If you experience arthritic aches and pains, you know that joint health is important to one’s quality of life. Studies have shown that Iyengar Yoga, which focuses on alignment, sequencing and timing to build strength and flexibility, can be an effective complementary treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

What is IYENGAR yoga?

Named after and developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, who was a student of T. Krishnamacharya, this yoga practice is great for beginners, the elderly, and those with physical limitations because it utilizes props, such as belts, blocks, and blankets, as aids in performing asanas. Iyengar Yoga generally focuses on three aspects: alignment, sequencing and timing.  

  • Alignment refers to maintaining an asana, or pose, while respecting the body’s ability and capacity. Props are used to assist you in getting into an asana without strain or injury. Proper alignment can help to achieve balance between body, mind and breath.

  • Sequencing refers to the order in which the asanas are practiced in. In Iyengar Yoga, the focus on sequencing fosters balance of the physical and emotional body. 

  • Timing: in Iyengar yoga, poses are held for longer periods of time compared to Vinyasa Yoga, which allows you to safely intensify the depth of the asana. The holding of poses helps to develop strength and flexibility, as well as sensitivity and awareness between the body and mind. 


Iyengar Yoga to Treat rheumatoid arthritis

A study published in 2013 looked at the impact of iyengar yoga in young women who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic autoimmune disorder that can impact joint function and health-related quality-of-life (HRQOL), especially when arthritis develops early in a person’s life. Depression and pain are high amongst adolescents and young adults with arthritis, even compared to young people with other chronic conditions. Previous studies have found that yoga is a promising intervention for older people  with rheumatoid arthritis, but this is the first study to study the impacts of yoga in young people with arthritis. The results of this study were overwhelmingly positive. Participants were all young adult women under the age of 26,  and participated in a 6-week Iyengar Yoga program. Compared to young adult women who were put on a ‘usual-care waitlist’ (i.e. did not participate in the yoga intervention), they reported significantly greater improvement  standardized measures of HRQOL, pain disability, general health, mood, fatigue, acceptance of chronic pain and self-efficacy regarding pain at post treatment. The study concluded that Iyengar Yoga is a safe complementary treatment for young people with rheumatoid arthritis. 


To learn more about the study, head over to our summary at Yoga Activist: https://yogaactivist.org/about/development/thanks/141-2/iyengar-yoga-and-rheumatoid-arthritis/

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