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Arthritic Spine Yoga
Time Image Pose Description
yoga pose Supine Knees BentLie on back. Knees bent. Legs and arms out wide. Palms up. Release lower back to floor. Close eyes. Abdomen rises on inhale and falls on exhale. Feel heavy with each exhalation.
Alternatives: Crocodile. Child.
Benefits: Tune into body. Calm. Tranquil. Inner Peace. Clarity.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/gGT2PmZ84Wg
Modifications: Knees up. Blanket under knees. Blanket under head.
yoga pose Revolved Abdomen TwistLie on back. Arms stretched out at shoulder height. Palms down. Bend knees. Feet flat on floor. Swing hips to left. Pull knees toward chest. Drop knees to floor on right side. Inhale. Lengthen spine. Lower shoulders to floor. Repeat on right.
Sanskrit: Jathara Parivartanasana
Benefits: Flexible spine. Digestion. Circulation.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/XKunL4LW4fc?rel=0
Modifications: Keep legs straight. Cross legs. Hands behind head.
yoga pose Supine Arms OverheadLie on back. Palms down. Raise arms until they touch floor behind.
Alternatives: Crocodile. Child.
Benefits: Flexibility in spine, shoulders.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/usdHjjQNU64
Modifications: Knees bent. Blanket under knees and/or head.
yoga pose Knees To ChestLie on back. Legs and arms extended. Both knees to chest. Clasp hands around knees. Wrap forearms over shins. Clasp each elbow with opposite hand. Keep back flat on mat. Release shoulder blades down toward waist. Draw tailbone and sacrum down. Lengthening spine. Softly rock backward and forward or side-to-side for a spinal massage. Tuck chin slightly. Gaze down. Hold. Release.
Sanskrit: Apanasana
Benefits: Massages spin. Lower back stretch. Good for posture. Relieves tired legs. Strengthens back. Firms abdominals. Strengthens legs and hips. Cures joint pains. Improves blood circulation in legs.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/TVk4ht8V8J8
Modifications: Knee to chest.
yoga pose BananasanaLie on back with legs together and straight. Reach arms overhead. Clasp hands or elbows. With buttocks firmly glued to the earth, move feet and upper body to the right. Arch like a ripe banana. Don't twist or roll hips off the floor. When your body opens more, move both feet further to the right and pull upper body further to the right. Swap sides.
Alternatives: Crocodile. Child.
Benefits: Stretch whole side of body.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/Mywqh-A-O4A
Modifications: Savasana. Supine With Arms Raised. Supine With Knees Bent. Supine With Arms Behind Head.
Precautions : Back pain.
yoga pose ButterflySit with legs outstretched. Bend knees. Bring soles of feet together. Keep heels close to body. Relax inner thighs. Clasp feet with both hands. Gently bounce knees up and down, using elbows as levers to press legs down.
Sanskrit: Baddha Konasana
Benefits: Awakens tired legs. Opens hips.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/Bv6IJBehD6U
Modifications: Folded blanket under buttocks. Blocks below knees (stretch inner thighs). Clasp ankles, shins or toes. Place back against wall.
Precautions : Groin or knee injury.
yoga pose Easy Chin To ChestSit or stand. Close eyes. Slowly move head forward, trying to touch chin to chest. Move head as far back as is comfortable. Don't strain. Feel stretch in front and back of neck and loosening of the neck. Repeat several times.
Sanskrit: Greeva Sanchalana
Benefits: Flexibility in neck.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/vSRVFModIHk
Precautions : neck injury.
yoga pose Easy Ear To ShoulderSit or stand. Close eyes. Face directly forward. Relax shoulders. Slowly move head to right and try to touch right ear to right shoulder (without raising shoulders). Repeat on other side.
Sanskrit: Greeva Sanchalana
Benefits: Flexibility in neck.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/vSRVFModIHk
Precautions : neck injury.
yoga pose Easy Head TurnSit or stand. Close eyes. Gently turn head to right so chin is in line with shoulder. Feel tension releasing in neck muscles and loosening of neck joints. Slowly turn head to left as far as is comfortable. Repeat several times.
Sanskrit: Greeva Sanchalana
Benefits: Flexibility in neck.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/vSRVFModIHk
Precautions : neck injury.
yoga pose Shoulder RotationsPlace right hand on right shoulder and left hand on left shoulder. Inhale and rotate shoulders up towards ears (neck and head relaxed). Exhale and rotate shoulders back and down by squeezing shoulder blades together. Change direction. Feel shoulders becoming unglued.
Sanskrit: Skandh Chakra
Benefits: Improves posture.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/SzWxM_W4DNA
Modifications: Eyes closed.
yoga pose Easy Side Bend ISit with legs crossed. Lower knees. Lengthen spine by stretching back up. Raise arms overhead and bend to the right. Bring right hand to floor. Repeat on left side.
Alternatives: Hero. Perfect. Lotus.
Sanskrit: Sukhasana
Benefits: Flexibility in hips, spine. Engages core.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/52I0T7JXJpI
Modifications: A) Bring elbow flat on floor. B) Look up or down.
Precautions : Knee injury.
yoga pose Easy TwistSit with legs crossed. Inhale. On exhale twist torso to right. Repeat on left.
Sanskrit: Parivrtta Sukhasana
Benefits: Stretches spine, shoulders, hips. Relieves backache, sciatica.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/R2pQdH0LX_U?rel=0
Modifications: Sit sideways on a chair and twist.
yoga pose Cat CowSit with buttocks on heels. Come onto all fours. Wrists under shoulders. Pull navel into small of back. Inhale while raising head. Exhale, while lowering head and arching spine up like a cat. Repeat.
Sanskrit: Marjaryasana
Benefits: Stretches lower back. Engage care. Decompress spine.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/kqnua4rHVVA
Modifications: Knee to chest. Raise leg or arm.
Precautions : Neck injury.
yoga pose CowStart on hands and knees. Knees below hips and wrists. Centre head in a neutral position. Eyes gaze at floor.
Sanskrit: Bitilasana
Benefits: Stretches torso, neck. Massages spine, core.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/kqnua4rHVVA
Modifications: Paired with Cat Pose. Cow with arm extended.
Precautions : Neck or wrist injury.
yoga pose ChildSit on heels. Walk hands forward until forehead touches floor. Arms alongside legs. Alternatives include: Child with head on bolster. Child with bolster between legs. Child pose with arms extended. Child with hands on back. Child with cheek on mat. Child with leg raised and arms extended.
Sanskrit: Balasana
Benefits: Stretches hips, thighs, and ankles. Relieves back pain.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/qYvYsFrTI0U
Modifications: Interlock fingers behind back.
Precautions : Pregnancy. Knee injury.
yoga pose Kneeling Superman ICome onto all fours. Hands under shoulders. Knees under hips. Raise right leg. Return to start. Raise left leg. Don't raise legs above buttocks. Repeat.
Alternatives: Cow.
Sanskrit: Bitilasana
Benefits: Strengthen core muscles, trunk and lower back.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/STvo35VczKI
Precautions : Wrist injury.
yoga pose Cow Arm RaisedCome onto all fours. Hands under shoulders. Knees under hips. Raise right arm. Hold. Return to start. Raise left arm. Hold. Repeat.
Sanskrit: Bitilasana
Benefits: Strengthen core muscles, trunk and lower back.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/STvo35VczKI
yoga pose CobraLie face down. Feet together. Toes pointing behind. Hands flat on the floor by the rib cage. Lift chest. Gaze forward.
Alternatives: Sphinx. Crocodile.
Sanskrit: Bhujangasana
Benefits: Supple spine. Strengthen palms, wrists, toes.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/zgvolE4NAH0
Modifications: A) Cobra with a folded blanket under hips. B) Cobra with one leg raised. C) Cobra with two legs raised. D) Cobra with one arm raised in front. E) Cobra with two arms raised in front. F) Cobra with one arm raised to the side. G) Cobra with two arms raised to the side. H) Cobra on elbows. I) Cobra with both hands behind the head. J) Revolved cobra. K) Striking cobra (extended child to cobra). L) Chair cobra (seated backbend). M) Baby cobra (don’t lift chest all the way up).
Precautions : Pregnancy. CTS. Back injury.
Resources:
yoga pose CrocodileRelax on stomach. Arms folded on floor above head. Widen legs. Roll feet so heels point in. Squeeze buttocks. Press pelvis into floor. Rest forehead on arms.
Alternatives: Leg or arm lift.
Sanskrit: Makarasana
Benefits: Stretches back, legs, buttocks. Reduce stress. Improve posture.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/MZynS2i3n28?rel=0
Modifications: Place forehead in Yoni Mudra.
Precautions : Pregnancy.
yoga pose SamasthitiStand tall. Feet together. Drive legs into earth. Lift sternum to sky. Feel sunshine entering spine. Contract abdominal lock. Align mind to spine. Stand in that beautiful centre line of gravity. Open heart centre. Let body mould itself around calm inner power.
Alternatives: Mountain.
Benefits: Improves posture. Strengthens legs. Engages abs.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/Om03hOv_jcU?rel=0
Modifications: Reach up to ceiling with fingertips.
Precautions : Pregnant.
yoga pose Roll DownsStand tall. Feet hip distance. Chin to chest. Head & arms hang loose. Starting at top of spine roll slowly through spine (bend knees if necessary) until hands touch mat. Roll back to standing.
Alternatives: Tabletop. Gorilla.
Sanskrit: Uttanasana
Benefits: Calms the brain. Helps relieve stress. Stimulates liver and kidneys. Stretches hamstrings, calves, & hips. Strengthens thighs & knees. Improves digestion. Helps relieve symptoms of menopause. Reduces fatigue. Relieves headache & insomnia. Therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, infertility, osteoporosis & sinusitis.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/aw2HM3QZlaQ
Modifications: A) Bent knees. B) Loop fingers around big toes. C) Place upper back against wall. D) Place hands on blocks that are positioned close to your feet. E) Baby standing forward bend (bend only half way down). F) Use a chair or wall for going half way down. G) Do not use leverage in the pose to go deeper into the bend. Instead let the body be loose as a goose while bending and allow the spine take its time to stretch forward. H) Place head on a chair when in the forward bend. I) Do Gorilla pose (palms under soles of feet).
Precautions : Back, knee, hamstring injuries.
yoga pose Goddess Anjali MudraStand tall. Arms by sides. Step feet out wide. Turn toes out slightly. Bend knees and lower hips into a squat. Thighs parallel to floor, but not into a deep squat. Tuck tailbone. Press hips forwards. Draw thighs back. Knees in line with toes. Soften shoulders. Gaze softly. Hands in Anjali Mudra (palms together) over heart.
Sanskrit: Utkatakonasana
Benefits: Hip & chest opener. Strengthens thighs, buttocks, & hamstrings. Stretches groin. Opens shoulders & chest. Strengthens core. Strengthens upper leg muscles (quads & inner thighs). Creates space in the pelvis by lengthening and relaxing hip muscles.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/wgXefCprLm0
Modifications: A) If squat is difficult sit on front edge of chair. B) Come onto tiptoes. C) Hands resting on thighs in Aakash Mudra (join and press tip of third finger with a tip of thumb). D) Raise up on toes and cross arms. Gaze down at mat. E) Goddess with a twist. F) Back against a wall. G) Gentle Goddess (don't lower into full squat). H) Raise arms overhead. I) Raise arms parallel to the mat with palms facing away and fingers pointed up. J) Goddess pose with eagle arms (arms interlocked).
Precautions : Knee, leg or shoulder injury.
yoga pose Mountain Palm LockStand with feet together. Interlock fingers behind back. Straighten arms and lower shoulders. Raise hands and bring shoulder blades together. Gaze up. Feel chest opening. Hold.
Sanskrit: Setu Bandha Talasana
Benefits: Deepens breath. Stimulates thyroid gland. Opens chest. Improves posture.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/2HTvZp5rPrg
yoga pose Chair Arms BehindStart in Mountain (standing with feet close together). Raise arms perpendicular to floor. Keep arms parallel, palms facing inward. Bend knees. Firm shoulder blades against back. Bring arms behind back as if you're skiing.
Sanskrit: Utkatasana
Benefits: Strengthens ankles, thighs, calves, spine. Stretches chest.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/ySafTekJ3Ls
Modifications: Block between thighs. Join palms overhead.
Precautions : Headache. Insomnia. LBP.
yoga pose Warrior IStart in Mountain. Wide stance. Press into outside edge of back foot. Bend forward knee (stop above ankle). Body weight centred. Arms overhead. Switch sides.
Alternatives: Warrior II, III
Sanskrit: Virabhadrasana I
Benefits: Stretches chest, shoulders, abs. Strengthens arms.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/4hqmLOpkHrw?rel=0
Modifications: Back heel on folded blanket.
Precautions : High blood pressure. Shoulder injury.
yoga pose Warrior IIStart in Mountain. Step feet wide apart. Raise arms parallel to floor. Palms down. Turn right foot in to right. Left foot at 90 degrees. Align left heel with right heel. Bend left knee over left ankle. Stretch arms parallel to floor. Turn head to look over fingers. Repeat on other side.
Alternatives: Warrior I, III
Sanskrit: Virabhadrasana II
Benefits: Stretches groin, chest, shoulders, and abdominals. Relieves backache.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/4Ejz7IgODlU?rel=0
Modifications: A) High lunge with arms overhead. B) High lunge with backbend. C) High lunge with arms forward. D) High lunge with blocks under hands. E) High lunge with hands on hips. F) Block under back foot. G) Raise back heel on a folded blanket.
Precautions : High blood pressure. Shoulder injury.
yoga pose Reversed WarriorFrom Warrior II bring rear hand down back of rear leg. Bring front arm next to ear. Front knee bent over ankle. Reach rear hand down as you come into a Backbend. Gaze up. Switch sides.
Alternatives: Warrior I, II, or III.
Sanskrit: Viparita Virabhadrasana
Benefits: Strengthens legs. Stretches spine.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/h_iHFVf-1J4
Modifications: Raise back heel on folded blanket.
Precautions : High blood pressurere. Shoulder or back injury.
yoga pose Extended Side Angle Elbow On ThighStart in Downward Facing Dog. Step right foot forward next to right hand. Bend right knee. Right elbow on right thigh. Left arm up (form line with body). Open chest. Repeat on left.
Alternatives: High or Low Lunge.
Sanskrit: Utthita Parsvakonasana
Benefits: Stretches legs, groins, and hamstrings. Opens chest and shoulders.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/qgd25hEbnXk
Modifications: A) Using wall for back support. B) Using wall for extended arm support. C) Block placed by foot. D) Place a chair in front of bent knee for extra support making sure chair does not move. E) Place bent thigh over a chair. F) Keep arm on thigh (instead of placing palm on the mat). G) Gaze down instead of up. H) Place hand in front of foot instead of behind.
Precautions : Knee injury.
yoga pose Standing FoldStand in Mountain. Stretch arms overhead. Bend knees slightly (don't straighten knees by locking them back). Fold forward from your waist. Back of neck soft. Hang loosely. Allow the spine take its time to stretch forward.
Sanskrit: Uttanasana
Benefits: Calms the brain. Helps relieve stress. Stimulates liver and kidneys. Stretches hamstrings, calves, & hips. Strengthens thighs and knees. Improves digestion. Helps relieve symptoms of menopause. Reduces fatigue. Relieves headache and insomnia. Therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, infertility, osteoporosis, and sinusitis.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/hrp6Q_QyDkc?rel=0
Modifications: A) Bent knees. B) Loop fingers around big toes. C) Place upper back against wall. D) Place hands on blocks that are positioned close to your feet. E) Baby standing forward bend (bend only half way down). F) Use a chair or wall for going half way down. G) Do not use leverage in the pose to go deeper into the bend. Instead let the body be loose as a goose while bending and allow the spine take its time to stretch forward. H) Place head on a chair when in the forward bend. I) Do Gorilla pose (palms under soles of feet).
Precautions : Back, knee, and hamstring injuries.
yoga pose Half Way LiftStand in Mountain. Bring palms to tops of thighs with fingers pointing down. Push hands into thighs. Lengthen from tailbone through crown of head. Upper body parallel to floor.
Alternatives: Tabletop. Gorilla.
Sanskrit: Ardha Uttanasana
Benefits: Stretches hamstrings, calves, hips.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/ihj4dVBXMPg
Modifications: Bring both arms behind.
Precautions : Back injury.
yoga pose Butterfly TwistSit with legs outstretched. Bend knees. Bring soles of feet together. Keep heels close to body. Relax inner thighs. Twist to right. Hold. Repeat on left.
Alternatives: Butterfly.
Sanskrit: Baddha Konasana
Benefits: Improve digestion. Detox. Flexible spinal muscles. Reduce back pain.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/Bv6IJBehD6U
Modifications: Folded blanket under buttocks
Precautions : Groin or knee injury.
yoga pose BridgeLie supine. Bend knees. Set feet on floor. Heels close to sitting bones. Press inner feet and arms into floor. Push tailbone up. Lift buttocks. Clasp hands below pelvis.
Sanskrit: Dwi Pada Pitham
Benefits: Chest, neck, spine stretch. Reduces backache.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/EU2JS2Pm2EY?rel=0
Modifications: A) Baby Bridge (raise up to a comfortable position). B) Bridge with a blanket under shoulders. C) Bridge with leg up. D) Clasp hands around ankles. E) Block below shoulders. F) Block, or bolster, below the lower back. G) Feet close to a wall to prevent slipping.
Precautions : Knee or neck injury.
yoga pose Knees To ChestLie on back. Legs and arms extended. Both knees to chest. Clasp hands around knees. Wrap forearms over shins. Clasp each elbow with opposite hand. Keep back flat on mat. Release shoulder blades down toward waist. Draw tailbone and sacrum down. Lengthening spine. Softly rock backward and forward or side-to-side for a spinal massage. Tuck chin slightly. Gaze down. Hold. Release.
Sanskrit: Apanasana
Benefits: Massages spin. Lower back stretch. Good for posture. Relieves tired legs. Strengthens back. Firms abdominals. Strengthens legs and hips. Cures joint pains. Improves blood circulation in legs.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/TVk4ht8V8J8
Modifications: Knee to chest.
yoga pose SavasanaLie on back with legs and arms apart. Feet to side, palms up. Release lower back to floor. Close eyes. Abdomen rises on inhale and falls on exhale. Feel heavy with each exhalation.
Alternatives: Crocodile. Child.
Benefits: Tune into body. Calm. Tranquil. Inner Peace. Clarity.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/YBe1nzunHJ0
Modifications: Knees bent. Blanket under knees. Blanket under head. Supine star (legs & arms spread out).

This lesson plan was for a student with an arthritic spine who had little mobility. Yoga may cause painful flare ups in the short term because more movement is required from the joints.

A little discomfort is okay in the short term because it means the joints are loosening in the long term.

Don't let the flare up be too painful.

Start your practice with gentle warm ups. If it is painful to hold a pose, don't stay for more than a few seconds. Instead, develop mobility in the joints by flowing in and out of the pose.

Use props when needed.