How yoga and gentle exercise has helped me manage my arthritis

Yoga at home to help with arthritis with Jump Up Online

At the beginning of this year, I had to give up my waitressing job and move back home because my health had deteriorated. I wasn’t managing my colitis well and I was having increasing problems with my joints. Since having my second ostomy surgery and starting medication for my arthritis, I’ve found that I’ve been able to exercise more. Yoga and similar exercise classes have been perfect for helping me gain mobility again.

I want to stress that I don’t think you can cure chronic conditions with exercise. However I am a strong believer that a good combination of diet, exercise and the right medication CAN be beneficial. 

When I first found out I had arthritis this summer, I did question how much exercise I was going to be able to do. I thought it might limit what I was able to do and it really effected me. 

For the past 4 years I’ve been going to BalletFit which is ran by someone I know quite well so I felt comfortable going back to a small class once I was ready where I could learn how much I could actually do. 

BalletFit is a combination of ballet, core, hit and stretching and our class has some yoga and meditation at the end too. I went back this summer (around August time) and I’m starting to notice a real difference. 

One of the areas which my arthritis effects is the small of my back and through gradual exercise, I’ve noticed a change; it’s not as stiff and I feel like I have more movement there. 

How to introduce yoga and stretching into your life

Starting a new exercise routine can be scary, especially if you have health problems to deal with as well. I think one of the most important things is getting a good yoga mat. I’ve been using the Jump Up latex-free yoga mat and it’s worked really well. Not only does it look gorgeous, it’s a really good thickness so you feel supported whilst doing exercises. 

When you’re choosing a yoga mat, it’s really important to make sure you buy a suitable one. This is because you don’t want to damage your back. If in doubt, ask a yoga teacher who will be able to advise you more. 

The second most important thing is getting advice for starting. If you’ve never done anything before, it might be worth trying a class. Find somewhere where you feel comfortable going.

Don’t forget to discuss your health problems with the teacher as certain exercises may need to be altered for your needs. 

I’m also a really big fan of Yoga with Adriene who creates lots of great yoga videos you can do at home. She often does monthly challenges too (for all abilities) which are a great way to get stuck in with too! The great thing about this is it’s completely free and you can pick and choose what to do. 

The best exercise when you have arthritis

When I first met my rheumatologist, she told me not to over do it on exercise. She also told me not to do anything which jars my joints; things like running and jumping are two things which do this a lot. 

I didn’t want to not exercise at all though. Exercise is important not only for physical health but mental health too. I didn’t want to become and anxious potato couch! 

When I went online onto the Nass charity website I found that exercise is REALLY important for arthritis as you want to retain as much movement as possible.

The best forms of exercise for people with arthritis include;

  • yoga/pilates
  • swimming
  • cycling

These are great because they work the joints without putting pressure or weight on them. They promote stretching which is really important too. 

Key things to remember when exercising and starting yoga with a chronic illness

Don’t feel like you have to be the bendiest person to start yoga. Take it slow – it’s not a race. Taking it slow will mean that you will do the movements properly and be able to grow and improve every time. 

Also, don’t compare yourself to other people if you’re in a class. This is a tough one and has taken me a long time to start doing. Focus on yourself and your own improvement. I promise you, you will see an improvement and when you do, it feels great! 

I’m such a believer in using exercise along with medication to help alleviate symptoms. My thought is that you want your medication to work the best it can therefore you have to try and get your body to the best it can be (albeit chronic illness does make this A LOT harder but it’s by no means impossible!)

Have you found that exercise has helped your chronic condition? 

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