I recently met a friend who twisted his back a few weeks ago. He’s still stiff, and hunched over because he’s walking with a zimmer. He asked me about stretching exercises to straighten his back, and also about relieving sciatica, which he’d been told he might develop. As it happens, conversation then turned to somebody we know who has arthritis. The 17th Century writer and historian Anthony à Wood observed in his diary one January that:
Beginning of this month colds became very frequent, many sick and keep up, colds without coughing or running at the nose, only a languidness, and faintness, certainly Oxford’s no good air.
And indeed, Oxford lies in a river valley, has suburbs and roads whose names derive from “marsh” and “ferry”, has a region in the University Parks named Mesopotamia — “between the rivers” — and is cursed with perpetual damp. It must be one of the worst places for arthritis in the UK.
So how can yoga help? One of my specialities is aerial yoga, a class I teach on Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings in the Beat Studio in Summertown. Look at my photos, and in the Aerial Yoga section, you will see people suspended on aerial yoga hammocks. It might look like an activity from the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Society warm-up book; but in fact, it is excellent for making the spine more flexible with supported stretches. It encourages space between the vertebrae with suspended inversions. It increases upper body and core strength with weight bearing exercises, and lifts mood and strengthens the immune system with stimulation of the upper glands – pineal, pituitary, and hypothalamus.
You might give it a go and feel the benefits!