Believe in the Power of Movement

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An increasing number of studies emphasize the health benefits of physical activity. Yoga, an ancient practice aimed at achieving tranquility and increasing flexibility, muscle tone, balance and strength is rapidly becoming the activity of choice for a large number of people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.

For the 4.5 million Canadians suffering from arthritis and autoimmune conditions, many have found that yoga can have therapeutic effects, relieving painful symptoms while also alleviating stress through meditation.

Sherri Smith suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and participated in Power of Movement 2011, a nationwide yoga challenge to raise funds and awareness for arthritis and related autoimmune disorder research.

Smith first noticed swelling and discolouration on her knuckles in November of 2009. At first, she didn’t think too much of this, assuming she might have injured her hand moving boxes at work. It was not until Smith started having trouble with her left shoulder that she started to worry and sought help from a doctor.

Smith’s doctor prescribed anti-inflammatory medication but her condition continued to deteriorate significantly, at times leaving her physically immobilized.

“When I tried to get up, I felt like I was encased in cement. The pain and swelling made getting off the couch very difficult,” she says.

At age 29, Smith was referred to a rheumatologist at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre and with 18 inflamed joints, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

“The most common misconception about arthritis is that it’s a disease of the elderly. In actuality, arthritis can affect anyone at any age,” says Smith. “Being diagnosed was a blessing because I could finally seek the treatment that could help me manage the disease.”

Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system becomes confused and begins to “attack” the joints causing swelling, pain and inflammation. Medication and treatments for arthritis do exist, but currently there is no cure.

Arthritis is among the top three most common chronic diseases in Canada and accounts for over ten per cent of the total financial burden of all illnesses in the country.

Earlier this year, Smith learned that she was in remission and started to resume her active lifestyle which includes running and yoga. On February 27, 2011 Smith joined thousands of Canadians in an hour long yoga session to raise funds for critical arthritis research.

“Power of Movement was an excellent way for Canadians in every corner of the country to come together to exercise, improve flexibility through yoga and raise money for an important cause. As a result, public awareness has increased about inflammatory rheumatic disease and, even better, there is more money being invested in arthritis research,” she says.

From its humble beginnings as a small grassroots initiative in a Toronto community centre five years ago, Power of Movement has grown to challenge Canadians in every corner of the country to take action for meaningful change in arthritis and autoimmune disease research. For more information on Power of Movement, please visit www. powerofmovement.ca