended to people who have arthritis because it can be adapted for limited mobility in one or more joints. Assistive props, such as ropes and foam blocks, can be used during challenging poses. For example, people who can’t bend over and touch their toes can place a foam block on the floor and reach for that, instead. Iyengar yoga prioritizes proper body alignment and precise movements.

Iyengar Yoga focuses on three aspects: alignment, sequencing and timing. Alignment means maintaining the intended pose while respecting the body’s boundaries. Iyengar yoga encourages the use of props to assist students within an asana without putting them at risk of injury.3

Iyengar yoga is one of the most researched types of yoga, with several studies suggesting it may reduce arthritis symptoms.1,2,3

What’s best for you?

Body awareness is important for people with arthritis, which refers to knowing how the body and joints are positioned such as with posture, balance, and coordination. This can be particularly helpful for people with impaired joint awareness, such as with those who have had a joint replaced or have both joint and muscle problems from arthritis; these conditions can increase the risk of falling especially when body awareness is poor. Certain activities and exercises may be prescribed for body awareness, such as yoga.

Most yoga classes will provide the opportunity to:

  • Strengthen muscles
  • Improve flexibility (See best poses for flexibility)
  • Increase your awareness of body posture
  • Relax using breathing exercises

These benefits can lead to less arthritis pain, increased joint range-of-motion, and better joint function.

Ultimately, the best yoga class to treat your arthritis pain is the one that you enjoy and can regularly attend. In addition to the classes a yoga studio offers, consider its location, pricing structure, staff, and even the available parking and locker room amenities, if you plan on using them. These factors, unlike yoga poses, cannot be adapted to suit your individual needs.

See other health benefits of yoga here.

Adapt Difficult Poses

People with moderate to severe arthritis often work with their instructors to modify traditional yoga poses. For example, they might sit in chairs instead of sitting or kneeling on the floor. During balancing poses, students can steady themselves by resting a hand on the back of a chair or by leaning on a wall.


  • Kolasinski SL, Garfinkel M, Tsai AG, Matz W, Van Dyke A, Schumacher HR.Iyengar yoga for treating symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knees: a pilot study. J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Aug;11(4):689-93. doi: 10.1089/acm.2005.11.689. PubMed PMID: 16131293.
  • Evans S, Moieni M, Lung K, Tsao J, Sternlieb B, Taylor M, Zeltzer L. Impact of iyengar yoga on quality of life in young women with rheumatoid arthritis. Clin J Pain. 2013 Nov;29(11):988-97. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31827da381. PubMed PMID: 23370082; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3644391.
  • Deepeshwar S, Tanwar M, Kavuri V, Budhi RB. Effect of Yoga Based Lifestyle Intervention on Patients With Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Front Psychiatry. 2018;9:180. Published 2018 May 8. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00180

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