Yoga for Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Best Poses for Pain Relief

Shamlee Pathare

May 14, 2022

Yoga, a spiritual discipline, is based on a highly subtle science. It is over 5000 years old and focuses on bringing balance between the mind and the body. As a result, it reduces the risk of many diseases. Additionally, it also helps in relieving pain and stress. One such disease is Rheumatoid Arthritis. It’s an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, swelling and stiffness in the human joints.

It also causes the synovial lining of joints to degenerate. RA is common amongst women of all ages, but women between 50 and 60 years are more prone to it. While there is no cure for it, yoga can benefit by slowing the progression of this disease.

How Yoga Benefits Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

Research suggests how people with Rheumatoid Arthritis can benefit physically and psychologically from regular yoga practice. Yoga helps RA patients improve their flexibility, making everyday physical activities like walking easier. In addition, it enables you to regain muscle strength, increasing joint flexibility and mobility.

Yoga incorporates deep breathing, which lowers stress levels in arthritis patients, which is commonly a side effect that intensifies the condition. It can assist in reducing inflammation and pain. Additionally, it can also be adapted to meet the individual needs of most people. 

Yoga Poses for Rheumatoid Arthritis

1. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

This pose eases the joint pain making the knees strong and flexible. It helps relieve the pain caused by sitting in the same position for long hours. It also stretches the lungs, chest, and shoulders while strengthening the spine. Additionally, it boosts energy, aids in digestion and fights fatigue. This pose can benefit older people with knee discomfort as well. 


  • The first thing is to lay down on your belly with your feet apart and your hands beside your ribs.
  • Then, extend your toes backwards and press them down. 
  • Inhale and press your hands down on the ground. Start to lift your head and chest.
  • Now, keep your arms straight. Stretch your neck and focus on raising your chest.
  • Finally, exhale and lightly release yourself to the ground.


Avoid performing this if you:

  • Have a severe spinal injury.
  • Feel any discomfort or pain in the lower back.
  • Are pregnant.
  • Have a pain in the wrist or a related medical condition.

2. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

This backbend stretches the thighs and opens up the chest, increasing blood flow to the core, hips and thighs. It also helps in strengthening the finger joints, wrists, and shoulders. Additionally, it reduces backache, stress and anxiety. Finally, it brings better body and mind alignment.


  • Step 1: Begin by lying on your back. Allow your head and shoulders to rest on the ground.
  • Step 2: Bend your knees to place the sole of your feet flat on the ground. The feet should be parallel and about hip-distance apart. 
  • Step 3: Bring your feet inwards, inhale, and lift your hips high toward the ceiling. Press your forearms down on the ground to lift your hips more.
  • Step 4: Keep thighs hip-distance apart and parallel. Move your chest towards your chin, lengthening your tailbone towards your feet. Relax your face and hold the pose for five deep breaths.
  • Step 5: On exhaling, let go of your hands. Slowly lower your hips and lay down on the ground. 


  • Avoid performing the Bridge pose if you have  a shoulder injury.
  • Do not tilt your head while practising it.
  • Do not perform if you have a fracture, severe Osteoporosis or joint dysfunction.

3. Tree Pose (Vrikshasana)

This pose improves the strength of the legs and back muscles while enhancing body balance. Regularly practising it strengthens and increases the range of motion of the knee and spine. Additionally, it aids in the relief of arthritis-related pain.


  • Step 1: Standing with your legs close to each other. Raise one leg slightly so that most of your weight falls on the other leg. 
  • Step 2: Place your foot’s heel on the other leg’s thigh. Bring it as close to the pelvis as feasible.
  • Step 3: Raise your hands over your head slowly. Point your fingers upwards, palms facing each other.
  • Step 4: Hold the position and take a few deep breaths. Slowly lower your legs down on the ground.


  • Do not practice it if your blood pressure is low.
  • Avoid it if you have a severe leg or thigh injury or a headache.

4. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

This posture is incredible for improving blood circulation. It stretches the calf muscles and the hamstrings. It helps in strengthening the neck and shoulders. Moreover, it increases your vitality and cures impotence.


  • Step 1: Sit straight on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.
  • Step 2: Stretch your arms upwards while inhaling. Exhale and lean forward towards your toes while keeping your spine erect.
  • Step 3: With your fingertips, hold the big toe. Take regular breaths.
  • Step 4: Exhale and slowly bend forward, bringing your forehand to your knees while keeping your elbows on the floor.
  • Step 5: Stay in this position for 10-15 seconds. Then, slowly return to a sitting position.


  • Do not perform if you suffer from slip disc, back injury or abdominal ulcer.
  • Don’t entirely stretch if you’re menstruating or pregnant.
  • Avoid doing it if you have been pregnant for over two months.

5. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

This posture helps in stretching the spine. It unlocks the hip flexors and shoulders, allowing more flexibility. Additionally, it reduces injury risk and stimulates your organs. Finally, it activates your core, promoting digestion and reducing anxiety. The triangle pose can also benefit in relieving stress in the lower back.


  • Step 1: Stand straight with your legs apart. Turn one foot outwards, your toes facing sideways.
  • Step 2: Extend your arms sideways now. Bend at the hips and lower one arm to the leg, turning outwards. Raise the other arm to the sky.
  • Step 3: Exhale as you bend down. Place your arm on your ankle or knee, whichever is more comfortable. Ensure that your hips are aligned straight.
  • Step 4: Hold this position for five deep breaths. Exhale and lift yourself to a standing position. Repeat the same on the opposite side.


  • When performing this asana, avoid overstretching the body.
  • Slightly lower the neck if it pains in the upward direction.
  • Avoid doing this asana if you have:
  • Significant neck, back, or shoulder pain
  • Any form of a knee injury, spinal disorders, high blood pressure.
  • Breathing problems, migraine or heart disease.

6. Wind Releasing Pose (Pavanamuktasana)

It is most helpful in releasing unwanted gases from the digestive system. It helps in improving the quality and efficiency of your digestive system. Moreover, it relieves indigestion, bloating, acidity, and constipation. Other than that, it releases tension in the spine, lower back, hips, and thighs.


  • Firstly, start by lying down on your back, knees and arms extended.
  • Then, draw both of your knees towards your chest. Make a fist and wrap your hands around your knees.
  • Release your left leg and extend it along the floor. Pull your left knee closer to your chest and clasp your hands around both knees.
  • Now, Release your right leg and extend it along the floor. 
  • Next, draw both knees to your chest at the end. Hold it for a minute.
  • Finally, release and expand both the legs with an exhale.


Do not practice this pose if you are:

  • Recovering from abdominal surgery or a hernia?
  • Have a spinal injury or sciatica.
  • Are pregnant 

7. Cat-Cow Stretch (Chakravakasana)

The cat-cow stretch helps in increasing spine flexibility. As a result, it helps relieve back discomfort, a common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, it works wonders for reducing joint pain and any musculoskeletal problem since it stimulates the lower back and thoracic spine. 


  • Firstly, come on all your fours, with palms on the floor. Place your hands below the shoulders and knees below the hips.
  • Next, inhale and look up, raising the chin and pushing the navel downwards. Simultaneously lift your tailbone.
  • Now, curl your back and bring your chin to your chest while exhaling.
  • Then, relax and then repeat it 4-5 times more.


Do not practice this if you have:

  • Any injury in the shoulder or upper body.
  • Pain in the wrists. It puts significant pressure on those joints. 
  • Damage to your knees.
  • Pregnant women should practise it under the guidance of a professional.

8. Lumber Stretch (Supta Matsyendrasana)

This pose improves spinal mobility due to its twisting effect and can aid digestion. In this pose, stretching occurs at the chest, glutes and hamstring muscles. Also, it improves alignment and reduces stiffness from the hips. It further enhances the body posture. Regularly practising this can relieve lower back pain and tightness in the shoulders.  


  • Lay down on your back. Bring your arms to the sides with the palms facing down in a T position. Bend the right knee while placing the right foot on the left knee.
  • Now, move your hips to the left, moving in the lifted knees towards the right elbow.
  • Tilt your neck and stretch to the left to look towards the left fingertips.
  • Next, hold the pose and breathe while twisting. Then, release the feet to the floor and repeat it to the other side.


  • Avoid doing it if you are experiencing back pain, hip or knee injury.
  • Do not perform if you have degenerative disk disease.

The Bottom Line

Rheumatoid arthritis is not curable, being an autoimmune disease. Hence, it becomes essential for the affected individuals to stay fit. You can do it with the help of walking, practising yoga, and eating foods rich in vitamins and calcium. In addition,  research on people with RA shows how yoga reduces depression and anxiety. Another study suggests how yoga benefits sedentary adults with arthritis. Therefore, we recommend you practice yoga with a rheumatologist or a professional. It will help you modify the poses to achieve arthritis-relieving results.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What is the best climate for rheumatoid arthritis?

A. People with arthritis may experience pain in places with high humidity, low temperature, and low barometric pressure. As per research, the weather is a contributing factor to joint pain. Hence, a warm and dry climate is ideal. People in these conditions report fewer flare-ups, improved bone health and reduced pain. 

Q. How can I reverse rheumatoid arthritis?

A. RA can not be reversed or cured. However, natural and medical treatments can help in easing your pain. It can help reduce and control some of the symptoms. Yoga and a healthy diet may gradually lessen its severity and improve symptoms. 

Q. What are the 3 symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

A. The three common symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis include stiffness in joints wherein you may feel sore and have difficulty moving, inflammation under which joints may be difficult to bend or straighten due to inflammation, and fatigue. It occurs along with mild nausea, lack of appetite, and sensitivity to smells. 

Q. Can you treat RA without medication?

A. Rheumatoid arthritis isn’t fully curable. However, deep breathing exercises and meditation are beneficial. For example yoga, it aids in the reduction of pain. In addition, apply heat packs to improve blood flow to the affected area and take warm showers. Also, exercise regularly to increase bone and muscle strength. 

Q. What are the five signs of rheumatoid arthritis?

A. Some of the common signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis are morning stiffness, joint pain, increased eye sensitivity and dryness, an unpredictable chronic sense of fatigue that feels overwhelming, lack of appetite and sudden weight loss. 

Q. What triggers rheumatoid arthritis?

A. Being an autoimmune condition, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy body tissue. The cause of the trigger is still unknown. However, obesity and genetics can also be a factor. 

Q. Which exercise is harmful to rheumatoid arthritis?

A. Power yoga involves intense and advanced poses. It is challenging and hence, not suitable for people having RA. High-intensity workouts (HIIT) can also cause pain because it’s vigorous. Begin with a basic level of fitness that improves strength, endurance and flexibility. Gradually, adjust your workout accordingly. 

Q. How can I reduce my rheumatoid factor naturally?

A. Follow a plant-based diet as it provides antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation. Exercise enough and manage your weight. Moreover, it relieves stiffness and weakness. Get a massage to provide an overall sense of well-being. It may also help manage joint pain and relieve stress. Use healthy cooking oils like olive and canola. Consume a large number of whole grains.  

Q. What is the best exercise for arthritis?

A. Pilates manages the pain and increases joint flexibility. Being a low impact activity, it is safe for the affected joints and benefits people coping with rheumatoid arthritis. It focuses on strengthening muscles while also improving posture. A study shows the benefits of Clinical Pilates Exercises in Patients With RA.

Q. How can I get fit with rheumatoid arthritis?

A. Research suggests how regular exercise can help RA patients’ strength and flexibility. Muscle strength can help support your joints, while increased flexibility can help with joint function. In addition, exercise can help you feel less tired and boost your energy. Improved general fitness also reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes that frequently accompany rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, it will help you stay fit and active.

About the Author

Shamlee seemed destined to take up a career in Yoga, having started practicing the discipline at the tender age of 3. She completed her Master's and her Bachelor's degrees in Yoga Therapy from the S-VYASA University. A specialist in Diabetes and Stress Management, Shamlee has conducted research on how Yoga aids individuals with common ailments at AIIMS, New Delhi. A former member of the Indian Yoga team, she is presently a Yoga Team Lead at HealthifyMe. Shamlee believes Yoga is the answer to any individual's health issues, whether they are physical or mental.

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