Skip to main content

How Does Yoga Help Arthritis?

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Yoga Eases the Pain of Arthritis Sufferers

Yoga can relieve arthritis pain by creating more mobility in the joints and increasing flexibility while stretching and strengthening the muscles around the joints. It may also help to prevent or minimize the erosion of cartilage that causes joint pain and swelling in arthritis.

I have a number of yoga students with varying degrees of arthritis, and they've all experienced that their joints are more mobile and hurt less when they regularly attend my classes. They also feel better overall.

If you're interested in practicing yoga as a way to ease your own arthritis symptoms, a good teacher can help you modify poses as necessary, to bring your body into better alignment and with more ease. If you can't find a teacher, I've listed some good DVDs and books later on this page to safely get you started.

Warrior Pose can help arthritis

Warrior Pose can help arthritis

How Yoga Helps Relieve Arthritis Symptoms

Relieve Pain While Increasing Range of Motion

It used to be that doctors advised people with arthritis not to exercise, thinking "If it hurts, don't move it". Now people are finding that inactivity makes it worse. With sedentary people, even more degeneration and pain of the joints occur. To keep joints and muscles healthy and strong, they must be used. When they're not used, they become weaker and more unstable with more likely-hood of injury and more pain and debilitation. Regular gentle movement helps to maintain mobility and it reduces pain, as well as promoting the health of other systems of the body. With regular exercise there's increased blood circulation which helps to reduce swelling and pain, and it improves the functioning of the immune system.

Recently (May 2013), rehabilitative medicine specialist Dr. Loren Fishman referred to a mega-study about gentle exercise and arthritis in one of his Advice on Practicing Yoga in Middle Age Q & A articles. The study shows that gentle exercising, such as in some yoga classes, helps to release an anti-inflammatory protein that reduces the inflammation of osteoarthritis. He says that the "side-effects" of this also include decreasing the probability of Alzheimers, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes.

The practice of yoga is an excellent way to help people develop more mobility and range of motion in their joints along with developing stronger and more pliant muscles. This helps to keep the joints in good alignment, reducing the likely-hood of greater injury and pain. Poses can be adapted for almost anyone. Not all yoga classes will be appropriate for arthritis sufferers -- do some research to find a class that is suitable for you!

I Recommend This DVD

Easy Yoga For Arthritis by Peggy Cappy

Peggy Cappy's Yoga for the Rest of Us programs on PBS have been very popular for "regular" people who want to start a safe, gentle yoga program. A few of my Gentle Yoga students have used this DVD and have been happy that they can easily follow along.

Her Easy Yoga for Arthritis DVD has received very good ratings overall from users.

A Very Brief Example of Peggy Cappy's DVD

  • More DVD Recommendations
    Are you looking for the best Yoga for Arthritis DVD to help ease your arthritis discomfort? Here are a few suggestions for you. These DVDs show yoga poses and sequences that are gentle enough for most people.


Arthritis and Its Causes

The word "arthritis" means "joint inflammation" -- the Greek "arthron" means "joint", and the Latin "itis" means "inflammation.

Arthritis is a term that covers many different medical conditions that affect the joints, and is the main cause of disability in older people.

With arthritis, something goes wrong with the joint, depending on the form of this ailment -- it could be that the cartilage is wearing away, a lack of synovial fluid, or it may be an autoimmune disorder, or a combination of factors. Joint injuries may also eventually lead to arthritis.

The most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis happens as the cartilage, which acts as a shock absorber, wears away in some areas. Tendons and ligaments then become stretched, causing pain. Eventually the bones may rub against each other causing even more pain. It's more prevalent in people who are overweight, or in extreme overuse of the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder -- the synovial membrane is attacked, which results in swelling and pain. This kind of arthritis can lead to deformity.

In any of the different types of arthritis, joints may be stiff, painful, and swollen; reducing mobility and range of motion. There's no cure for arthritis, but there are ways to minimize its effects.

Wikimedia diagram of generalized joint, Creative Commons license by madhero88 with a couple added labels.

Sit cross-legged for hip and knee flexibility

Sit cross-legged for hip and knee flexibility

Poses That Help

All yoga poses help to keep the body stronger and more supple; increasing range of motion in the joints, while keeping the surrounding muscles strong and supportive if they are practiced correctly. That doesn't mean that all poses will be helpful for you right away -- if you're new to yoga, especially if you're in pain from arthritic joints, you need to start slowly and gently. The regular practice of yoga can bring relief from arthritis pain if the poses are done mindfully with good body alignment. Beginning Yoga classes and Gentle Yoga classes will teach you simpler poses first, to gradually and safely build up your strength, balance, and flexibility -- all of these elements are beneficial for people with arthritis.

Standing poses are very good for helping to alleviate arthritic pain in all joints, while developing the muscles around these joints to provide more stability. They're especially helpful for increasing strength and flexibility in the hips and knees. Standing poses help to strengthen the buttocks, quadriceps and calves without wear and tear on the hips and knees as long as care is taken to keep proper alignment in the poses . Weak muscles can lead to unstable knees and hips, leading to more injury and pain. Synovial fluid in the joints is distributed more effectively when the joints are taken through their range of motion.

Iyengar Yoga teacher and author, Suza Francina advises her students to sit on the floor every day in various cross-legged positions, to create more mobility in the hips and the knees. If you avoid this because of discomfort, you will lose mobility. As the saying goes, "Use it or lose it!" If these poses are very painful or difficult for you, get help from a good teacher, or you might find suggestions in books or videos. Sitting up on a folded blanket or two, with extra support under the knees often helps.

All of the poses pictured on this article are helpful for people with arthritis; however you may need to modify them or do them with support. The standing poses can be done against a wall or holding onto a chair or counter-top for extra support. A good yoga teacher can help you decide the best way to practice various poses for the best benefits to your own body.

Photo from iStockPhoto

Yoga for arthritis - tree pose

Yoga for arthritis - tree pose

Find a Good Yoga Teacher

A good yoga teacher can guide you in learning poses to alleviate your arthritis symptoms.

You'll need to do some research to find a teacher who suits your needs. You might ask your doctors if they know of qualified yoga teachers to help you. You can find lists of well-trained yoga teachers through the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the U.S. or through Yoga Alliance. A good, well-trained yoga teacher does not have to be a specialist in yoga for arthritis, but will still be able to help you learn to modify classic yoga postures to suit your own special needs.

You might consider taking a couple of private lessons first, so that the teacher can work more closely with you and your particular needs. That way when you start a regular class (Gentle or Beginning Yoga), you'll already have a sense of how much you can do, and what kinds of modifications you need to stay comfortable and safe within the yoga poses.

A good article put out by Johns Hopkins includes good questions to ask when looking for a yoga teacher. (Check out the rest of the article too for more useful information!)

Photo from iStockPhoto

Downward facing dog

Downward facing dog

Getting the Most Out of Your Yoga Class or Practice

Work Intelligently to Help Your Arthritis

Listen to your body as you practice to determine which poses, stretches, and movements are most helpful, and which feel like they might be injurious.

If a pose doesn't feel right, don't push through it, but work gently, and get help from your teacher.

Learn to know the difference between "good pain" and "bad pain". There's a difference between the discomfort of stretching muscles and moving stiff joints through their range of motion, and the pain of actions gone wrong -- of movements that can cause injury. Sudden or severe pain is a warning to stop!

Avoid doing the poses and actions mechanically, but observe the response of your body and breath to the poses. Don't hold your breath. A smooth, relaxed, easy breath helps to reduce pain and promotes relaxation.

Don't overwork, but balance your active yoga practice with restorative (restful, supportive, nurturing) poses. You benefit from the active poses only if you're well-rested.

Learn to use yoga props to support your body in more difficult poses, or for longer held poses. When the body is supported, its easier to stretch the muscles and safely move the joints through their range of motion, easier to bring the body into better alignment, and it conserves energy.

I Recommend This Book

Yoga for Arthritis: The Complete Guide by Loren Fishman and Ellen Saltonstall

Yoga teacher and author Suza Francina calls this book "The best book on yoga for effectively treating arthritis!" This book gives a comprehensive overview on arthritis and how yoga can be used to alleviate symptoms. It's thoroughly illustrated, with chapters focusing on each major joint. Poses are given for beginners and for more experienced practitioners, with instructions and guidelines for modifying poses as needed.

The product description says this book is a comprehensive, user-friendly medical yoga program designed for management and prevention of arthritis

"In this comprehensive and thoroughly illustrated guide, Loren Fishman and Ellen Saltonstall help readers understand arthritis and give a spectrum of exercises for beginners and experts. Broken down into chapters focusing on each major joint, there are 100 classical yoga poses and numerous imaginative and physiologically sound adapted poses, all with step-by-step instructions and easy-to-follow photo demonstrations. The authors welcome readers into the philosophy and principles of yoga and show how to use yoga to find lasting relief from arthritis. 400+ illustrations."

Another Good Book to Consider - The New Yoga For Healthy Aging by Suza Francina

Iyengar Yoga teacher, Suza Francina, is my favorite author for books on Yoga and Aging.

This guide is written with baby-boomers in mind, and it includes good photos and clear instructions for poses, including the use of props and modified poses. Readers are taken step-by-step through a number of poses that can prevent or lessen many age-related ailments, including arthritis.

Have you tried yoga to help your arthritis?

wiserworld on September 17, 2016:

Thanks for sharing the yoga tips. Are there any other books you recommend?

SmartYoga on October 28, 2013:

Hi! Yes, I've heard that yoga can be of great value for arthritis sufferers! Just wanted to add that especially if one has joint issues, it's helpful to choose a good quality yoga mat which is soft AND stable, to cushion joints and prevent slipping and unnecessary tension during practice! Namaste!

Karen (author) from U.S. on October 23, 2013:

@pjsart: Thanks for the comments. My yoga students with arthritis have also found great relief from taking yoga classes. When practiced with intelligence, it's such a good way for learning how to take care of ourselves.

pjsart on October 23, 2013:

I have suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since childhood and find having a meditation and yoga practice keeps me agile and active. I am a great grandmother now, but look and am active like a much younger person. I like having a class but live out in a rural area so I do it online with . Please visit my lens if you are interested in teaching...

Karen (author) from U.S. on June 11, 2013:

@iwrite100: It would definitely be helpful if he enjoys yoga and can find a good class to get started :-) Otherwise some other relatively gentle stretching and strengthening program would probably work well too.

Maribel Taleghani Asl from Philippines on June 10, 2013:

My dad is always complaining for pain caused by arthritis. This would rally be helpful.

SteveKaye on February 20, 2013:

I'm sure this info will help many. Thank you for publishing it. Wish you the best.

LiveBig LM on December 22, 2012:

I recommended Yoga to my mom for arthritis pain. I just bought her a new yoga mat for xmas too.

mecheshier on November 24, 2012:

Fabulous lens here. What great info. I work with a lot of seniors and I will definitely pass this info along! Thanks for sharing.

Karen (author) from U.S. on November 23, 2012:

@Nikki58: Thanks, Nikki58. All of the poses can be modified. There's never any need to force yourself into a position that your body can't do :-) The Peggy Cappy "Yoga for Arthritis" DVD shows simple poses that most people can do.

Nikki58 on November 23, 2012:

Great info and well written. While I have never tried Yoga this has piqued my interest. Just not sure I could get into some of the poses?

appelonia on November 08, 2012:

Thanks for a really good lens. What good information.

CureCandidaNaturally on October 17, 2012:

Yoga is an amazing exercise, it's good for so many different ailments.

JadaFuego on October 03, 2012:

I am a yoga buff..i love is my favorite form of exercise.

Karen (author) from U.S. on September 23, 2012:

@premjayaram: Thanks :-) I don't really remember how long it took me to write this. Probably a couple weeks off and on. But I also teach yoga and have experience teaching people with arthritis.

Prem from Malaysia on September 23, 2012:

wow...this is such a comprehensive site. How long did u take to make this. Good job!

Kaizer on August 26, 2012:

Good information, appreciate.

UKGhostwriter on June 25, 2012:

Never tried yoga ...yet, but I never rule anything out

anaisfraiche on June 23, 2012:

Yoga helps me to deal with back pain post delivery.

YogaAngel on June 14, 2012:

Yoga is fantastic for arthritis

Bob Zau on June 09, 2012:

I can put this Yoga lens to good use on myself.

Darcie French from Abbotsford, BC on June 08, 2012:

I have fibromyalgia and if I didn't stretch and move, I'd stiffen up in a heartbeat. I don't do yoga specifically these days, but I understand the benefits are immense for people suffering from mobility issues.

jeromeyoung on May 22, 2012:

They say it's really effective. I haven't tried it myself. I'd like to try it one day. Thanks for sharing some information here.

GrowthSpark on May 21, 2012:

Thanks, I've tried it before but didn't stick with it, after reading this I think I'll be giving it another go.

psoriasistreatment7 on May 03, 2012:

I do yoga a few times a week and it helps to prevent stiffness in my joints.

MamaRuth on April 17, 2012:

I have not had much experience (yet) with yoga but am interested in exploring the conneciton between the practice of yoga and arthritis improvement. Thank you for the helpful information and links to relevant articles.

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on April 17, 2012:

Great lens with very useful info. Well done. Thank you.

CharleneDavies on April 17, 2012:

Nice Lens. Very informative.

anonymous on April 16, 2012:

A very informative lens.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage from southwestern Virginia on April 16, 2012:

Wonderful information which I'll pass along. A friend in her 80s and I do Yoga once / week with a great and knowledgeable teacher. If she offered it more often, I'd do those classes also. I have great intentions of doing Yoga on my own, but I never quit make it :+) I do have arthritis and one hip replacement. I am a very young 70!

Michey LM on April 16, 2012:

This is part of natural remedy, which I always prefer vs. pills which are chemicals.

dwnovacek on April 16, 2012:

Great lens! Lots of wonderful information about the subject. I am both overweight and arthritic and so I thought that yoga was not a viable option for me. I'm glad to see I was wrong! Angel Blessed!

stevenstones on April 08, 2012:

Nice Lens!

Karen (author) from U.S. on March 29, 2012:

@KarenHC: We use props, i.e. chairs, blankets, wall support, blocks, to help people get closer to the "full" pose, with ease and comfort. While their poses may never look like the ones shown on this page, they are moving their bodies in such a way that they are regaining some of the mobility that they've lost due to arthritis, whether it's in the hips or knees or back etc. If I can find photos showing this, I'll add a few. Until then, these photos are meant to inspire.

Karen (author) from U.S. on March 29, 2012:

@anonymous: I have many yoga students who have arthritic hips, and who can do these poses...but in a modified way. They're not particularly interested in being photographed though, and I haven't found creative common photos (i.e. free to use photos online) to replace the images I have here.

anonymous on March 29, 2012:

Anyone with arthritic hips CANNOT do the poses you show on this page. Have you ever tried to meet a very healthy, active, adult, that CANNOT cross her legs, touch her toes, or act like a pretzel, you need to stop showing off what a normal person can do, and show something what an aurthritic person can do.

Ladyeaglefeather on March 18, 2012:

This is a great lens, all women should know, the information you have here.

Celticep from North Wales, UK on March 17, 2012:

I've been told that my recent patella fracture could lead to the onset of early osteo arthitis. In physical therapy for muscle and joint rehab at the moment, but thinking that yoga will help put off further problems once I'm mobile again.

SoundsOfBliss on March 17, 2012:

I've practiced Yoga a long time, but never specifically for arthritis. This lens has opened my eyes! That book looks very interesting...

happynutritionist on February 29, 2012:

I have "Yoga for the Rest of Us" and a yoga mat, but haven't done much with each. I do have a painful hip and thought it may help, will get to work with it as no improvement will happen if I do nothing.

armidabooks on January 24, 2012:

love yoga. have been practicing for some time and my whole body feels better.

Karen (author) from U.S. on December 10, 2011:

@HERBMASTER: TaiChi would also be wonderful to do! If I weren't practicing yoga, I'd be practicing TaiChi. Thanks for your comment.

HERBMASTER on December 09, 2011:

While I do TaiChi, I can appreciate the benefits of Yoga, especially the flexability, potential for incredible experiences in meditation, enjoyment of life, fun and general well-being.

vkumar05 on November 29, 2011:

The ancient science of Yoga is going to be the final front in our fight against stress of modern day life. Great lens. Thanks for sharing.

Fiona from South Africa on November 10, 2011:

Am trying to get my mom to do yoga - she's just started getting arthritis, will email her the link to this lens and hope she gives it a try

tcorbs on November 07, 2011:

I've always wanted to try yoga, looks like it's valuable to learn.

peppervel on October 26, 2011:

always wanted to try yoga but my body is sooo inflexiible. would really love to be able to do yoga. thanks for sharing this lens.

EMangl on October 24, 2011:

i tried yoga once but i did know really know what it is good for - i am way too impatient to find out :-)

Rose Jones on October 22, 2011:

Yoga is great, but you have to take it slowly to avoid injury. I think starting in a class with a good teacher is best.

WayneDave LM on October 20, 2011:

Great tips and information. Thanks for sharing.

anonymous on October 19, 2011:

educational indeed, I'm one of those readers that browsed upon this for knowledge basis for the time being. earned a 'thumbs up' for what you've said in this.

fugeecat lm on October 14, 2011:

I have a couple of yoga cd's, but I never seem to get around to using them. But I think your article motivated me just a little bit.

Karen (author) from U.S. on October 11, 2011:

@Qcsgroup: I've found that people often do better if they start with a Gentle Yoga (or something similar) class, if they're just getting into yoga and they have joint problems. This way they can gently bring their bodies through beneficial stretches without doing difficult poses. The Gentle Yoga classes that I teach are include using extra support in many of the poses (chairs, wall, blankets, blocks, straps), and easier variations of poses.

Qcsgroup on October 11, 2011:

i really liked the lens .. a lot of great information .. i was wondering for people who have arthritis and their just getting started with yoga , what would you recommend would be the best exercises ? I was researching about this a while back and from my research the poses can sometimes be hard to do .. But what do you think about it ?

Tamara14 on October 10, 2011:

Very nice, useful and motivating. Thank you :) Squid Angel blessed!

ms-giggles on October 09, 2011:

I'm so glad I came across your lens. I'm going to start doing Yoga. The bigges reason for disease comes from are bodies lack of fighting off oxidative stress. I have built a lens that has a health breakthrough called Protandim!! Lowering oxidative stress help the body fight diseases like arthritis. I have RA and I live pain free today because I took back my health. After reading how Yoga works I believe this would be an amazing health benefit for my body. Thanks

JoshK47 on October 08, 2011:

I have very mild arthritis, but yoga has helped very much with that, it helps soothe those aching joints. Great lens.

Karen (author) from U.S. on October 07, 2011:

@RinchenChodron: Hi RinchenChodron! I don't know specific teachers in Denver, but I was just browsing through the Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver website -- I'm impressed with their scope and attitude. Ahh, just realizing there are MANY places to take Iyengar yoga in Denver, so you'll be able to pick and choose perhaps. Good luck!

RinchenChodron on October 07, 2011:

Thanks for reminding me I need to move regularly! I love Iyengar yoga! My mom had Lupus and I am beginning to creek. One particular finger is bad - but I type all the time. It could just be aging. Also my hips and back. Will be looking for a new Iyengar teacher in Denver - any suggestions?

privresearch on October 02, 2011:

yoga exercises were the one thing that helped me with my constant back pain

PainMan1 on September 27, 2011:

Great info on this important lens! Wonderful job!

K Bechand from NY on September 09, 2011:

I am a therapist and yes yoga can be great - but do be careful with your wrists and hands with some of those motions that put weight bearing on these joints - they could get worse not better ...

enriquex1 on August 28, 2011:

Yoga is one of the modules I practice to keep myself limber and relaxed. Great advice.

fashionistadiva on August 24, 2011:

I love doing yoga it is so relaxing!!

NidhiRajat on August 15, 2011:

yoga is best for every human being!!!

anonymous on August 13, 2011:

Yoga done under guidance can be a real boon for a healthy body. Thanks for sharing this great lens!

molewartcure on August 11, 2011:

Yoga has been lifesaver for my dad, awesome lens!

JanieceTobey on August 10, 2011:

What a wonderful resource for those with arthritis! Blessed by a Squid Angel.

lesliesinclair on July 29, 2011:

I just haven't gotten around to exploring yoga for arthritis. Thanks for the encouragement to do so.

cbessa on July 29, 2011:


Just stopping by to tell you that i featured/reviewed this lens on my Top 5 lenses from my Squidoo Neighbours lens!

I would really appreciated to get your feedback. Hope you like it!

See you around!

jstarley on July 27, 2011:

I recently started practicing yoga again after a couple year break. I've come to the realization that if I don't use it, I'll lose it. Meaning, I want to take better care of my body so it will carry me through the rest of my life. Yoga to me is like lubricating a car. It must be well oiled to function properly. Thank you for this wonderful information.

Karen (author) from U.S. on July 24, 2011:

@ecogranny: I'm so glad you found this useful, Graceonline :-) Yoga really is a wonderful approach to health!

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on July 24, 2011:

This is an excellent lens! I've been looking for just this information to help my mom, and I think I can benefit from some of these exercises too. Thank you!

anonymous on July 03, 2011:

Yoga is one of the most helpful things you can do for arthritis. It gets those joints unstuck.

anonymous on June 29, 2011:

The information about the yoga poses for arthritis is very helpful to me. Thanks for sharing the nice information.

maryctucker on June 17, 2011:

thanks for sharing very interesting lens.....

Gerald McConway on June 13, 2011:

Just started getting into yoga, but it is already paying dividends. I really enjoyed this lens, thanks!

LikinTrikin LM on June 06, 2011:

I've had many people tell me to try yoga and after reading this lens, I'm convinced that I need to try it!!. Thanx for the push.

myshelle01 on June 01, 2011:

Thank you a most interesting lens. My daughter has just started yoga and loves it. I should, I am full of Arthritis

Karen (author) from U.S. on May 26, 2011:

@anonymous: Thanks for the link to this article. It's very interesting!

anonymous on May 26, 2011:

Interesting study out of Ohio State that shows a link between regular yoga practice and cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) a part of the body's inflammatory response.

IL-6 has been found associated with many health complication such as stroke, type 2 diabetes andarthritis.

smithlights on May 25, 2011:

Great info about both yoga and arthritis!

maryctucker on May 24, 2011:

I know I can manage arthritis a little better

anonymous on May 20, 2011:

It's a new information for me..Thanks

Demaw on May 20, 2011:

Yoga like other exercises takes time and effort to see any benefit.

alexvervier on May 16, 2011:

Awesome lens Kajohu. Found the section on Arthritis and Its Causes very educational.

howtocurecancer on May 13, 2011:

Blessed by a SquidAngel.

rravi123 on May 07, 2011:

very much useful tips for yoga. go to my great brathing exercise lens for how to breath with yoga

maryctucker on May 07, 2011:

It's very nice information about the yoga.I follow your posting.

LensSeller on April 24, 2011:

I never knew arthritis could be treated by yoga. Thank you for opening my eyes to this kajohu, it's certainly something I'll be recommending to a friend who has arthritis.

anonymous on April 22, 2011:

I believe in the healing powers of yoga. I also know that it can easily beat arthritis. depuy hip replacement lawsuit

Barbara_Allan on April 16, 2011:

Yoga has been an important part of my own arthritis treatment. Thanks for creating this lense.

MBradley McCauley on April 15, 2011:

Excellent lens, so much good info. Will share the link with some of my friends. Going back to see more of your lenses. I sent a link about bird songs to some birding friends in TX. I like your lens style.

BestRatedStuff on April 11, 2011:

great lens, need to take up yoga again. thanks :)

hsschulte on April 08, 2011:

Good information. Thanks!

vitaminmonkey on March 15, 2011:

Great lens! Makes me want to start doing yoga again!

Dinostore on March 11, 2011:

This is very interesting, great information! Thumbs up and fav'd.

ElizabethJeanAl on March 08, 2011:

Excellent information. I want to try this.

Spook LM on March 05, 2011:

Excellent and informative lens. My wife is beginning to suffer from it now in her hands so for me this is timely. Lensrolled.

anonymous on February 07, 2011:

Yoga is something that I have been interested in for quite a few years, but never took that interest to the point of actually learning. I am not in a position to afford a teacher or classes, so a DVD is the way I would have to learn. I am always impressed by the flexibility, control and strength exhibited by people that do yoga and for these benefit alone I feel it would help me immensely. Great resource lens. *SquidAngel Blessed*

Related Articles