Bones are a quiet part of the body that can suddenly become louder as we get older. Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide.(1) Some don’t even know that they even have it.
Suddenly, the condition of the body makes itself known: both what you have done right and what you have grossly neglected.
There are pros and cons to aging. For instance, when we get older, we have the benefit of releasing our minds from younger stressors, such as the “Why didn’t he call me?” monologue that exists in the head space of so many 20-somethings.
However, like most things in life, this wisdom, which comes from getting older, doesn’t come for free.
Dr. Loren Fishman, co-author of Yoga for Osteoporosis, says, “like weight training, yoga works by stressing the bone. Yoga stimulates the bone with isometric contraction at almost every conceivable angle for long periods of time. 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.”(2)
Bernie Clark, author of Your Body, Your Yoga seconds this. “All tissues need stress to become or stay healthy. Too much stress can be harmful but so can too little. To never stress the spine is to invite problems: to overstress the spine is to invite problems. We need a Goldilocks’ amount of stress – not too much and not too little.”(3)
If you are dealing with a health condition like osteoporosis, do consult with both a doctor and a qualified yoga teacher. If all is good and you are into preventative care, consider these poses to keep your bones in tip top condition:
1) Balancing table
Come onto all fours and lift the opposite arm and opposite leg. Hold for five breaths.
If you have any wrist issues, you can come onto your forearm. If you have any knee problems, roll a blanket comfortably underneath for padding.
Your spine, arms and hips will gain the benefit of this pose.
2) Chair pose
Chair pose in yoga can lead to backs that round or people who lean way forward. To keep the stress in the lower body, where it belongs, lean against a wall and come into a squat with your spine and head supported by the wall.
Come as low as you can, to challenge yourself without feeling any strain in the knees. Hold for up to a minute, breathing deeply.
Between 1990 and 2000 there was a 25 percent increase in hip fractures. (1) This pose strengthens the bones around the pelvis and will make you feel like a powerhouse.
3) Tree pose
Balancing on one leg, bring the sole of the opposite foot to your inner ankle, shin or thigh (just not against the knee).
If you fall out, come back into it, trying for a minute and using the wall for peace of mind if you feel particularly unsteady.
The bones in your standing leg, ankle and foot will get a good amount of healthy stress. The more you practice, the easier it will get.
4) Plank pose
No one likes a plank pose but they certainly are effective. Plus, there are a ton of modifications, from coming onto your knees, to using your forearms, to even propping yourself against a wall rather than the floor.
No modification is better or more heroic than another, just choose the one that best supports the body you have now.
This is a great way to strengthen the bones in the arms, shoulders and wrists, but as you distribute the force evenly through your whole body, more and more bones may get the message that you are on their side.
Reviewed August 4, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith