Yoga may increase your flexibility, reduce pain, and help you sleep better — and you can even do it on your couch.
As someone living with psoriatic arthritis (PsA), I know that managing pain and inflammation can be a real challenge.
While exercise can be an important management tool, it can also be highly frustrating because movement sometimes worsens symptoms. People with PsA often have to experiment with different types of exercise before finding one that works for them.
That was my experience with yoga, which is often touted as an ideal form of movement for people living with arthritis. However, not all yoga is the same. There are many different styles and choosing the wrong one for me originally resulted in excruciating pain.
After several failed attempts, I tried sofa yoga. It has made all the difference. Here’s what you need to know about sofa yoga, plus tips for trying it yourself.
I will never forget the first yoga class I participated in shortly after my PsA diagnosis. The 5-minute walk back to my car ended up taking 30 minutes. Tears were streaming down my face by the time I got there.
I sat in the driver’s seat with throbbing pain in my wrists, ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders, praying for enough energy to drive. By the time I arrived home, every muscle in my body had reacted. I was bedridden for several days.
Then I tried seated yoga. While It was a better experience than my first, the only chair I had available was wooden and too hard on my hips and tailbone.
When I found an online sofa yoga class, it changed my perspective on yoga. The movements were gentle, like chair yoga, but without the added pain from sitting on a hard surface.
Sofa yoga is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a type of yoga performed on a sofa, bed, or thick mattress pad. This form of yoga is ideal for people with PsA because it doesn’t put pressure on sensitive joints like the wrists, knees, and tailbone.
Since starting sofa yoga, I’ve been able to stick to a routine and enjoy more flexibility and less pain.
Yoga comes with a lot of health benefits. For people with PsA, sofa yoga can provide many of the same benefits without being hard on their joints.
One of the main benefits of yoga is improved flexibility, which is great for people with PsA because stiffness is one of our main symptoms. Doing yoga regularly helps keep my joints mobile and reduces tension.
As Disneyland annual pass holders, my husband and I go to the park for dinner and a ride at least once a week. One of our favorite attractions is Web Slingers, an interactive ride where guests use their “Spidey powers” to sling webs.
As you can imagine, there is a lot of arm action. Before adding sofa yoga to my routine, my shoulders would ache for days after playing. But after just 6 weeks of sofa yoga, that was no longer the case.
Exercise is an essential part of managing PsA pain, and studies have found that yoga can help ease arthritis pain. Sofa yoga helps me stay active without aggravating my symptoms or depleting my energy. Instead, it prepares my body and mind for the day. I look forward to doing it every morning.
The longer I stick to my sofa yoga program, the better I can combat pain while away from home. I’ve even incorporated some of the movements from sofa yoga while seated in my wheelchair, helping reduce neck, shoulder, and back pain.
Another common symptom of psoriatic arthritis is insomnia, which can be caused by pain and stress. Luckily, regular yoga practice has been shown to improve sleep quality and help people fall asleep more easily.
I start my day with sofa yoga because it gives me more energy. Being alert throughout the day makes me more tired at night and helps me fall asleep faster.
If sofa yoga sounds like something you want to try, a quick Google search will turn up plenty of free videos. I find my sofa yoga programs on a health coaching app called BetterMe. It’s free to download, but I pay for some subscription services in-app. Because of its convenience and the results I receive, I find it’s well worth the price.
Being able to exercise at home is very important to me. Several debilitating chronic illnesses make it difficult for me to attend exercise classes in person. Sofa yoga is something I can do even while on vacation. I’m good to go as long as I have a bed and an internet connection.
Finding an exercise program that works for you can be challenging, but it’s worth it to help manage your symptoms and feel your best. As always, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor before starting a new movement regimen for PsA.
Sofa yoga isn’t a cure for my PsA pain and symptoms, but it is one of my greatest pain management tools. It’s helped me in so many ways — from improving my flexibility to reducing my pain levels — and I hope it can do the same for you, too.
Medically reviewed on November 28, 2022
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