When I began this class in 2014 it was designed as basic beginner yoga, however; I had a few ladies close to me who wanted to start yoga to help with their arthritis, osteoporosis, and chronic back pain. As I enjoy a challenge and being able to really help make a difference to the well-being of others, I began researching like a mad woman. Having taught swimming for years through high-school and university to children, adults and triathletes, I already had some strategies to work on the core to help alleviate back-pain. Yoga for Beginners quickly began to have a focus on helping to support those with chronic pain, to include arthritis and osteoporosis. You can also be in tip-top shape and join our Intro Yoga: Winter Series – we have the tools to ensure you learn to practice safely to receive the greatest benefits for your mind, body & soul. Let’s take a peek at these common concerns.
Yoga for Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is the decrease in bone mass. Normally our cells replace themselves, but over 30 years of age this rate of replacement declines, resulting in our bones becoming brittle.
Did you know that 1 in 3 women will experience an osteoporosis caused fracture? It’s 20% for men, but still too high. 80% of fractures in those 50 years and over are due to osteoporosis.*
- Build healthy bones when you are young!
- Calcium & vitamin D are critical components to building bones. I like to try to get my vitamins from my diet, as they are easy for the body to extract.
- Strength & balance activities put strain on our bones, which encourage replacement of bone cells – there are actually 4 types of bone cells, but I won’t dive into that at the moment.
How Yoga Can Help: While yoga can’t fix your bone density retroactively, the gentle impact (strength building) and balance exercises can help to generate new bone cells at a healthy rate. When you place impact on the joints and bones, some cells will naturally deteriorate and be replaced – keeping bones healthy and strong. Remember, begin with yoga you are comfortable that you can practice safely. If you are unsure how to do a pose safely – please send me an email: Katie@yoganorthvancouver.com. Walking is another gentle way to build bone density.
Yoga for Arthritis
16% of the population over 15 years old is affected by arthritis in Canada. When looking at 55 years and older, this jumps to over 30%, again with women being affected at a higher rate.** There are over 50 forms of arthritis, but we will look at the three main groups, with the majority of the others falling into these categories:
- Osteoarthritis is due to ‘wear and tear’ – the cartilage between bones becomes thinner with the impact of our daily lives, until it’s bone rubbing against bone.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis is auto-immune, meaning the body attacks itself thinking it is fighting off something that shouldn’t be there. Unfortunately this results in painful inflammation of the joints.
- Psoriatic Arthritis is inflammation of the bone and skin, and often affecting nail health. Gout is also a more common inflammatory arthritis due to build up of uric acid creating crystals between the joints, limiting mobility.
How Yoga Can Help: Yoga for arthritis needs to be looked at case by case, as there are many forms. Generally a gentle form of yoga is best, such as yin. Swimming is also a great form of exercise if you are suffering from arthritis, as it is almost no-impact. Gentle forms of yoga allow the joints to open to give you a bit of relief. For Gout, much like osteo-porosis, gentle pressure can help to break-down the crystallization. It’s very important to listen to your own body and not put pressure on yourself, as things change from day to day – even the weather can impact how we feel.
Yoga for Back Pain
Back pain can be a tricky one, and I always ask that clients bring a doctor note so I can really understand what the problem is. Our spine is obviously our protection for our delicate nervous system, so we need to treat it tenderly. Much of our back pain comes from moving incorrectly, without engaging our core. The core is one of those misunderstood areas of our body. To feel it, take a deep breath in and ‘hiss’ out as you exhale. What just contracted in your body? Chances are it was the muscles between your pelvic bone – this is your core. The superficial abs don’t count – they are pretty muscles, functional but not going to protect your low back or give strength to all your movements. Try taking an arm to the side, relaxing your core and bring it to the centre of your body. Now try doing it with your core engaged. Feel the difference? Sitting, generally you don’t engage your core, unless you are consciously or sitting on a ball – great idea for work!
How Yoga Can Help: Subtle exercises using breath and core muscles help strengthen, which reduces the pressure on your low back. Intro Yoga is a great way to begin to tap into this, and once you have the basics down you can try Ladies Vinyasa for Core or Yoga for Bike + Ski. Ladies Vinyasa for Core we focus on regaining strength – a perfect gentle class for women of all ages, pre and post-partum – even if you had children years ago.
As in all classes, we encourage you to be conscious of your core and offer many little pointers to reduce stress on your low-back and shoulders – common areas of injury. Yoga for Bike + Ski is a yin/yang combination of vinyasa (flow yoga with breath) and some yin to help reset tired muscles to prevent injury.
Tips for Practicing Yoga Safely
As with all classes, it is most important to listen to your body first and foremost. Instructors can offer suggestions, but we are not in your body and don’t know all your experiences. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s important to let your instructor know at least after class so they can offer an alternative. You can always move into a comfortable pose during the class – you should never feel pressured to continue moving – this is your time for peace of mind and to connect to your body and soul.
As I mentioned, there are many common injuries in yoga, namely the low-back and shoulders. I feel it is very important to take an Intro Yoga class, even if you have been practicing for years but aren’t 100% sure. I know prior to doing my teacher trainings, I had been in some poses incorrectly. Correct alignment is important for yang or active styles of yoga (hatha, vinyasa, ashtanga etc) to prevent injury and help you flow with your breath. This is ultimately the purpose of active (hatha) forms of yoga, and of course to prepare your body for a peaceful meditation.