How can Water Exercise and Aquatic Yoga help people with Arthritis and rheumatic diseases?

On Episode 25 of the Arthritis Life Podcast, Christa Fairbrother shares her journey with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD) which expresses as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for her. She delves into why water exercise and aquatic yoga are particularly beneficial for people with rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, and connective tissue diseases such as MCTD. 

Christa Fairbrother is a skilled and experienced water aerobics and aqua yoga instructor who also lives with multiple chronic illnesses. For Christa, living with arthritis and teaching yoga are integrated.  She credits her lack of pain to aqua yoga practice.  Being passionate about aqua yoga, she wants to see aqua yoga in more communities worldwide.

Other places to listen to the arthritis podcast:


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Here’s the show breakdown:

01:15 – Christa’s diagnosis journey: symptoms of RA and Lupus symptoms started at age 12, initial diagnosis of Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD) after the birth of her 2nd son.

05:05 – Christa’s MCTD symptoms (including Raynaud’s) and why it’s so hard to get this rare diagnosis.

8:00 – Christa and Cheryl reflect on what it’s like to live with multiple chronic conditions, not knowing at times what is causing which symptom.

10:40 – Christa’s up and down journey managing her conditions over many years.

15:30 – Cheryl and Christa explain what connective tissue and fascia are.

17:33 – Christa’s journey with yoga, which started when she had back pain being a farrier (a craftsperson who trims and shoes horses’ hooves). 

19:40 – After 20 years of doing yoga, Christa became a yoga instructor.

22:11 – What is aqua yoga, and how Christa discovered and fell in love with it.

25:33 – The numerous medical benefits of exercise in the water for healthy people and those living with arthritis. 

32:15 – Christa’s explanation of the offloading of gravity in the water due to buoyancy and how it gives your muscles a more balanced effort.

34:55 – Christa discusses how accessible swimming pools are in the US. 

38:55 – Thoughts around safety and germs with aqua yoga and swimming during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

41:55 – Interested in the Arthritis Foundation’s aqua therapy program? Here is how you can find it at a local water center!

44:40 – Christa describes what happens in an aqua aerobics class.  

47:43 – Cheryl and Christa’s insights on why group classes make people feel empowered, especially during COVID-19. 

50:56 – Cheryl and Christa’s views on how the sensory elements of water can help regulate our mood, from prenatal experiences to adulthood.

55:25 – Christa’s advice on what to do if your joints hurt in the water.

1:01:30 – Salt water pools VS. Chlorine pools and water safety advice that you may not be aware of. 

Cheryl Crow, the host of the Arthritis Life Podcast, is an occupational therapist who has lived with rheumatoid arthritis for seventeen years. Her life passion is helping others with rheumatoid arthritis figure out how to live a full life despite arthritis, by developing tools to navigate physical, emotional and social challenges. She formed the educational company Arthritis Life in 2019 after seeing a huge need for more engaging, accessible, and (dare I say) FUN patient education and self-management resources.  Cheryl’s website: Arthritis Life

cover slide for the aqua yoga for arthritis course

If you’re ready to practice aqua yoga to improve your arthritis

If you’re a Podcast lover, listen to these other podcasts I’ve done:

If you’d like to listen to other podcast interviews I’ve done, pop these in your earbuds:

Aqua Yoga and the Chakras on The Chakra Way Podcast

Flow with Aqua Yoga on the Flow Artists

Persistence with aqua yoga on the Persistence U podcast

Meet Christa Fairbrother on Conversations for Yoga Teachers

Aqua Yoga on Veganish and All Things Healthy

What is Aqua Yoga on Intuitively Rich

Interoceptive Aqua Yoga on The Yoga Pro podcast

Aqua Yoga for Arthritis on Arthritis Life

Medical Disclaimer: All content linked to the Arthritis Life public channels was created for generalized informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  


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