According to recently obtained statistics, the United States is currently home to around 52.5 million people who are living with arthritis. This makes a recent study that is claiming that yoga can improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, two of the most common forms of the disease, extremely significant.

Susan J. Bartlett, an associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore and one of the coauthors of the study, along with her colleagues published the findings of their study in the Journal of Rheumatology.

For those who are not familiar with the term “yoga”: it’s a practice involving our mind and body and incorporates a balanced combination of meditation and relaxation, breathing and stretching exercises.

Other than helping in reducing stress and anxiety, yoga over the years have been linked to a number of health benefits. For instance, a study published last year suggested that performing just one yoga pose daily for 90 seconds can improve spine curvature in patients with scoliosis. In addition, another recent study found that practicing yoga might improve the overall quality of life for people suffering from breast cancer.

According to Bartlett, use of yoga as a complementary therapy is becoming increasingly common for a range of medical conditions. Right now, nearly 1 in every 10 individuals in the United States practices yoga for improving their health. Bartlett and her colleagues wanted to find out whether the practice has any benefit in store for individuals with arthritis.

It’s true that there’s no cure for arthritis, but, experts since a long time have been saying that physical activity can help in alleviating symptoms of the disease considerably. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people suffering from arthritis should engage in vigorous-intensity aerobic activities for at least 75 minutes or moderate-intensity aerobic activities for t least 150 minutes every week.

However, during their study, Bartlett and her team found that as much as 90% of people suffering from arthritis don’t succeed in meeting those CDC recommendations, most likely due to the stiffness and pain caused by the condition.

Bartlett said that yoga can particularly be helpful for patients with arthritis as it combines physical activities with highly powerful relaxation and stress management techniques. Also, she feels that yoga’s ability of focusing on and respecting limitations of these patients is another big plus.

Bartlett and her team enrolled a group of 75 adults suffering either from rheumatoid arthritis or from knee osteoarthritis for finding out how yoga can help patients with arthritis. Some of the adults in the group were assigned randomly to participate in bi-weekly Hatha yoga sessions of 60 minutes for eight consecutive weeks. These patients were also made to practice yoga at home once every week during this period. The remaining patients were included in a waiting list.

After the eight week period was over, it was found that the participants who practiced yoga experienced 20% improvement in their pain, mood, and energy levels compared to the patients in the waiting list. That’s not all; patients are practicing yoga also experienced 20% improvement in their physical functions. What’s more, all these improvement stayed evident even after nine months.