Love your body at any age: Yoga and Osteoporosis

New blog post! This past week I had the opportunity to listen in on a tele-summit regarding yoga and osteoporosis. The information I gathered was very helpful and so beautifully fit into the “body love” and “yoga for all” direction I’m taking my teaching. Loving your body at any age is equally as important as loving your body at any size, etc. In short: yoga can both prevent and reverse osteoporosis. <-What a better way to love your body than with prevention! Read my notes to for the DOs and DON’Ts of Yoga for Osteoporosis.

Photo credit: According to Bing this image is free to share and use.

Photo credit: According to Bing this image is free to share and use.

***The information presented in this article are my notes on the free YogaU.com tele-summit , “Yoga for Osteoporosis: Prevention and Practice,” as presented by Dr. Loren Fishman and Ellen Saltonstall.

For eight years Dr. Fishman, who is also a well-known yoga teacher, has been studying effects of yoga and building bones. Throughout this eight year span, Fishman collected data on 900 participants and found the average participant, who was in the Osteoporosis range before starting yoga, had re-grown bone mass and came out of the Osteoporosis range.

Google defines Osteoporosis as “a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, typically as a result of hormonal changes, or deficiency of calcium or vitamin D.”

Dr. Fishman, however, doesn’t fully agree that the loss of tissue is solely a result of mineral deficiencies. Fishman holds to Wollf’s Law, which, according to Wikipedia “is a theory…that states that bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed.”

In other words, bone can re-build mass and adapt if appropriate, healthy pressure is applied. Gentle, strength-building forms of yoga provide a compressive force that stimulates the bone. As muscles are worked, the muscles pull on joints and bones to stimulate growth.

Dr. Fishman also found that yoga works just as well (if not better) to reverse Osteoporosis as pharmaceuticals such as Boniva. Fishman states that Boniva does work, but has its problems and one thousand and one side effects. Yoga on the other hand, has no negative side effects (if practiced safely) and can improve posture, balance, coordination, range of motion, strength and anxiety, all of which are important to aging bodies.

Osteoporosis is not just a concern for those who are older. Prevention should be a concern to those of any age. Dr. Fishman states the earlier in life you start your yoga practice, the better, as a yoga practice can help prevent osteoporosis.
Ellen Saltonstall, a well-known yoga teacher and assistant in this yoga study, gives some advice for those who have Osteoporosis, or may be at risk to Osteoporosis, and would like to begin a yoga practice.

The DOs of Yoga for Osteoporosis:
-Check with a physician. Get a DEXA scan. Check for other medical problems.
-Find a qualified yoga teacher. Yoga Alliance registered is important, but experience and background are also things to consider.
-Use care and intelligence. Start slowly & gradually.
-Practice regularly. Ideally 30 minutes five to seven days a week. Slowly build up amount and frequency.
-Focus on strength and balance rather than stretching or relaxing.
-Prioritize poses that extend the spine: back-bending, which build strength and counteract kyphosis.

The DON’Ts of Osteoporosis.
-Strain: Be intelligible/mindful.
– Avoid flexing (bending forward) the spine with speed and force.
-When practicing balancing poses use props, wall, chair.
-When twisting, avoid curving the spine. Don’t force with leverage. Focus on lift of the spine and raise the hips with a blanket, block or towel.
-Avoid inversions until proper guidance and enough strength in the arms and shoulders.
-Avoid excessive weight bearing on the hands and wrists before you’re ready. Build up strength slowly.signiture copy copy

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