The Benefits of Yoga in Lupus Management

June 21, 2023

The Benefits of Yoga in Lupus: Celebrating International Yoga Day

As we celebrate International Yoga Day, we’re shedding light on the benefits that yoga may offer to those living with lupus, an autoimmune disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Yoga is not only a physical exercise, but also a holistic practice that promotes balance and harmony between the mind, body, and spirit. Its gentle yet powerful techniques can enhance the well-being of individuals experiencing chronic illnesses, like lupus, by providing relief from symptoms, improving flexibility, and fostering a sense of inner calm. Today, we’re exploring the advantages – and things to consider – around incorporating yoga into your overarching disease management strategy!

Understanding Lupus and Its Impacts

Living with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease, can present an array of physical and emotional challenges. Lupus is characterized by periods of disease flares and remissions. During a flare, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues, leading to inflammation and symptoms such as joint pain, fatigue, and in some cases, organ damage. Each person’s lupus experience is unique and so is their physical ability and endurance levels. As the search for effective management strategies continues, yoga has emerged as a possible complementary therapy due to its potential to enhance physical flexibility, reduce stress, and improve overall wellbeing. If you’re a lupus patient considering yoga, it’s crucial to start slowly. (Scroll down to learn why!)

What Are the Physical Benefits of Yoga?

🤸 Improved Flexibility: Lupus can cause joint stiffness and muscle pain, often limiting mobility. Practicing yoga regularly can help increase flexibility and ease joint stiffness, allowing individuals to move with greater freedom. According to recent 2018 study in the UK, 74% of arthritic adults used regular yoga practice to dramatically reduce pain and stiffness and gain increased mobility.

💪 Increased Strength: Certain yoga asanas (poses) focus on building strength in specific muscle groups, helping to support the body and alleviate strain on the joints. Strengthening the muscles can improve posture, reduce fatigue, and enhance overall physical endurance.

🔄 Enhanced Circulation: Engaging in yoga postures, combined with deep breathing techniques, can stimulate blood circulation throughout the body. Improved circulation aids in reducing inflammation, promoting healing, and delivering vital nutrients to affected areas.

🦠 Immune System Support:
Yoga practice can have a positive impact on the immune system, which is crucial for individuals with lupus. Studies have shown that regular yoga practice can reduce inflammation and modulate immune function, thereby potentially minimizing lupus flares and supporting overall immune health.

What Are the Mental and Emotional Benefits of Yoga?

⤵ Stress Reduction: Lupus can be accompanied by significant stress and anxiety due to the unpredictable nature of the disease. Yoga offers a sanctuary of tranquility, encouraging relaxation and stress reduction. Deep breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques practiced in yoga can activate the body’s natural relaxation response, calming the mind and soothing the nervous system.

🧠 Improved Mood: Yoga practice stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood enhancers, which can help alleviate depression and elevate mood. The combination of physical movement, focused attention, and meditative aspects of yoga can contribute to an overall sense of well-being and emotional balance. In a randomized trial, people with arthritis who practiced yoga had about a 20% improvement in physical health with similar improvements in pain, energy, mood and carrying out day-to-day activities and tasks.

🧡 Self-Empowerment: Living with a chronic illness like lupus can sometimes lead to feelings of helplessness. Yoga provides individuals with a sense of empowerment as they take control of their bodies and become more in tune with their physical and emotional needs. Developing a deeper connection with oneself through yoga can foster self-acceptance, resilience, and an optimistic outlook on life.

🫂 Community and Support: Participating in yoga classes or joining online communities can connect individuals with lupus to a supportive network of people who understand their challenges. Sharing experiences, tips, and encouragement within a yoga community can provide a sense of belonging, inspire motivation, and foster resilience.


Taking It Slow: The Importance of a Gentle Start with Yoga for Lupus Patients

Yoga combines physical postures, breath control, and meditation to promote physical strength, relaxation, and mental clarity. As we mentioned above, some lupus patients can leverage yoga to help manage fatigue, improve mood, and foster a sense of wellbeing. However, given the significant physical challenges associated with lupus, it’s important to approach yoga gently.

Why Start Slowly?

1. Avoiding Overexertion: As a lupus patient, you might experience days when your energy levels are low. Overexertion can potentially trigger a flare, so it’s essential to start with gentle yoga poses and gradually increase intensity as your strength and stamina improve.

2. Preventing Injury: Yoga involves various poses that might be challenging for beginners, especially those with joint pain or reduced mobility. Starting slowly allows you to learn the correct form and avoid injuries.

3. Building Mind-Body Awareness: A slow start also helps you develop body awareness, an essential aspect of yoga. By focusing on how your body feels during each pose, you can learn to listen to its signals and respect its limitations.

4. Reducing Stress: Diving headfirst into complex yoga routines can be stressful. Starting slowly with easy poses can promote relaxation, an important element in managing lupus symptoms.

Tips for Starting Your Yoga Journey

Here are some tips to help you start your yoga journey gently:

1. Seek Medical Advice: Before starting any new exercise regimen, consult with your healthcare provider. They can advise you on what types of exercise are safe for your current health status.

2. Find a Qualified Instructor: Look for a yoga instructor experienced in working with individuals with chronic illnesses. They can provide modifications to suit your abilities.

3. Listen to Your Body: This cannot be stressed enough. If a pose causes pain or discomfort, stop. Yoga should feel nurturing, not painful.

4. Practice Patience: Progress in yoga isn’t about mastering the most difficult poses but about developing strength, flexibility, and tranquility over time.

Remember, the goal of incorporating yoga into your lupus management strategy is to improve your quality of life. So, honor your body, start slowly, and embrace your yoga journey at a pace that suits you. Yoga is a holistic and transformative practice that holds immense potential for individuals living with lupus. Its numerous physical, emotional, and mental benefits make it an invaluable tool in managing the symptoms and improving the overall quality of life for those with this autoimmune disease. As we celebrate International Yoga Day, let us recognize the power of yoga to heal, restore, and uplift individuals with lupus, offering them a path towards improved well-being, self-discovery, and inner peace.


Getting Started: FREE Guided Yoga Sessions For Lupus Patients

🎥  Chair Yoga Session with Dr. Monica Blied (Lupus Patient and Clinical Psychologist)

🎥 Floor Mat Yoga Session with Vee Desai (Lupus Patient and Owner of Beach Yoga SoCal) 


To learn more about ways to stay physically active while living with lupus, learn about Lupus and Exercise here. Check out the free Home Workouts for Lupus Patients Playlist on Lupus LA’s YouTube Channel. From Chair Yoga and Outdoor Stretching to Strength Building and Formal Workouts, there’s something for everyone.  These special movement sessions are designed with lupus patients in mind, in order to support different patients with different abilities. Remember to always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new mental health management regimen. Remember, you are not alone on your lupus journey!