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Down with Chairs! Using Yoga for Arthritis

By Sixty and Me December 06, 2013 Health and Fitness

You are probably endangering your health even as you read this article. No, we’re not talking about whatever food or beverage you may be consuming.

While eating right is certainly important to achieving wellness, there’s another equally important factor that is rarely mentioned in the news: where and how you sit.

Why is Yoga for Arthritis So Powerful?

When attending a crowded event where chairs are scarce, you may think securing a seat is one of the few remaining perks of age. As you sink into your chair, you might look at the people on the floor and feel glad your grey hair helped you avoid at least one discomfort. From a health point of view, however, sitting on the floor is to chair sitting as a bowl of cherries is to a bacon sandwich.

If you are still limber enough to sit on the floor without discomfort, congratulations. If you are not, this article will teach you how to begin to re-create some of the benefits of floor-sitting even while seated on a sofa or chair. Plus this article will explain why floor-sitting is better for your health than perching on a chair.

Let’s start by thinking of one of the diseases of age most associated with loss of flexibility: arthritis. The old-fashioned view of health, in vogue about thirty or more years ago, advocated that senior citizens in general, and arthritis patients in particular, minimize pain and the potential injury by keeping exercise and movement to a minimum. However, these days, most physicians are aware that lack of movement is counterproductive to health.

Without load-bearing exercise to maintain bone health, the inflammation of arthritis can cause bone spurs. Failure to move the body actively can weaken the muscles designed to stabilize and support the joints.

The traditional yoga style of sitting with legs both legs crossed and knees turned outward is a very beneficial posture for the body. Sitting on the floor helps maintain health in the legs, knees and hips. If you sit on the floor regularly, you are likely to avoid bone spurs and to maintain the muscular strength you need to protect your joints.

Here Are a Few Yoga Options, Depending on Your Situation

If you’re not sure you can sit on the floor at all due to severe pain and/or tightness in the hips and knees…

Try sitting cross-legged floor style on a wide armchair or on a sofa.  If you cannot comfortably turn both knees outward, try sitting with one knee turned outward and the other leg in a more traditional chair seated posture. Use a blanket or throw pillow to support the out-turned leg. Be sure to alternate sides, practicing with first one knee turned outward, then the other, so that you regain limberness on each side.

If you think you can sit on the floor but the process of getting down and then standing up again may be tricky…

Use furniture and/or a wall for support as you move down to the floor and for standing up again after sitting. Practicing regularly will strengthen your muscles so you will eventually have less need of props for support.

If you can’t comfortably turn both knees outward in traditional seated posture…

Sit with one leg straight on the floor and the other knee bent outward. You can use a rolled up blanket or a pillow to support the out-turned leg, positioning your prop below your outer thigh. You may want to have another pillow or blanket to support the back of the knee on the straight leg side. Remember to switch sides halfway through your practice.

A Few Warnings and Precautions About Getting Started with Yoga

The suggestions above are meant to help you ease back into increased strength and limberness. Respect your body. Pay attention to any pain you experience, letting your body tell you when to stop. Do not try forcing yourself to achieve a floor-sitting position or rushing your practice. If you currently do not find it comfortable to sit on the floor, find a chair yoga class so you can learn to regain flexibility in a way which feels natural to your body.

Have your say! Do you sometimes sit on the floor? What do you think of the suggestions in this article for becoming more limber? Have you considered the positive effects of yoga for arthritis? Add your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Remember to check out our chair yoga video series that we filmed for you in beautiful Bali.

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The Author

Sixty and Me is a community of over 500,000 women over 60 founded by Margaret Manning. Our editorial team publishes articles on lifestyle topics including fashion, dating, retirement and money.

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