Managing Osteoporosis through yoga
bone density is a natural part of the
aging process, but when too much bone is
lost the bones become weakened and susceptible to fracturing and breaking.
Osteoporosis is considered a “silent disease” with no symptoms or warnings
signs, but can be prevented and treated through regular
weight bearing exercise
with proper diet and lifestyle habits.
Weight bearing exercise is any movement
that requires your muscles to work against gravity.
Yoga is an excellent weight
bearing exercise as it stimulates bone building for both the upper and lower
body while being low-impact.
helps in creating a balanced harmony between the ovaries, adrenals, parathyroids,
pituitary and pineal gland, thus ensuring that the body receives a steady supply
of the right hormones for maintaining bone strength and maximum health and well
being. The regular practice of weight bearing hatha
yoga postures offers women
everywhere a safe, scientifically proven way to
build bone strength and avoid
this debilitating disease.
To build bone mass with yoga and other exercise, it must be done
consistently—at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Simple back bending poses, like sphinx,
bridge help to strengthen the
spine as well as help prevent and correct kyphosis (excessive curvature of the
upper spine). Practicing bridge pose, full and half
shoulderstand will not only
help strengthen the spine, but also stimulate the thyroid gland to balance the
endocrine system and affect its ability to encourage bone growth. To strengthen
the upper body use poses such as downward facing
dog, plank, crab, and balancing
table. Lunging poses, such as Warrior 1 and
2, will be the most strengthening to
the bones and muscles of the legs. While standing balancing poses will not only
build bone but improve balance to reduce the risk of falls, these poses should
be practiced with caution and utilize a chair or wall for support if necessary.
Start slow with simple yoga poses and gradually build up the length and
difficulty of both the postures and your practice. Increasing the intensity of
your yoga practice will build stronger bones, but never push yourself past your
edge to reduce any risk of injury. When you feel ready to crank your practice up
a notch you can experiment with advanced strengthening poses such as inclined
half downward dog,
dancer, warrior 3,
Warrior 1 Take a kneeling
position and make sure your legs are at a 90 degree angle. Extend
your arms up alongside your ears and enliven your hands. After 3-5
breaths, go to Warrior 2 on this side.
Warrior 2 Stay up on your left knee
and move your right thigh out to the side, making sure that the knee
is directly over the ankle. Press into the floor with your right
foot and lift up through the crown of your head. Feel your arms as
if they begin at the center of your chest and extend out to infinity
Warrior 3 Start on hands and knees.
Extend your right arm and left leg in opposite directions. Reach out
through the top of your head and your tailbone to find length in
your spine. Lift your belly softly up toward your spine. Stay here
for 3-5 breaths, then do the other side.
Although yoga can build bone density, great caution is recommended once
osteoporosis is suspected or diagnosed. Osteoporosis dramatically increases the
risk of bone fracture, even from seemingly simple movements. For this reason,
women with osteoporosis should approach the practice of yoga slowly and
mindfully. Ask your physician whether a yoga practice is safe for your specific
pattern of bone density. If your physician approves, the following guidelines
can help reduce the risk of fracture during a yoga practice. Women diagnosed
with osteoporosis should consider private instruction with a qualified teacher
before attempting to modify the movements in group yoga classes.
Avoid flexing the spine (rounding the spine forward) to stretch the
back, stretch the legs, or
strengthen the abdominal muscles. All of these
intentions can be achieved in a lying-down position that involve
lifting/moving the legs rather than lifting/moving the head and shoulders.
Avoid twisting the spine in any way that uses gravity or leverage to
rotate (for example, reclining twists or pulling yourself into a twist using
your arms). Rotation should be gradually introduced using simple and slow
movement, without force.
Backbends and spinal extension (arching the back to open the front of
the chest and belly) should also be approached very gently. For example,
back muscles can strengthened using arm movements that gently open the chest
without overarching the back. Gentle supported backbends (such as placing a
rolled towel under the upper back in a reclining position), if comfortable,
may also be helpful for restoring posture.
Avoid supporting body weight with the hands. Wrist fractures are common
in osteoporosis. Wrist/arm muscles can be strengthened through mudras, arm
movements, or sustained arm positions (such as keeping the arms raised in
tadasana), rather than through positions like plank pose
Standing poses and balances are excellent for building leg strength and
hip bone density, but the risk of bone fracture from a fall is extremely
high. For this reason, challenging standing poses and standing balances
should only be practiced with the support of a wall (or chair) and a
Inversions (such as headstand or shoulderstand) are not recommended.
However, you can receive many of the benefits of inversions by practicing
restorative poses, like legs-up-the-wall pose.
Note that the above guidelines are conservative. Women who wish to build
bone density but who have not yet developed osteoporosis do not need to
follow such a cautious approach.
Diet for Osteoporosis
A yogic diet of fresh
fruit and vegetables, whole grains and high protein
foods with moderate amounts of dairy will provide the calcium and other
minerals to both
prevent and reduce the development of osteoporosis.
In particular, add fruits that are high in Vitamin C and dark green
in your diet, and use small amounts of low-fat dairy products, and omega-3 and
Vitamin E rich nuts, seeds and fish. Beware of consuming too much salt and
animal protein as these can both leach calcium from your bones. Caffeine,
alcohol, carbonated soft drinks and nicotine can also deplete your body’s
calcium supply and a diet high in sugar has also been linked to low bone
density. Make sure you get outdoors for your daily dose of
Vitamin D from the
sun. While supplementing your diet with calcium and other
vitamins and minerals
is important to help meet your daily intake requirements, these vitamins and
minerals, especially calcium, are much readily absorbed and utilized when they
are obtained from the food you eat.