Yoga has many positive health benefits, from increased flexibility to better blood circulation to speedier injury recovery times. It can also be good for your joints, a problem area that many of us have as we age.
While yoga poses of all styles will be beneficial to your health, there are certain poses that are optimized to promote joint health and pain-free movement. Try these out if you’re in pain, and take proactive strengthening measures if you’re not.
This pose is an adaptation of the bridge position many learn in childhood phys-ed class or gymnastics. Lying on your yoga mat, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Slowly lift your body while keeping your head, neck, shoulders, and arms pressed into the mat. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your knees directly over your heels. The bridge pose strengthens the knee joints and can be helpful to those with osteoporosis.
The warrior sequence involves some of the most well-known yoga poses. Warrior 1, 2, and 3 involve yogis standing with their legs wide apart, positioned as though they’re about to head into battle. With your knees bent and shoulders elevated, the warrior poses help increase balance and strengthen knee joints. Warrior 3 involves forming a 90º angle with your legs by lifting one off the ground. This will further strengthen the knee that remains in support, while also benefiting the ankle joint.
This pose is recommended by the John Hopkins Arthritis Center as an ideal movement for those with stiff muscles. It requires less flexibility than some other poses, and has many adaptations depending on your ability level. Standing up straight, the forward fold involves the body slowly folding in two at the hips. Roll your spine forward until you’re hanging staring at your shins. Bend the spine as much as you can, using a chair for support if necessary. The forward fold will strengthen your hips and knees and also improve flexibility in the rest of your leg.
This classic abdominal exercise is also ideal for joint health. Lying on your stomach, place your lower arms on the mat and bend your elbows 90º. Lift your body off the mat so your weight is on your lower arms and the toes of your feet. Try to hold your body as flat as possible, which often means lowering your lower back and buttocks. The plank pose is an excellent all-around strengthener, and is especially beneficial for your wrists, arms, and legs. Try to do a number of sets that are held for 30 seconds.
The bow pose makes it look as though you’re skydiving on your yoga mat. Lying on your stomach, the bow pose has you spread your shoulders and stretch back your arms, grabbing your ankles. This pose is excellent for shoulder joints, and also provides a good opportunity to stretch your back and quadricep muscles down through your legs.
Bound Angle Pose
This pose is regularly incorporated into people’s cool down exercises, but can also be a good pose for your hip joint. Bend your legs at the knee and have the soles of your feet meet. Tuck the heels of your feet as close to your pelvis as possible. This pose should ideally be held between one and five minutes and opens your hips and strengthens your knee joints.