Did you know that knee osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the leading causes of disability? Research shows that knee arthritis worsens with age, however, people often don’t realize they have the condition because they associate their symptoms with injury or old age. With proper care and preventative measures, it’s possible to keep OA from getting worse as well as improve symptoms. One key preventative measure is the practice of yoga.
Yoga Promotes Joint Flexibility
One of the many perks of yoga is that it improves joint flexibility by routinely moving and loosening the joints. General stretching exercises in yoga also boost blood flow which allows for relief of muscle tension and increase in overall strength. By relaxing the muscles, you release stress, which takes away added pressure on your joints, especially the knees.
Yoga Improves Posture
Think about it this way: when you stand, your body shifts all the weight onto your legs. When you walk or run, your knees bear the brunt of that weight as well as absorb the shock of your feet striking the ground. Poor posture habits and incorrect body mechanics can place much more pressure on your crucial knee joints.
Recent research shows that stretching exercises can help with low back pain as well as knee pain, and improve posture. Moreover, when your body can more evenly distribute weight, it offloads any extra or unnatural stress off of your knee joints.
This is exactly why athletes do “warm-up” exercises before a game or even when they start their training. From bridges to touching the toes, there are tons of yoga exercises that can help relax and lengthen muscles, strengthen bones, and alleviate joint stress to improve overall posture.
Yoga Reduces Inflammation
Yoga helps combat inflammation by regulating the core functions of the joints and improving blood circulation. Less inflammation means more room for joints to move fluidly and painlessly. A new study suggests that yoga can also help eliminate stress-related inflammation, which can help reduce pain.
Yoga Helps Release Stress
Like most exercise, routine yoga practice triggers the release of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, into the body. These feel-good chemicals help to promote positive moods and mental wellness.
Pranayama or other controlled yogic breathing exercises can help relax your mind and take away stress from your body. When your mind is at peace, your body will automatically feel lighter and energized.
For people with knee OA or those with a history of knee injury, approaching exercise in a mindful way is a must. Avoid exacerbating knee pain by starting slow and gradually working up to longer and harder poses. Complement your yoga practice with other low-impact activities like walking and hiking as well and lessen the impact of exercise on your knees by using ergonomic walking sticks.
Always warm up prior to physical activity and make sure you keep proper form when practicing yoga. Ask your yoga instructor about poses and stretches that are tailored to people with knee issues, and stick with a routine.