Pretty much everyone and their grandma know what yoga is these days. People rave about yoga’s benefits, including improved flexibility and reduced stress. Some people even lose weight, improve their heart health, and become mindful eaters by practicing yoga !
In fact, there’s another advantage of this form of exercise that people often overlook: strong bones. New research shows that yoga can actually help strengthen bones to prevent fractures and osteoporosis as we age .
Here’s how you could benefit from a simple 12-minute yoga sequence to improve your bone health and strength.
Symptoms and Treatment of Osteoporosis
First, let’s talk a little more about osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones weaken and become more prone to fractures. Osteoporosis affects millions of people worldwide and is responsible for almost 9 million fractures every year .
Women are the most at risk for osteoporosis. Hormone changes during menopause are responsible for a drop in estrogen which can make osteoporosis more likely. In fact, 80% of Americans who experience osteoporosis are women .
Osteoporosis is typically asymptomatic with the exception of a handful of symptoms as the condition progresses, including back pain, affected posture, and bone fractures that would otherwise have not occurred .
So how is osteoporosis usually treated?
Your doctor may advise you to start a vitamin D and calcium supplement regimen and there are also pharmaceutical medications that are prescribed.
However, there are alternative ways to treat osteoporosis, including exercising, eating healthy, and apparently, yoga!
Results of Research Regarding Yoga and Osteoporosis
In a study published in Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation, researchers conducted a ten-year study of over 700 people to measure bone mineral density changes when participants regularly did a 12-minute yoga sequence.
The results? Bone mineral density improved in the spines, hips, and femurs of patients that were fully compliant with the regimen with no serious injuries reported. The study concluded that yoga appears to safely increase bone mineral density .
Researchers noted that yoga’s ability to improve balance and coordination helps prevent falls which contribute to fractures in people with osteoporosis.
Participants—whose median age was 68—practiced the yoga routine at least every other day for two years. Before beginning the study, 83% of participants had below average bone density. Scans at the end of the study showed “significant increases” in bone density .
It’s important to note that although the research shows yoga can be helpful for people living with osteoporosis—and perhaps even be important in preventing osteoporosis—the study doesn’t prove that yoga completely reverses bone loss. However, the study does suggest that yoga does have the potential to help reverse some bone loss caused by osteopenia or osteoporosis .
What Yoga Poses Can You Do?
So what yoga poses does this 12-minute sequence consist of, exactly? The following nine poses for bone health are detailed here for you .
- Vrksasana: Tree Pose. Standing up, bend your right knee while turning your right thigh outward (but do not turn your pelvis). Your right foot should be placed above the ankle or knee of your left leg (being careful not to place on the knee itself). Bring your hands in front of your chest in prayer position with palms touching. Hold for 30 seconds and breathe slowly and deeply while doing so.
- Utthita Trikonasana: Extended Triangle Pose. Stand with your legs wide apart. Rotate your left leg so your knee and foot turn 90 degrees. Stretch your torso over your left leg. Placing your hand on your left shin, stretch your right arm up into the air. Hold for 30 seconds and breathe slowly and deeply.
- Virabhadrasana II: Warrior Pose II. Again standing with your feet wide and rotating your left leg as in the previous pose, bend your left knee over your left heel. Reach out your arms on either side at about shoulder height. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Utthita Parsvakonasana: Extended Side Angle Pose. As you come out of Warrior II, stretch your torso and lower your left forearm onto your left thigh. Reaching up your right arm just over your right ear, stretch from your right heel through your fingertips.
- Salabhasana: Locust Pose. Lie on your stomach on your yoga mat with your arms lying by your torso. Lift your chest up as you raise your legs together, stretching them behind you. Try not to strain as you lift your arms along your torso pointing toward your feet and hold the position for 30 seconds, breathing slowly and deeply as you do.
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana: Bridge Pose. Lie down this time on your back, then bend your knees. Lift your hips and torso, using your feet to push upward, but keep your arms on the mat. Interlace your fingers underneath you and push onto your shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Supta Padangusthasana I: Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose I. Stay on your back, but this time we’ll be using a prop. Find a strap (a belt will work) and loop around the ball of your left foot, keeping a hold of the end of each strap in your left hand. Lengthen your left leg, lifting it up towards the sky without lifting on your left hip.
- Supta Padangusthasana II: Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose II. Stay in the former position and keep hold of both ends of the strap in your left hand. Keep the right side of your body grounded as you extend your left leg out to the left side and lower it to the floor.
You can repeat reclining hand-to-big-toe pose I and II on the right side as well for added benefits!
- Savasana: Corpse Pose. This one is easy so you can take a break at the end of your yoga session! You simply lie on your back with your legs about hip-width apart and let your feet rest pointing out from your body. Lay your arms down alongside your body with palms facing up. Rest for as long as you feel you need to.
That’s it! For just 12 minutes every day, you could improve your bone strength—not to mention your flexibility, balance, and better manage your stress!
Yoga for Bone Health
Although more research regarding bone health and yoga is needed, the study contains encouraging information that sufferers of osteoporosis can use yoga as an effective, easy, and cost-effective way to manage the condition.
You can also talk to your doctor more about how nutrition and weight-bearing exercises can help nourish and build your bones, especially if you’re looking to prevent osteoporosis.
Or, you could consider taking some yoga classes to enjoy even more benefits!
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