Yoga: So Much More Than Just Movement

By Rebecca Gillett, MS OTR/L, Live Yes! With Arthritis Podcast Co-host

September is Pain Awareness Month, and in this podcast episode, Mindful Movement Part 2: Yoga, we’re exploring ways to keep our bodies moving to prevent arthritis pain from limiting our lives. In the last episode, we focused on mindful movement and tai chi. This time, we’re diving into mindful movement of yoga and arthritis.

When you have arthritis, you probably think, “No way can I do those poses with my joint pain. Yoga is going to make my pain worse!” That’s exactly how I felt when I was first diagnosed.

I have a favorite cartoon that demonstrates what I think about arthritis and yoga. Google it for a good laugh. It shows the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz in a yoga class. I’ll wait…. You’re welcome.

I started going to yoga classes in my early 20s and really enjoyed them. Even though that was a long time ago, I remember the sense of calm and positive energy I felt when leaving a class. As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember how I was so relaxed at the end of one class that I fell asleep! I woke up to the lights coming on and everyone leaving. Imagine that: A yoga practice that puts you in such a calm, relaxed state that you fall asleep.

But then I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 26 and I struggled with so much pain those first two years that I stopped yoga. I didn’t think I could do it at all anymore because of my wrist pain.

I often talk about how we can sometimes get “stuck” in our pain: We cannot see past the pain to solutions that may be right in front of us because we are in survival mode. We struggle to do some of the most basic things — getting out of bed, brushing our teeth, going down the stairs. Any type of movement can be daunting, so the idea of doing a warrior or mountain pose sounds even less achievable.

This episode, Mindful Movement, Part 2: Yoga, was a fantastic reminder to me about what the practice of yoga truly entails and how you can adapt yoga to suit your needs. Our guest expert, Steffany Moonaz, PhD, founded the Yoga for Arthritis program after eight years at Johns Hopkins University, where she studied the effects of yoga for people living with arthritis. She helped us remember that there’s a way to practice yoga for everyone, no matter where you are in your journey with arthritis. Whether you practice chair yoga or modify a few poses, alone at home or in a group class, the physical and mental health benefits can go a long way to improving your overall well-being. Dr. Moonaz also shared ways to make sure you can find a yoga practice that works for you and a yoga instructor that’s right for your needs.

Tune in to this episode to learn how you can start incorporating yoga practice into your daily routine today. Listen now!

We Bid Thee Farewell, Julie!

Be sure to listen through to the end of this episode, as we chat with co-host Julie Eller. This is the final episode we recorded together before she left to start a master’s program in public health. Julie has been a force to be reckoned with while on staff at the Arthritis Foundation. She helped grow our grassroots advocacy efforts and she worked tirelessly to ensure the patients’ perspective is infused in everything we do that’s health care-related. I can’t imagine anyone better to co-host this podcast with, and in the process, how much we’d get out of doing this together. I’m grateful for every dance, every smile, every blooper and all of the laughter (and sometimes tears) we shared throughout this journey together. Most of all, I am forever grateful for the lifelong friendship we share. Best wishes, my pod sister, Julie! “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

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