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Arthritis: Management through Yoga

The term arthritis covers a group of inflammatory and degenerative conditions that cause stiffness, swelling, and pain in the joints. There are several types of arthritis each having different characteristics. The most common form is Osteoarthritis which most often involves knees, hips, and hands usually affects middle aged and older people.

Rheumatoid Arthritis which is damaging & chronic condition, causes inflammation in the joints & other tissues, heart, lungs, eyes etc. Septic Arthritis, Reactive Arthritis gout are other form of Arthritis. According to Yoga, Arthritis is not considered to be a disease in itself but rather as one symptom of a widespread metabolic & pranic malfunction which begins early in a person’s life.

Yoga offers a way to assert this process. In the early stages complete cure is possible. In later stages it reduces drug dependency, maximize mobility in the joint and make the life of the arthritic more enjoyable & acceptable. Under the guidance of a experienced teacher a crippled patient can change the outlook on life if he or she follow daily Yoga programme with determination.


The physiology of Arthritis

The normal synovial joint is a remarkable self-lubricating, living structure. Joint occurs where bones meet. Lubricating tissue called cartilage lines the end of bone & prevents friction during movement & fibrous ligaments surrounding the joint give strength & support. The joint cavity is lined with a delicate synovial membrane which secretes synovial fluid to lubricate the joint.

The cell of the Joint requires tenuous blood supply for their vital requirement. If the circulation of prana in the joint remains blocked or deficient over a long period of time, the supply of blood & lymphatic fluid becomes sluggish & the joint fluid grows stagnant. When this occurs the waste products & poisons of the waste products & poisons of cellular metabolism build up in the lubricating fluid of the joint rather than efficiently transported to the skin & Kidney for the elimination.

Though medical science recognizes several distinct forms of arthritis, Yoga says these are different stages of the same basic blockage of prana rather than different diseases. The underlying process is the same, but the variations in the rate of symptom have led a number of diagnostics tags to different sufferers of Arthritis. Among all the form of arthritis, Rh Arthritis is  the most severe, crippling and increasingly common form of arthritis. Though the cause remains unknown, in most of the cases, it is frequently triggered by a severe emotional shock or may be precipitated following the sudden introduction of foreign substances into the circulation, perhaps from the administration of a powerful drug or an acute infection. If this foreign substance accumulate in the joint spaces the immune system sends W.B.C to wage a violent inflammatory reaction against them. Offending substances can easily remove from those tissues which have good blood supply, but in the joint spaces it is very difficult to remove the wastes. The joint tissue themselves are not attacked, but they are waged. This fierce inflammatory reaction can completely destroy a major joint within a few months.

The treatment available in medical science- The treatment of Arthritis in medical science is symptomatic. It focuses on the relief of Arthritis pain, but fails to correct the underlying causes. A wide spectrum of drugs are prescribed, beginning with aspirin derivatives.Prolonged use of aspirin in large doses  can have damaging effects on the stomach, liver & kidneys. More powerful anti-inflammatory agents are given which have many harmful side effects. Then the final stage is corticosteroids which are the analogs of the hormones secreted by  the adrenal cortex. These drugs have serious side-effects. The patient’s own adrenal glands begin to degenerate or atrophy the body becomes fat. Diabetes & high Blood Pressure can occur; calcium is leached from the bone, rendering them more susceptible to fracture. The final stage is surgical removal of the affected joint & replacement of with an artificial one. These joints & replacement prove quite effective, often lasting for years. Then further replacement becomes necessary.


Main factors leading to arthritis

There are number of factors including mental, emotional stress, diet, faulty lifestyle jointly responsible for the imbalance of the central mechanism of our brain & endocrine system in which our ultimate health depends.

Mental & Emotional Stress- Deep subconscious tension, suppression of emotion, anger, guilt feeling, fear & hypersensitivity can lead to rigidity of personality which then reflected in the physical body, allergies & so on.

Psychic Rigidity- Stubbornness & fear of letting go leads to physical rigidity in the form of arthritis, rheumatism & constipation. The person with arthritis often cannot express deeper emotions & feelings, especially anger, adequately .Most of the time he/she suffers internally & this internalization of feelings creates poisons which upset the total body mechanism.

Diet- Eating excessively rich diet like meat, animal fat, heavy fried food, refined food, fast food, excessive milk, sugar, and ghee, salt plays a major role in aggravating arthritis. Over frequent small portion of meal is a good habit for arthritis patient. Diet should include a large amount of fiber to prevent constipation.

Exercise- Lack of regular exercise, habituated sitting  on chair, never sitting on the floor with cross legged position causes  stiffness in the body.

How Yoga manages most of the cases of Arthritis

Yogic management of arthritis is all embracing & it complements the medical measures. Yoga never advocates drug management of symptoms in isolation, while neglecting the other underlying causes of the problem like, exercise, Diet & lifestyle etc.

Asanas- The anti-rheumatic group of asanas designed in Satyananada Yoga tradition can effectively manage all type of Arthritis. It covers all the joints of the body simply & effectively without causing stress to the body. If one has acute pain, then he/she can proceed very slowly with fewer rounds of asanas. The most important aspect of Satyananda Yoga is awareness. When one starts his Yogic programme with awareness the effectiveness of the asana is manifold. If the stiffness & pain is acute the patient may soak his limbs in warm salty water to increase blood circulation. As the flexibility increases other asanas can be included without straining the body anyway. Other asanas include- Pawanmukta Part-2, Vajrasana Group of Asanas, Bhujangasanas etc. Ultimately, Surya Manaskar can be added to capacity to prevent further arthritic degeneration.

Shatkarma-   Laghoo Sankhaprakhyalana, Neti & Kunjal is a must to empower the digestive & eliminative system. A constipated person can never be cured from arthritis. The metabolic acid & other wastes which accumulate in the joints, bloodstream & tissues should be eliminated properly through the Shatkarma.

Pranayama- Pranayama is also important to release mental & emotional stress which is sometimes the major cause of the Arthritic pain. Sometimes when the patient is completely immobile, not able to do the simplest form of asanas can adopt a systematic Pranayama practice which works wonderfully to come out of the situation in indirect way. Bhastrika & Kapalbhati works wonder in eliminating the metabolic waste & boosts the power of digestive system which corrects all the associated problems linked to arthritis. Nadisodhan pranayama opens all the nadis, supplies prana to all the cells of the body, works upon the circulatary system. Then Bhramari & Udgeetpranayama tranquillizes the mind & emotions.

Meditation & Yoganidra– Meditation & Yoganidra releases mental & emotional tension. Deep relaxation like Yoganidra develops a positive state of mind in the patient. Yoganidra is so beneficial that works as a painkiller & mental transformation which reduces drug dependency & pain sensitivity. But initially if pain has not reduced to a certain limit,one cannot practice yoga nidra During Yoganidra practice the patient realizes the deep rooted pain as the healing process is at the peak. So, he cannot practice it initially as he can’t withstand the pain. So, initially Pranayam helps a lot.

Diet– The diet should be simple as it reduces pain & helps the excretory system & the regenerative process work optimally.

Cooked light grains, cereals, Rice, Sagodana, Chappati, and Barley are good for arthritic patient. Simple carbohydrate is good for arthritic patient as protein rich food is not suitable for the patient. Boiled pulses like Moong is a good source of protein for the patient.

Salads, fruits (except Banana) both fresh & dried nuts in small amount are excellent source of nutrition one can take. Honey can be added as it has anti-inflammatory properties in it.

Dairy products should be reduced to minimum. Avoid processed, refined synthetic food including maida. Seasonal fruits, & vegetable produced in the local area is beneficial. Occasionally non-vegetarian items like Fish, Chicken can be taken.

Evening meal should be lighter and be taken between 5 P.M – 7 P.M

Rest– Rest is a must at acute inflammatory stage.

Exercise– Exercise & Karmayoga is a must for a patient. Patient should have a determined attitude towards activity & exercise to the extent of pushing oneself to maintain a active lifestyle. Walking, swimming, gardening & other gentle form of exercise help to make the body strong.

 Mental Attitude– The most important for the arthritic patient should have a strong positive attitude & patience to follow the Yogic therapy with utmost sincerity & regularity. Initially, he has to face the initial struggle to breakdown the vicious cycle of disease which perpetuates arthritis. Once the condition is reversed & the pain is fully controlled, the joy & the freshness of the patient is unparalled & it will be visible to everybody around him.