01 June 2017
Objective: Yoga may improve physical function and reduce disease symptoms in adults with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, little is known about how patients with RA are practicing yoga in the community. The objective of this qualitative study was to explore community yoga practice characteristics and thoughts about yoga practice for adults with RA.
Design: Participants completed a semi-structured telephone interview with open-ended questions. Thematic analysis was used to analyze interview transcripts.
Participants: A convenience sample of 17 adults with rheumatologist-diagnosed RA who had participated in yoga within the past year were asked about the decision to start, continue, and stop yoga; the perceived benefits of yoga; components of yoga sessions; and general thoughts about yoga as it relates to RA.
Results: Although eight different styles of yoga were practiced, commonalities in yoga class components (such as stretching, strengthening, deep breathing, meditation, and positive messaging from the instructor) reveal examples of preferred types of yoga for patients with RA. Three main themes emerged, each with multiple subthemes: (1) motivators (physical fitness, influence of others, reduced price), (2) barriers (cost, symptom burden, class difficulty), and (3) benefits of yoga practice (mind–body, a tool for coping, pride/achievement, social, and “yoga meets you where you are”).
Conclusion: In this study, patients with RA described how yoga practice helped improve physical and psychosocial symptoms related to their disease. Yoga practice, a dynamic exercise, encompassing many different styles, can provide many benefits for adults with RA; however, yoga may not be beneficial for every adult with RA.