• Rheumatoid arthritis;
  • yoga;
  • mind–body medicine;
  • qualitative research



The aim of this study was to explore the views of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) regarding the suitability of yoga as a potential therapeutic intervention in the management of RA.


Twenty-two participants with RA were recruited from outpatient clinics at a regional hospital in New Zealand and divided into four focus groups. Heterogeneity between groups in terms of age, gender, duration of RA and functional ability provided opinions from a cross-section of RA patients. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis, with four themes predominating.


Firstly, participants described their experience of symptoms related to their RA in three independent but linked categories of physical, mental and social well-being. Secondly, participants perceived the management of their RA to be prescriptive, medicalized and failing to address their wider health concerns. Thirdly, participants perceived yoga as a safe, adaptable therapy that may allow self-management of their RA. However, there was some concern that functional limitations may inhibit ability to practise the physical aspects of yoga. Fourthly, requirements for a yoga intervention that would be feasible for people with RA were presented by participants.


Patients with RA perceive a disparity between their personal experience of living with RA and their current medical management. Yoga is perceived as a potential therapy to address this disparity. Based on opinions expressed by participants, future research regarding a yoga intervention as an adjunctive therapy for managing RA should meet patients’ views on feasibility and test outcome measures reflecting the domains of physical, mental and social well-being. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.