Yoga Poses for Lupus Flares – Restorative chest openers

The team that conducted the original Yoga for Arthritis research protocol has been working on a similar study for minority populations.  That study is winding down and they are looking to develop a study focusing on yoga for lupus.  In talking to them recently about the lupus study, I was reviewing some of the restorative chest-opening poses I use during lupus flares.  I thought it might be helpful to share, so here’s a brief review of my favorites.

Supta Baddhakonasana, Reclining Butterfly pose, is a great pose to incorporate into a restorative warm up.  To set up your props, use a bolster or three blankets tri-folded.  Add a blanket double-folded, perpendicular to the others, so you have a T-shape.  Make a loop with your belt.  Sitting in front of your props, slip the belt around your body, insert one foot and then the other into the belt loop.  Your feet should be soles together, knees open out to the sides.  The belt wraps around the back of your hips, not up on the back of your waist (it should be firm but comfortable behind you and on your feet).  Put your hands behind you on the prop and lower yourself back onto the prop.  Additional props under your knees (either blocks or rolled blankets can be helpful for).  Breathe deeply into your side ribs.  Your hands can be open like in the picture or on your side ribs to give you a reference point for breathing.  A mantra meditation can be really effective here.  Stay for up to 5 minutes.  Bring your knees together, slip off the belt, and roll to the side to get up.

 yoga poses for lupus, private yoga teacher st petersburg

This is a great shoulder/chest opener to do during a flare.  When I don’t feel good physically, I mentally curl up too.  This pose is great for counteracting those mental and physical constrictions.  I’ve laid out the blocks at the heights that work best for me, adjust for yourself as needed. 

One block set at the middle height runs parallel to your spine.  Cover it with two or three layers of blanket.  The other block is perpendicular at the highest height set far enough away to support the back of your head when you lay down.  Sit in front of both blocks and lower yourself back with the strength of your arms.  The block you’re laying on will stop around the bottom of your floating ribs.  Make sure the block your head is on is nice and stable and supporting your head comfortably.  You will probably have to reach back and adjust it after you’ve laid down.  Shoulders are rotated out, palms up.  Stay up to 5 minutes.  Roll off to the right side when you are done.

After you’ve gone on with your practice, these are two restorative poses I like to wind down with.  If my lupus is flaring up, full inversions are too much for me.  These both make nice substitutes.

Yoga poses for lupus flares – Inversion Alternatives

 yoga poses for lupus, private yoga teacher st petersburg

Setubandha Sarvangasana, or supported bridge pose, is a great substitute for the full pose.  Set up two blocks on their lowest height against the wall.  Use two blankets in the tri-fold position.  Remember to alternate the folded sides in the stack as well as place the folded edges toward where your head goes.  Make a loop with your belt.  Sit on the blankets closer to the wall with your knees bent.  Put the belt loop around your upper calves and tighten it just enough to hold your legs together comfortably.  Place your hands behind you and lower yourself back on to the blankets as you straighten your legs.  The edge of the blankets should come to just below the base of your shoulder blades.  You may need to adjust the distance of the blankets in relation to the blocks to get this right.  Allow your arms to open out to the sides, palms up.  Stay for up to 5 minutes.  To come out, bend your knees, and push yourself off the front edge of the blanket so your whole chest is on the ground.  Roll to the right side, remove the belt, and come up.

viparita Karani, yoga pose for lupus

Viparati Karani, legs up the wall, is a wonderful pose for reversing the flow of your blood and lymph supply.  Use a bolster right up against the wall.  Getting up into the pose is the hardest part.  Lay down on your side with your hip on the bolster, your bum up against the wall, your knees drawn tightly into your chest, soles of the feet on the wall.  Raise your top foot up the wall and roll your bum onto the bolster.  You’re probably not 100% against the wall yet.  Dig your elbows into the mat, lift your bum and scootch yourself right up against the wall.  Straighten your knees and raise your legs up the wall.  Stay for up to 5 minutes and then roll back down to come out.  This is a great pose to do right before your savasana.

In all these poses, the height of your head should be in a neutral position relative to your spine.  If you’re finding your chin is jutting up to the ceiling or you can’t comfortably keep your gaze directly above you, you have to adjust.  Either your chest is too high and the chest prop needs to be lower, or your head is too low and the head prop needs to be higher.  You should be able to be comfortable, relaxed, and hold these for some time.  Make the adjustments you need for your own body and practice.

*If you’re going to try any of these at home, please remember to seek your doctor’s advice before beginning any new exercise program.  Always listen to your body and make changes as needed when practicing yoga.

If you use restorative yoga poses for lupus flares please comment.  I’d love to hear your ideas!

If you enjoyed Yoga Poses for Lupus flares, you’ll love Aqua Yoga for Lupus.


lupus, mantra, restorative yoga, yoga for lupus

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  • Interesting poses and ways to relief. My physical therapist told me that even though I may feel like sitting in that pose in the first photo, to avoid it with my hips. The last pose is strongly encouraged by my PT because of my lower back issues.

    • That’s really great you have the knowledge to make your practice right for you. Thanks for reading the post and I hope you keep doing yoga!

  • These poses are really useful- I’ll give them a try. I don’t oficially have lupus but I do have arthritis and other conditions so they’ll all be helpful except the first one as my pelvis wouldn’t cope with my legs open so much!

  • This is excellent, yoga is amazing for so many illnesses. Great post.
    Dropped by from Hannah’s #WeekendBlogShare and so glad I did. :)
    Hope this weekend treats you kindly.

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