Three times a week I take a yoga class. I do it because it’s good for me, flexibility and strength-wise. I also do it because I love the serenity it brings to my life through focus and meditation. But now I’ve learned there’s another benefit: bone health!
I stumbled across this article from the NY Times. According to a study conducted by physiatrist Dr. Loren M. Fishman at Columbia University over a ten year period, respondents who conscientiously practiced 12 yoga poses showed improved bone density in the spine, hips, and femur.
The study also suggested yoga helped to improve bone quality, with no fractures related to the yoga practice among the participants over the period of the study. As Dr. Fishman pointed out, “… a special study of bone quality done on 18 of the participants showed that they had ‘better internal support of their bones, which is not measured by a bone density scan but is important to resisting fractures.'”
The article also mentions greater balance, and I know from my own practice that regularly practicing the standing poses (tree, warrior, triangle and side-angle) will help people improve their balance as well as strength — critical as a way to guard against the falls which for elderly people can lead to medical crisis.
There are obviously many caveats to consider before starting a regular yoga routine. For beginning yogis it’s important to learn proper alignment from a trained teacher. Older people should also think about using props (chairs, blocks, blankets) to help them as they learn the basics. If you already have osteoporosis you need to be careful with certain poses that stress the spine and cervical vertebrae, and should make sure your doc knows what you’re up to.
If you needed an excuse to start a regular yoga practice, this is a good one. As Dr. Fishman quotes,
“At first, medicine can feel like heaven, but it eventually resembles poison; whereas yoga may feel like poison at first, but eventually it resembles heaven.”
Preventing & Treating Osteoporosis with Yoga, Diet, & Medications, Lisa Lilienfield, MD
- Yoga for Osteoporosis: The Complete Guide, by Dr. Loren Fishman