“Can you tell me in layman’s terms why yoga might help with arthritis?”
Yoga can be a particularly good choice for arthritis sufferers. The combination of gentle movement with strengthening and stretching muscle structures around joints can be really beneficial. In several studies about this, yoga has had a beneficial effect. Of course, all yoga isn’t the same so there are a few things to keep in mind.
Generally, moving is better than not moving when it comes to arthritis. There really isn’t a benefit to resting a joint. We are not made to be still. Not enough movement causes muscles to shorten and weaken which puts more stress on an already inflamed joint. The other side of this is that pounding on joints that are lacking cartilage, are inflamed, or otherwise unhappy is probably not the best idea. Therefore, a gentle to moderate yoga practice will help in finding the balance between these two extremes.
In my yoga and massage therapy practice, I have found it to be most effective to move in and out of yoga poses at first allowing the joint to be properly prepped for holding static positions. A difficult thing about exercising with arthritis can be striking the balance between being mindful of pain levels and working just enough to achieve a positive benefit. As you work in this way you are giving the mind plenty of opportunity to perceive levels of discomfort without immediately reacting. This will encourage proper muscle reactions and reduce the secondary problem some arthritis sufferers have with spasming and bracing muscles.
I hope this helps – while you may not be able to “cure” your arthritis you certainly can change your experience and reduce pain significantly.