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Suffering Is Optional

Yoga for Arthritis

A memorable quote from Buddhist teachings tells us that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. When we're dealing with symptoms of arthritis, fighting to regain the quality of our life, these words take on so much significance, and they become a source of inspiration.


Recently I learned that arthritis is costing our economy $33 billion right now, not just in health care costs, but also from lost productivity. This number is on track to balloon up to $67 billion in 15 years. It impacts all aspects of our lives and our ability to work, because let's face it, arthritis is not just a problem for “old people”! It's affecting more young people than ever before and rates of diagnosis are increasing at an alarming rate! And if we're dealing with arthritis, there's an 80% chance that we're dealing with another painful chronic condition too!


Many advances have been made on the allopathic medicine approach, and now we're seeing exciting research  about the effectiveness of mind/body interventions, such as yoga, on managing arthritis symptoms.


A gentle, restorative yoga practice that is adapted to meet people where they are, is the key to success. By modifying the practice and using mindfulness techniques, people experience improvement in dealing with symptoms right away. Flexibility, range of motion, and ease of movement are enhanced, regardless of their type of diagnosed arthritis.


Dealing with the pain of arthritis results in a natural desire to reduce or eliminate our activity levels. But surrendering to this feeling exacerbates the problem, and there's a very real danger of creating a downward spiral in all areas of our health, including our emotional well-being!

The key is to find and engage in movements as often as possible, but only the kind of movements that create a feeling of “ahhhh!” instead of “ouch!”.


When we practice gentle and restorative yoga, we are moving with awareness and attention, as we stay within the range of motion possible for us during that practice. If we move into the pain zone, we back off and do less, or do something different. When we slow things down and connect breath to the movement and fully experience the movement of prana, life force, and vitality, we can feel positive results in one session.


We use grounding poses to help us calm the Air/Vata imbalance, and we feel secure and supported, switching on the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), where deep healing happens.Long savasanas are also helpful in engaging the PNS, reducing stress hormones and allowing the mind to become calm and enabling the body to restore. BKS Iyengar inspires us with his view that "Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured."

Deborah Devine is a trusted teacher and host of Healing Yoga, an innovative and inclusive fitness program and a gentle, accessible practice for all ages, abilities and fitness levels. Healing Yoga airs daily in Canada on OneTV, and VisionTV. Visit and subscribe to