If you suffer from ankylosing spondylitis, or Bechterew's Disease as its also called, yoga can be a great way to manage the pain and stiffness that comes with the condition. I myself have lived with AS for nearly a decade and I also happen to be a 500 hour certified yoga teacher so I know firsthand how beneficial yoga can be as part of your treatment plan. Here are my top three yoga poses to help you with your Ankylosing Spondylitis symptoms:
1. Sphinx Pose
Sphinx pose is a gentle backbend that helps to increase flexibility in your spine and chest area. To do sphinx pose, start by lying on your stomach on the ground. Place your elbows underneath your shoulders and press your forearms and palms into the ground. Gently lift your head and torso off the ground, drawing your shoulder blades down your back while keeping your hips rooted to the floor. Engage through your sholder blades by gently pulling on the mat with your forearms, like your trying to pull your whole body forward. Hold this pose for five breaths before slowly returning to the starting position.
2. Puppy Pose
Puppy pose is a gentle backbend that helps to gently stretch the spine and shoulders. To do puppy pose, start on all fours on the ground with your hands directly below your shoulders and knees under your hips. Walk your hands forward while keeping the hips over the knees, rest your forehead on the ground (you can also use a block or cushion here if needed). If your chest can come all the way to the floor you can place your chin on the floor instead of your forehead. Keep your arms straight and root through all four corners of each palm into the floor or come up onto the fingertips for a deeper stretch. Hold for five breaths before slowly returning to all fours or sliding forward into Sphinx pose.
3. Thoracic Rotations
Thoracic rotations are helpful for improving mobility in the upper back, rib cage, chest, and shoulders. Start laying on your side with knees bent 90 degrees. Place your bottom arm straight out in front of you and place the other arm on top so the palms are together. If your neck is uncomfortable, feel free to use a pillow! Keep both arms straight as you start rotating through the upper body with the top arm reaching towards the floor on the other side - it doesnt have to touch the floor! That comes with time, so no worries. But thats the direction. You can do 10 reps back and forth, moving slowly with your breath, and then hold the last one for about a minute.
If you want a practice along yoga class for ankylosing spondylitis, below is a class that includes all these 3 yoga poses and more! Give it a try and let me know how it feels!
Practicing these three yoga poses can help relieve your ankylosing spondylitis symptoms like pain or stiffness. Remember to always listen to what feels good or comfortable for your body. Its ok (and necessary) to push ourselves but we need to learn to listen to our bodies so we can tell the difference between "I dont feel like it" vs "this feels really wrong in my body". This goes for practicing any type of physical activity and especially when we have an existing condition like ankylosing spondylitis! With dedication, consistency, and patience you CAN find relief - even when dealing with chronic pain! You got this!
Happy practicing, lovely!