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Beef Up Your Skeleton: Yoga for Osteoporosis

yoga for osteoporosis Vrksasana Teaches Balance, Strengthens Bones

Images of witches, ghosts, black cats, zombies and skeletons abound today. These iconic images are meant to be scary, and some of them are—although I have to say that having lived with a few black cats in my life, they’re not at all scary. Halloween images are nonetheless meant to evoke a bit of fear and apprehension.

When you see an image of a skeleton, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not osteoporosis. Nonetheless, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 10 million of us are currently living with osteoporosis, and 34 million are currently at risk for the disease.

There are many simple things you can start doing now, at any age, to prevent the disease:  Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, get regular exercise, increase your Vitamin D and Calcium/Magnesium intake. But if you’re reading this blog at all, you probably practice yoga. Does yoga count as an exercise that can help keep your bones strong?

Dr. Loren Fishman says yes. In this interview (read the whole thing—it’s very informative), he explains why yoga helps keep our bones strong:

“Yoga helps grow bone mass, but because yoga poses pull and stretch the bones from every conceivable angle, yoga also may stimulate the formation of a bone structure that is able to resist greater amounts of pressure, as well as many different types of challenges.

“…there are numerous other important ways in which yoga benefits people with osteoporosis, such as improving balance, muscular strength, range of motion and coordination, while lessening anxiety.  These are other important benefits of yoga for people with osteoporosis because they each help reduce the risk of falling.”

Here are my ideas about yoga for osteoporosis, specifically, how different classes of poses help keep your bones healthy:

Standing Poses and Balance Poses:  Promote balance, use weight bearing to strengthen bones, stretching leg muscles along bones pulls and stretches the bones

Backbends:  Counteract the tendency to hunch forward as  your bones weaken

Twists and Lateral Stretches:  Keep the thoracic region (upper back) mobile

Forward Bends:  Reduce stress, stretching muscles along bones pulls and stretches the bones

So don’t let your own skeleton scare you. Dive into your practice, knowing that not only does yoga make you feel good now, it will likely make your life happier—and much less scary—in the future.

About Charlotte Bell

Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice, published by Rodmell Press. Her second book, Yoga for Meditators (Rodmell Press) was published in May 2012. She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to schools and to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.

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