Scleroderma, which means "thick skin" in Greek, is a condition that affects the skin and connective tissues by hardening and tightening blood vessels and collagen. Yoga is often recommended to those suffering from the disease, as certain poses and exercises can increase flexibility, strength and mobility while also alleviating symptoms of skin tightness and joint contraction.
There are two main types of scleroderma that tighten up the fibers that provide support and a framework for the body. Localized scleroderma affects the skin in certain areas of the body, where as the more severe systemic scleroderma affects the skin and internal organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys and digestive organs. According to the MayoClinic, scleroderma affects women more often than men, occurs in people between 30 and 50 years of age, and is not considered a genetic or contagious disease.
How Yoga Can Help
A yoga practice designed for scleroderma patients can greatly relieve the symptoms of the disease and provide significant health benefits. Specific poses and sequences may stimulate glands and functioning of the immune system as well as improve circulation and normalize blood pressure. Flexibility, muscle and joint mobility can increase through practice, and certain poses can massage the abdominal organs, improving digestion. Breathing capacity and the elasticity of lung tissue can also greatly improve, which is significantly important for individuals suffering from systemic scleroderma.
Specific Yoga Poses
Kathy Randolph, a certified yoga instructor, has designed a yoga practice for scleroderma, which involves on-the-floor, seated and standing poses. Her practice involves spinal twists, such as Marichyasana, or Marichi's pose, and Ardha Matsyendrasana, or Half Lord of the Fishes pose, which extend and stretch the spine and tone and massage the internal organs for improved digestion and elimination. Paripurna Navasana, or Boat pose, and back-bending Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, or Bridge pose, help to strengthen the core, while Trikonasana, or Triangle pose, and seated Ardha Chandrasana, or seated Half Moon pose, offer a side stretch.
Bandhas and kriyas, which are static postures that restrict or contract certain parts of the body, can also be effective in relieving scleroderma symptoms by offering significant digestive relief. One of the bandhas that Kathy Randolph recommends is uddiyana bandha, where the abdomen is moved in and out while you stand, hands on the knees to protect the lower back. Another is the nauli kriya, where the abdomen is moved back and forth, which can allow the contents of the colon to churn to a more liquid form, allowing gravity to take over the functions of any impaired, smooth colon muscle.
Leena Oijala is a writer and advocate of sustainable fashion and textiles, yoga, sustainable living and organic, closed-loop gardening. Since completing a degree in fashion at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London in 2011, she has written for publications and companies such as "Organic Spa Magazine," EcoSalon, Source4Style, The Green Stylist and Organic Authority.