Can yoga help with osteoarthritis (OA)?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

If you have osteoarthritis (OA), yoga can help you, even if your achy joints have limited range of motion or aren't very flexible. You don't have to twist yourself into a pretzel to do yoga. In fact, you can even do chair yoga. The gentle stretching motions of yoga increase strength, flexibility and balance, which translates to less pain, better function and a better quality of life.

Yoga can be an enjoyable alternative to more traditional forms of exercise like water aerobics, and if you enjoy your exercise, you're more likely to stick with it. If you want to try yoga, look for a beginners class or one that focuses on gentle yoga and is taught by a certified instructor.

Yoga is an exercise program that combines stretching and deep breathing. One study found that yoga reduces pain and increases physical function in women who have osteoarthritis of the knee.

Check with your doctor and local health clubs to find a yoga program for beginners that incorporates easy stretches taught by a certified yoga instructor.

As a sufferer of osteoarthritis, I can attest to the healing benefits of yoga. For starters, yoga brings about a body awareness that is far heightened from that of our non-mat-loving counterparts. This heightened awareness helps those of us suffering from inflammatory disease to know when we need to slow down and also take a closer look at our diet. In other words, yogis don't ignore the problem, they dig deep into the roots.

My personal yoga practice does not always stay the same due to OA. There are times when placing pressure on the joint (in vinyasa flows, down dogs and planks for example) does not feel good. On those days I will choose a lighter practice that involves reclining postures and twists.

Core Strength Vinyasa (CSV) is a great way to learn how to align the body and pull from muscular energy, as opposed to placing undue pressure on the joints themselves. CSV teaches proper alignment along with core strength to combat any overuse of the joints themselves.

A regular yoga practice can certainly provide relief to stiff, achy joints. Remember, yoga is just like other workouts in that too much can cause overuse and injury. Listen to your body and learn what feels good to you.


Yogi Cameron Alborzian
Alternative & Complementary Medicine

One mistake that many people make in response to the onset of disease in the body is that what is good for one person is good for another person. Case in point, someone might think that certain postures will benefit everyone suffering from osteoarthritis the same way they will benefit those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. And yet, the imbalances that cause one disease are often very different from those that cause the other.

The traditions that come out of India teach us that each person has an individual consitution that makes them prone to certain imbalances. With this in mind, if someone is suffering from osteoarthritis, a certain approach to yoga postures may benefit them but other approaches could exacerbate their issues. The Ayurvedic tradition suggests that osteoarthritis is a result of an imbalanced air element in the body, and this element is aggravated by excessive movement, dryness, and cold.

With this in mind, yoga postures can help with osteoarthritis if they're practiced in a way that helps to ground the body, nourish it, and avoids exacerbation of various issues. If a posture sequence included a lot of vigorous movement, it might lead to even more airiness and cause injury to osteoarthritic bones. However, if it's practiced gently and with stability, it may help to reduce the impact that the disease has on the body.

Geraldine M. Navarro, MD
Yoga can help with osteoarthritis (OA). Yoga involves deep breathing, stretching and poses that tone, strengthen and align the body. This low-impact exercise is easy on the body and can improve flexibility and muscle strength.
Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
Only a few scientific studies have been performed on the effect of yoga on arthritis, but the results are promising. Yoga has been shown to decrease body aches and can make mild improvements to physical functioning, joint health, and quality of life.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.