6 Chair Yoga Poses For Your Psoriatic Arthritisby Julie Cerrone Croner Patient Advocate
In a previous post, I talked about why yoga was an important tool in managing your psoriatic disease, but what if the last thing you want to do is move? What if you’re in so much discomfort, that getting to a yoga class isn’t an option? Lucky for you, you have options! There are many different ways to start a yoga practice. Sure, you can go to a class, but you can also do it on your own.
Back in 2012, I had the worst psoriatic arthritis episode I’ve had to date. It left me immobile for a long period of time. Not being able to move, or put weight on my leg for 6 months, took an emotional and physical toll on my body.
I started doing yoga postures in a chair, which got my body moving, balanced out my nervous system, helped clear my head, and really started to help strengthen my body to work up to a regular practice. As cheesey as it sounds, chair yoga saved me mentally, physically and spiritually.
You may think that these moves are doing much, but they actually are really beneficial to your body. The following are a few asanas (the sanskrit word for posture) that you can easily do in a chair at home. Start by trying a few of them, and eventually work them into a daily routine. Your body and mind will thank you!
Seated Breathing - Sukhasana Variation
To begin your yoga practice, you’ll start off by noticing your breath and coming into your body. Sitting up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor, make sure you have proper posture, but that you’re also comfortable as well. Rest your hands gently in your lap.
Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breathing. Notice where your breath is occurring. Are you breathing from your upper chest or are you breathing from your lower belly? Take a few moments to notice where your breath is.
Inhale and exhale through your nose, taking in as much oxygen as you possibly can to fill that lower belly. Moving through 7 - 10 full, deep breath cycles, your body will start to come into it’s own and allow the mind to focus inwards.
Moving with your breath, you’ll raise your leg on the inhale, and then on an exhale, lower the sole of the foot back down to the ground. Be mindful to engage your leg muscles as you move from left to right, but also to engage your core. This movement works a lot more than just your legs, so make sure to keep you mid section tight and engaged.
Move back and forth between your legs until you have raised and lowered each 10 time.
Coming to the edge of your chair, bring both of your legs straight out in front of you. With your heels firmly planted on the ground, flex your feet so your toes are pointing up towards the ceiling.
Inhale, raise your arms up toward the sky and then exhale forward fold down towards your legs. Remember to keep your chest forward and your spine long. Maybe your hand only come down to your thigh, or your knees, or perhaps you can reach all the way down to your feet. Honor yourself for where you are and respect your body's limits. In time, you can stretch out your muscles and start to become more flexible.
Paschimottanasana translates into “Intense Western Stretch Pose” so you’ll probably be feeling this one from your hips all the way down to your feet! Breathe into the back of your legs to relax into the pose and ease tension in the muscles.
Single Leg Raises
Keeping your legs extended in front of you, stay at the end of the seat and grip on to the side of the chair to help maintain balance. Inhale your right leg straight up towards the ceiling. On an exhale, lower your heel back down to the ground. Then repeat on the other side, Inhale your left leg up towards the sky and exhale lower. Just like we did with the marching, bring awareness to your core and make sure that the movement is originating from an engagement midsection.
Continue moving back and forth between your left and right leg, with your breath, until you have done 10 on each side.
Spinal twist - Parivrtta Sukhasana variation
Sitting tall and strong, with your feet flat on the floor, bring your awareness to your lower abdomen. This is where we want the “twisting” action to come from.
Inhale, raise your arms up towards the sky, and then exhale bringing your left hand to your right knee and your right hand to the back of your chair. Focus on that lower belly. Are you twisting from there or are you just twisting your upper body? Keep your neck soft and don’t crank it. You want your neck to remain stress-free, so make any adjustments that you need to.
Remember to BREATHE in your twist. Twists are great for digestion, but because we’re twisting where we should be taking our breaths, it can make it a little more difficult. Make deep, full belly breaths a priority in your twists! Remain in this twist for 5 full breaths. On an exhalation, come back to center. Repeat on your left side.
Seated Pigeon - Kapotasana variationSitting tall and strong at the edge of your chair, inhale your right knee up toward the sky just like we did in our “marching" pose. On an exhale, bring your right ankle to your left knee, creating a figure 4. Maybe your hips are super tight (which is so true for many of us) and you can’t bring that leg all the way down to horizontally rest across your left. That’s fine! Again, yoga is about honoring your body where it is. In time, when your hips begin to loosen up, you’ll find you’ll have more mobility in this posture.
Keeping your spine long and straight, breathe into this hip stretch. If you would like a deeper stretch, begin to bring your chest down towards your knee. But remember to keep that spine long and straight!
Try to add these postures to your daily routine, and see what happens! Any movement that you can bring to your body will bring great benefits to your overall health. Yoga is really about moving with your breath and honoring yourself where you are. Make sure that when you do each posture, you’re focusing on taking deep inhalations and exhalations from your lower belly. And most importantly, make sure that you’re honoring yourself and respecting your limits. Yoga can, and will, greatly help you to manage your psoriatic disease symptoms!