THE YOGIC APPROACH TO ARTHRITIS

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yogaWhile arthritis is potentially debilitating, according to esteemed yoga expert Sanjeev Krishnen, in the science of yoga arthritis is not considered to be a disease in itself, but rather as one symptom of a widespread metabolic and pranic malfunction which begins early in a person’s life. HEALTH learns more…

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 1 out of 10 people, 13 million the USA alone.


The Yogic Solution
Yoga offers 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 program with determination.

Yogic approach
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, and lifestyle.

The Right Way
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 negativity at home or work, or if the family is cultivating 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 yoga 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:

1. Asana
The major series of asana for prevention and management of arthritic conditions is the anti-rheumatic group of pawanmuktasana, which puts the body through its full range of movements and fully relaxes and massages all the joints. Before commencing 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 asana can be added; however, never strain or inflict pain. Major asana include Shashankasana, marjari-asana, shashank bhujangasana, and akarna dhanurasana. Vajrasana should be practiced after meals if possible. Ultimately, surya namaskara should be adopted to capacity. Six to twelve rounds each morning should prove sufficient to prevent further arthritic degeneration throughout life.

2. Shatkarma
(The process of cleansing the system) Body purification, similar to an intestinal wash, stomach cleansing, sinus area cleansing, and so on, are very important in alleviating constipation and eliminating any metabolic acids and other wastes which accumulate in the joints, bloodstream and tissues. Arthritis will never be fully cured while constipation remains.

3. Pranayama
(the techniques to right breathing) Including abdominal breath, nadi shodhana and bhastrika bolster the digestive and eliminative capacities.

4. Meditation
Releases pent-up mental and emotional tensions. Antar mouna stage 2, where thoughts are observed, is especially useful in recognition of self-limiting and fixed attitudes and behavior patterns. Then in stage 3 the sufferer should be encouraged to create mental scenes in which he 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.

5. Diet
The following simple diet will reduce pain and allow the eliminative 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, chapattis, rice, millet, and barley.
  • Boiled pulses (dal) especially the lighter types such as moong are a sufficient source of protein.
  • Boiled or baked vegetables, especially greens but not onions.
  •  Salads using green leafy vegetables, celery, tomato, 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 and dairy products such as cheese and ghee; avoid highly refined, processed and synthetic foods, including white flour (maida).
  • As a rule, only fruit 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 10am to 12noon and 5pm to 7pm. The evening meal should be lighter. This ensures that food is in the stomach when digestive energies are high and digestion is well underway at 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.

6. Rest
During the acute, inflammatory stage, rest is essential, and subsequently periods of activity must be alternated with periods of rest.

7. Exercise
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 a self-sufficient active lifestyle. Walking, swimming, gardening and other gentle forms of exercise help to keep muscles strong and the joints limber, and can be integrated into the daily routine in conjunction with simple asana.

8. Heat and massage
Total immersion in a hot bath and the local application of moist or dry heat, especially in winter, relaxes muscles and loosens painful contractions. Heat also reduces pain and inflammation, increases the metabolism, aids elimination of poisons, speeds the production
of natural lubricants, reduces swelling aids in the re absorption of undesirable calcium deposits, bone formations and fibroblastic infiltrations in and around stiff muscles, ligaments and joints. After heat therapy, general massage of 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.

9. Mental attitude
Above all, the arthritic 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 first. It is well worth the initial struggle in order to break down the vicious cycle of disease,
which perpetuates 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 all sufferers with arthritis can earnestly aim towards

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