Living with RA: Get Up and MOVE IT! Exercising with Yoga to Stay Centered

Patient Expert

When asked by my rheumatologist last week what type of exercise I do on a daily basis, I completely forgot to mention yoga.   Now, I don't engage in yoga everyday, but I do try to take some time for myself on a regular basis.

Yoga helps me to stay focused and in-tune with my body.   So often I will find areas of tightness which need to have the courage to "let go."   If you are wondering if I mean this physically or mentally, it's a bit of both.   Unless I'm listening to a yoga instructor who has the class doing something which I absolutely am incapable of doing, I am traveling within with my mind.

The yoga class I've most recently attended locally is called the "Gentle Yoga" class.   We do a lot of stretching and gentle movements.   After a 90-minute session, I always feel better.   My joints seem to have more space in them as does my mind.

To be honest, it's the calming the mind aspect of yoga which I find more challenging.   I am not one to not be thinking about something.   I'm always thinking about something.

When it comes to yoga, sometimes the movements which seem the simplest are actually the most beneficial.   A couple of years ago, Sara Nash shared two yoga moves which I find quite centering.   With the Tree Pose, I do however keep the toes of my lifted foot touching the ground so as not to fight the balance aspect of the exercise.

Why didn't I think of yoga when my rheumatologist asked about exercise?   Probably because it's not the type of exercise which gets my heart rate up.   If anything, my breathing and heart rate probably slow down unless I'm completing a series of moves such as the Sun Salutation.

My doctor very strongly emphasized that she wants me up and moving every single day.   Here is part of the conversation we had last week.

"Do you watch TV?", she asks.

"Some, but not too much," I reply.   "But I do spend lots of time on the couch on my computer."

"I want you to get up every 20 minutes and walk around," she declares.   This is actually harder than it sounds because 90 minutes can go by before I've even noticed.   Of course, I am stiff as a board when I do get up and my knees and elbows hurt, which is not good.

"If you can't get an exercise bike in front of the TV, then get a stepper and march up and down during all of the commercials," she suggests.   "Or get up and take a walk outside."

Now that the weather has shifted into autumn, the idea of walking outside is much more pleasant than it was a month ago.   Walking is a favorite exercise of many people living with RA including our community member and writer V.

Watch our exercise video to see the variety of activities which our community members engage in.   You'll even see me completing a simplified version of the Sun Salutation.

Exercise is possible for patients who experience RA at many different levels of ability or disability.   It's important to not give up.   And, don't think that if you can't something everyday that it isn't worthwhile to do something every other day, or even once a week.

The important thing is to DO SOMETHING!   This is a message which I know that I need to hear over and over again.   When motivation is low, I try to remember that this is the only body I'm ever going to get.   I can't turn it in for a newer model, so I better give it the best chance possible to serve me well for the long haul.

How about you?   What type of exercise do you do regularly?   Does your rheumatologist ask you this question?   How do you stay motivated?