Yoga for Osteoporosis – It’s Time to Build Strong Bones
Worried about the health of your bones? It’s something we should all be aware of especially as we reach those middle-age years and beyond. The last thing we want are brittle bones as even a simple fall can become quite serious. Fortunately, yoga for osteoporosis is highly beneficial.
What is osteoporosis?
We often think of osteoporosis as a disease that affects those in their senior years but, it can happen to people much younger than this. Simply, osteoporosis means porous bone, and this is because when the bone is viewed under a microscope it, looks like the honeycomb sweets that you may remember from your youth. There is a loss of bone density and this means the bones weaken and, if you should fall heavily, your bones will be more inclined to break than healthy bones, so, you can see the importance of warding off this risk. This is why yoga for osteoporosis is so important.
Yoga for osteoporosis – the risks
In the US alone, there are approximately 54 million people with this condition or with low bone mass which means they are at risk. Osteoporosis can greatly limit mobility and, this can lead to a great deal of frustration and even, lead to feelings of isolation. If falling, it is usually the wrist bones, or, the hip if landing awkwardly. But even bones of the spine can be injured badly. When this happens, it’s easy to develop a slightly hunched posture or to even lose height. Known as the silent disease, you may not know you have this disease until you experience a broken bone or, if you are concerned, ask for a bone density check.
Causes of osteoporosis
It’s worth noting that the loss of bone is a natural part of the aging process, and it can happen without your being aware. You notice grey hairs or feeling stiffness in the joints, but you do not notice the loss of bone density. It is important to slow down the progress at which this can occur. This means looking at all aspects of life – from diet to exercise. Following the menopause, it’s easy for women to lose bone density in the first few years and certainly, women tend to be more at risk than men. For any woman who experiences an early menopause – prior to the age of 45 years, there is an increased risk and so, it’s important to start considering bone health then.
Other risks include:
- Family history
- Use of corticosteroids over a long period
- Inflammatory health conditions
- Hormone related conditions
- A low body mass index
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Smoking too much
If you want to side-step the risk of developing osteoporosis, then you need to consider the health of your bones and this means paying due care and attention to the following:
- Eat healthy – make sure you have plenty of foods rich in vitamin D and calcium as this aids absorption
- Stop smoking
- Reduce the consumption of alcohol
- Take regular exercise – yoga for osteoporosis can make a big difference to bone health.
Having sufficient levels of calcium in the body is essential for strong, healthy bones. If you are going through the menopause, it may help to increase the levels of calcium on a daily basis. But, absorption of calcium is vital and so, many people take supplements, but it does not provide them with the calcium they need. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, it’s easy to gain sufficient calcium levels from soy products, dark green leafy vegetables and it’s also in almonds to name but a few. Be careful as to the amount of salt in your diet as this can reduce the levels of calcium.
Yoga for osteoporosis
Yoga is a wonderful way to promote the health of your bones but most exercise will help to a degree. Weight-bearing exercises which include running and walking stimulate the bones so that they sustain calcium levels, and this produces greater bone mass. Those exercises, which are so popular when needing to avoid weight-bearing exercises i.e. swimming will not help to increase bone density in the spine and so, this should be considered.
Of course, when bone loss has already commenced, there may be too much stress on the joints and spine if running and walking, although a wonderful exercise, will not help strengthen the bones of the shoulders, wrists or back etc. Losing too much weight and exercising to an excessive level will have a negative effect on your body and could increase your risk and so, it’s about finding a balanced exercise system.
Yoga helps to simulate the bones, and this means there is more calcium remaining and so, weight-bearing poses including standing poses as given here will improve the whole body and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Yoga for osteoporosis helps the body to fully use the nutrients as and when needed.
Twists such as Revolved Triangle Pose (Parivrtta Trikonaasana) gives the adrenal glands a boost and this provides the necessary amounts of androgen and estrogen which is essential for healthy bones. Yoga works on the whole body but pays special attention to the health of the spine and to posture. This attention to detail provides a great way to keep the spine strong and healthy but, it does more than this. It also keeps it flexible.
Osteoporosis and poor posture can weaken vertebrae, and this can lead to fractures of the vertebrae if not careful. Yoga for osteoporosis works with the body and not against it, increasing calcium in the bones.
Tree pose (Vrksasana)
Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Prepare for the yoga session by focusing on your starting point. Check your posture. Make sure the back is not arched but the tailbone is tucked in slightly. Keep the knees soft and ensure, the shoulders are down and back. Move your weight slightly on the left foot.
Visualize the inner foot rooting to the floor and then, bend the right knee. Take hold of your right ankle and place it against the inner thigh of your left leg. If you are unable to reach the foot here, place it to the calf muscle or against the ankle. You are still weight-bearing through the left leg. Press the heel of the right foot into your groin, your toes should be pointing towards the floor. Make sure the pelvis is over the left foot.
Lengthen the tail bone. As you press your foot into your thigh, resist this with the outer left leg for resistance. Gaze at a fixed point in front and try to retain your balance. Have your hands in prayer position and clasped to your chest. Try to remain in this position for up to one minute and then return to Tadasana on an exhalation. Repeat on the other leg.
Many people find this a challenging pose because their balance is precarious on the one leg but, with regular practice, balance will improve. It may help to imagine that there is an invisible line from the top of your head, running through your body and into the ground. The idea is that you remain centered to this line. Because you are on one leg, you have to strengthen the core of the tree pose and think of your one leg as being rooted. In the full pose, you can raise your arms up to the sky.
This is an excellent pose for the prevention of osteoporosis and can be adapted as necessary. It is useful for improving balance, strengthening the legs and the spine. It also stretches the inner thighs and the groin.
Warrior Pose (Virabhadrasana 1)
Stand in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Exhale and then, step the feet up to 4 feet apart. Your arms should be raised and perpendicular to the floor. Draw the shoulder-blades down the back. Turn your left foot 45-60 degrees to the right and your right foot should turn 90 degrees. Check that you have aligned the right heel to your left heel. On an exhalation, turn your torso to the right. Align your pelvis with the front edge of your yoga mat. Lengthen the coccyx, arch the upper torso just slightly. Exhale. Bend your right knee over your right ankle. If you are able, align the thigh so that it is parallel to the floor.
Inhale and reach up through the arms. Ground yourself through the back foot. Keep your head in neutral position, or, you can tilt your head back and gaze up at your thumbs.
Stretches the body, chest, lungs, shoulders and neck. It also strengthens the body, the legs, the back and the shoulders and arms.
Chair pose (Utkatasana)
Stand in Mountain pose (Tadasana). On an inhalation, raise your arms, keeping them parallel, have your palms facing inwards. Exhale and bend the knees. The aim is to take the thighs as parallel to the floor as is possible which will project the knees over the feet. Your torso will lean forward until it forms a right angle. The tops of the thigh bones should be pressed towards the heels.
Remain in your ultimate pose for approximately 30-seconds or for a maximum of 60-seconds. Then, inhale and straighten your legs. You will need to lift through the arms. On an exhalation, release your arms and return to mountain pose. This pose stretches the shoulders and the chest. It also has a strengthening effect on the legs and spine. Chair pose also stimulates the abdominal muscles and the heart.
Adaptive Yoga for osteoporosis
All yoga poses are adaptive, and this is the beauty of yoga. Any posture that is too deep or extensive can be reduced, the trick is to keep the alignment correct. These postures here are good for the prevention of osteoporosis so practice them regularly. It is never too soon to be concerned about bone health.