Looking for a way to feel better that doesn’t involve popping another pill? Try yoga.

Science supports this mind-body activity as good medicine for arthritis. Among the most recent evidence: Yoga reduced disability and eased swollen joints and pain without causing adverse effects in thousands of study participants, according to a review of clinical trials conducted between 1980 and 2010. The study, funded in part by the Arthritis Foundation, was published in Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America.

“Most importantly, we found that yoga does not exacerbate disease symptoms for persons with arthritis. With proper instruction, it is a safe way for people to stay active and mindful, both of which are associated with a variety of health benefits,” says lead author Steffany Moonaz, PhD, a health behaviorist and yoga research consultant in Baltimore, Md., and founder of Yoga for Arthritis.

Here’s the scoop on a variety of types – and whether they’re safe for you.

Viniyoga

Viniyoga is typically practiced in private, one-on-one sessions with a yoga instructor who modifies various yoga poses to match your skill level, health status and fitness goals.

OK with arthritis: Yes, with a qualified instructor. Look for someone who has experience with arthritis and/or other joint conditions.

Keep in mind: “Because Viniyoga poses are highly adapted, they may appear quite different than they would in other yoga traditions,” says Moonaz. 

Restorative

The goal of restorative yoga is to relax, rest and restore. Poses, which are held for between five and 15 minutes at a time, are done using lots of props, such as ropes and foam blocks. “So the body is completely supported and minimal or no muscular effort is necessary to maintain the posture,” says Moonaz.

Okay with arthritis? Yes.

Keep in mind: Unlike almost all other forms of yoga, Restorative yoga doesn’t build physical fitness—but it’s particularly beneficial for individuals with arthritis who are seeking to relieve stress as a way to reduce disease activity, notes Moonaz.

Power Yoga

As its name suggests, power yoga is a vigorous and fast-paced practice that modifies poses from various practices, such as Ashtanga and Bikram, and provides a cardio workout in addition to strengthening and stretching.

OK with arthritis: Not typically.

Keep in mind: Says Moonaz, “Very fit individuals with mild arthritis might be okay with power yoga, but most instructors will gear classes toward a very active population who is aiming to get an intense workout.”

Vinyasa

With Vinyasa yoga, a series of poses is done in a row; each pose transitions into the next.

OK with arthritis? In some cases.

Keep in mind: “Many Vinyasa classes are complex and involve a lot of weight-bearing through the hands. Look for ‘Gentle Vinyasa,’ which tends to be slower and are less likely to require you to support your body weight through your hands,” advises Jane Foody, a New York City-based physical therapist and certified yoga instructor who works with individuals with arthritis. Adds Moonaz, “Unless you have very mild arthritis, I wouldn’t recommend Viyasa unless it’s a private lesson or a small class with a well qualified instructor who can take the time to offer proper individualized instruction.”