If you’re struggling with painful or weak joints, you may be avoiding exercise, to reduce the inflammation and sensitivity. But did you know that practicing yoga can help strengthen the joints and certain poses can actually reduce joint pain? Here’s our top reasons why yoga can strengthen the joints, as well as some poses to practice if weak joints are affecting you.
A joint is the place where two bones meet, and are made up of bones, tendons to connect your muscles to your bones, ligaments, cartilage for cushioning and synovial fluid for lubrication and to reduce friction. Most joint injuries occur from working out too hard, lifting weights that are too heavy, repetitive movement or falling. Common injuries are sprains and strains that inflame the joints and cause pain.
Yoga is a great way to ease back into exercise while also helping to strengthen joints.
Yoga works to increase your range of motion, which reduces future injury. As each joint has a range of motion that is usually measured in degrees. This includes extensions, which is moving the joints backwards, and flexion, moving the joints forwards. This can differ between person to person and joint to joint, but practicing yoga more often can increase this range of motions, and help reduce the risk of joint pain while also serving to strengthen the joints.
Yoga also works to improve the strength of the muscles around your joints. The tendons around the bones support the joint, and by practicing yoga you can strengthen these muscles to help support the body, and reducing strains on your joints. If you have weaker muscles, your body starts to rely on its joints to stay stable, running the risk of your joints locking out and causing stress. Keeping strong muscles is a simple way to keep your joints strong.
Yoga also increases bone strength, which is another key component to keeping healthy joints. Bones are the main part of joints, so it’s logical that healthy bones equal healthy joints. Activity such as yoga signals to the cells of the bones to increase production. This leads to stronger bones which help joint strength in turn.
Another part of the joints is the cartilage, and yoga can help keep joint cartilage healthy. Staying active and mobile can help keep your joint cartilage in good health, so yoga can really help improve joint strength. If you don’t keep mobile, cartilage can actually deplete, increasing the risk of joint injury.
Finally, practicing yoga can help circulate your synovial fluid around your joints. Keeping active and mobile helps keep your synovial fluid healthy. Synovial fluid is crucial for healthy joints, as the right amount of fluid allows the ends of your bones and cartilage to move around easily instead of grinding on each other.
Yoga Postures to strengthen your joints
While practicing yoga as a whole will undoubtedly help keep your joints healthy, there are a few poses that will specifically help strengthen the joints, and heal them if you are post-injury.
Vaerbhadrasana, or warrior pose, is an ideal pose for strengthening your knee joints, as well as helping stretch and release any stress and tension from the shoulders. It is great for bringing balance to your body. This pose also strengthens your legs and upper back, and stretches your hip flexors. If you are a beginner, you may find it easier to raise your back heel on a block, as it may be difficult to keep your back heel on the floor while lengthening your lower back.
Dhanurasana, or Bow Pose, is great for opening your shoulders and helps strengthen the four joints that make up the shoulder joints. It also provides a great stretch for the front of your body, as well as the deep hip flexors, and can strengthen your back muscles, though be careful in this pose if you have back or neck injuries. You can use a strap if you cannot hold your ankles directly in this pose, or deepen it by touching your legs together.
Setu Bandhasana, or Bridge Pose, is another pose that is great for strengthening your knee joints, and can also help if you suffer from weaker bones. It can also stretch your chest, neck and spine and improve digestion issues as well as reducing anxiety and stress. Avoid this pose if you have neck injuries, avoid this pose. You can modify this by lifting the pelvis and using a block underneath you, or deepen this pose by lifting your heels off the floor.
Trikonasana, or Triangle Pose is a great pose for strengthening the leg, knee and ankle joints. It can also stretch your hamstrings and relive back pain. If you can’t comfortably touch your bottom hand to the floor in this pose, make sure you support yourself with a block. You can also align your front heel with the arch of the back foot for a deeper stretch.
As well as staying mobile and practicing yoga, there are other changes you can make in your life to help you improve your joint strength. Always make sure that you look after your body when you’re getting active and playing combat sports, and listen to any aches and pains. You may need to wear a brace on your wrists or knees if you have issues with these joints. If you are exercising, always remember to warm up lightly first to loosen your joints – and low impact sports are better to protect your joints. Finally, make sure you are getting enough calcium and fish oil in your diets, as these are key components to help healthy joints.
By Amy Cavill
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