Yoga For Bone Health

Published on
November 8, 2013

Watch television long enough and you’ll invariably come across commercials advertising drugs that treat the loss of bone density, or osteoporosis. For most people, sooner or later, bone density will become a potential health concern. Poor diets, sedentary lifestyles and the lifelong convenience of having machines do a lot of the work human bodies used to do will almost guarantee brittle bones for many of us. No doubt it’s part of aging, particularly in women, who face significant hormonal changes as they age. But just as we are bombarded with marketing for Fosamax, Boniva, and a slew of other drugs designed to treat or stave off the loss of bone density, wouldn’t it be wonderful if more medical practitioners would point their patients in the direction of a yoga mats as well?

Studies continue to show a strong link between yoga and bone health. The findings, published widely in major news outlets recently, point to the convincing conclusion that yoga appears to be an effective treatment for osteoporosis. In some cases, yoga has been shown to slow, if not reverse, bone loss. Key among the reports are the findings from Dr. Loren Fishman and Ellen Saltonstall, whose comprehensive research into osteoporosis and yoga gives the yoga world cause for celebrations – as if it needed more!

In their 2010 book Yoga for Osteoporosis: The Complete Guide, Saltonstall and Fishman, the Medical Director of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in New York City, make the case that yoga is one of the best treatments (and preventions) for osteoporosis. That’s an exciting conclusion for yoga teachers, who teach to classes filled with women, many of them entering middle age.

Yogis see firsthand what a lifetime of practice can do: Yoga, and its integration of proper alignment with the demand placed on bones and muscles, builds stronger hips, backs, knees and spines. Yes, high impact aerobic activities can promote bone health, but let’s face it, in our “all or nothing” world, our approach to these activities is often detrimental to our bodies in other ways.

In yoga, we work with the weight of our bodies. You can’t get more natural than that! After all, how often do we walk around with a barbell across our shoulders. Yoga teaches us to integrate proper joint function and movement to lift and carry our body’s weight. You don’t have to wait until you are on the yoga mat to reap the benefits. Almost any standing yoga pose or arm balance will deliver bone building benefits. A good one to try is Chair Pose or Utkatasana, which strengthens the legs, glutes and all the muscles around the hips, an area vulnerable to osteoporosis. Dr. Fishman offers a useful series to target osteoporosis here.

An added bonus: yoga focuses on balance, so while we are getting our weight-bearing fix, we also work on the art of balancing on one leg at a time, something that becomes crucial as we age. By no means am I suggesting that we – or our mothers and grandmothers – dismiss the medical advice from our doctors. We can, however, encourage them to try and embrace yoga and the many health benefits it imparts.

Are you at risk for or do you currently suffer from osteoporosis? Have had success with yoga as an alternative therapy?

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4 responses to “Yoga For Bone Health”

  1. Julie Avatar
    Julie

    After 4 back surgeries, double Fusion at L3-L5 pins,rods,and cages and issues going up to S1 with permanent nerve damage,Yoga was suggested. My concern is the the difficulty of bending and trying to sit on the floor. Any guidance to get me started? I see the benefits… Just do not know how to get started. Thanks!

    1. Ivey Avatar
      Ivey

      Julie. I can understand your concern; and I suspect you have a good measure of fear and trepidation even contemplating taking up a yoga practice. You should definitely take care and proceed slowly. Have faith, however, that if you commit yourself to an authentic practice – meaning one in which you observe the tenets of yoga, as in non-violence, do no harm to your body first – you will over time get strong, and likely stave off any further deterioration to your spine. Given your limitations, you may never be able to do certain poses, but you will in time experience a strength and flexibility that will provide integrity to your body and allow you to live pain free. Find yourself a good yoga teacher; one that is well versed in therapeutic applications and knows how to work generously with modifications and props. Do yoga!!

    2. Timothy Burgin Avatar
      Timothy Burgin

      Hi Julie, I’ve had several students over the years who have had back surgeries to fuse sections of their spine and they all found that yoga decreased their pain and improved their limited range of motion of their spine. Check out our yoga for beginner’s page as well as our basic yoga sequences to get you started.

  2. John Anderson Avatar
    John Anderson

    Excellent post. Thanks for share. If anyone has body pain and he/she will do correct yoga, then it will be very helpful and get improvement definitely. Yoga is the right exercise for born health, recently I have join at Chrysalis Yoga and within 45 days I’m feeling relaxed with my back pain.

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Ivey DeJesus Avatar
About the author
Ivey DeJesus embarked on her yoga journey years ago seeking healing for an achy back. Yoga has cultivated in her an awareness of intelligent movement and alignment, and imbued in her a reverence for the teachings of the Sutras. Ivey holds a B.A. in journalism from the University of Maryland and received her 200-hour yoga teacher certification in 2011. She has completed prison yoga training with James Fox and this year embarked on her yoga therapy certification under the tutelage of Cora Wen. A news journalist by day, Ivey juggles work deadlines with her private and studio yoga classes. She practices yoga daily and is a student of the Sutras. She writes about yoga in her blog [email protected]. She and her husband are empty nesters and live in Pennsylvania. She welcomes feedback from readers. Follow her on Twitter @thepurplemat1.
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