Yoga for Bone Health

Maintain Your Bone Health With These Yoga Exercises

Yoga has been practised around the globe from several years and its popularity is growing considerably owing to its amazing health benefits. From migraine to heart issues, yoga can help to ease symptoms of all kinds of diseases.

Bone disorders are growing, and are beginning to strike younger people. The likely cause: stressed, skewed lifestyles.

We reach our maximum bone mass at around age 30. After that, it’s a matter of maintaining what we have. Today, however, bones are losing mass at a much faster rate than earlier. “Almost 75% of patients attending my clinic are under 40,” says Kedar Deogaonkar, consultant spine surgeon at the PD Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Centre in Mumbai. Pradeep Sharma, director and head of the BLK Centre for Orthopaedics, Joint Reconstruction and Spine Surgery at the BLK Super Speciality Hospital in New Delhi, agrees. On an average, 15-20 patients who visit his out-patient department daily with complaints of metabolic bone disorders and other bone-related problems are youngsters, he says. Most of these people come with complaints like neck pain, lower back pain, general weakness—all symptoms of a weakening bone system, says Dr Sharma. “The threshold age limit of osteoporosis, which used to be 50-60 years, has come down to the late 30s, owing to drastic changes in lifestyle: late-night working, alcohol consumption, smoking and unhealthy food habits,” he adds.

Stress, too, is leading to musculoskeletal disorders, says Dr Deogaonkar. “The mental stress associated with the modern urban life contributes to poor eating habits and addictions,” he explains. “Unfortunately, most people have accepted the presence of stress in their lives as a by-default condition, and very little is being done to do away with it. It is piling up and degrading our general wellness,” adds Dr Sharma.

It’s time, then, to pay attention to your lifestyle. For, once you lose bone mass, it is difficult to get it back, so preservation of its strength and density is key. That’s where yoga can come in handy.

Yoga to the rescue

The general benefits of yoga are well known: greater flexibility, stronger muscles, better posture, reduced emotional and physical stress and increased self-esteem. You can add better bone health to the list.

Loren Fishman, a physiatrist at the US’ Columbia University who specializes in rehabilitative medicine, has been studying the effect of yoga on bone health for years, and a small pilot study that he began in 2005 came up with some encouraging results. Of the 117 patients in his study, 87 had osteoporosis and 30 had osteopenia. Only 11 patients completed the two-year protocol of doing yoga every day for 10 minutes. In 2009, Dr Fishman reported that these 11 patients showed increased bone density in their spine and hips. The study concluded that practising yoga for just 8-10 minutes every day would raise bone quality.

Dr Fishman conducted another study over 10 years, till 2015, with 741 elderly volunteers. His findings, published in November in the journal Topics In Geriatric Rehabilitation, showed improved bone density in the spine and femur among the 227 participants who practised 12 yoga poses every day. “This study proves that yoga is safe, even for people who have suffered significant bone loss,” Dr Fishman wrote in the study.

How it helps

Yoga is a weight-bearing exercise, which simply means you hold the weight of your body up against gravity. This puts mild stress on the bones and keeps them strong. “Yoga is a holistic approach towards the body and mind, which helps to discipline a person’s physical and mental attributes. It relieves stress, improves balance and thereby reduces the likelihood of falls,” says Dr Sharma.

Sandeep Agarwala, head of yoga at Ananda In The Himalayas, a destination spa in Uttarakhand, adds that unlike other weight-bearing activities, yoga doesn’t damage cartilage or stress the joints. Instead, it helps to strengthen and maintain bone health.

There is another reason to add yoga in your daily routine and that is to improve your bone health. Practising yoga every day can help to strengthen the bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Even science backs the claim that practising yoga every day can help to prevent fractures and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Bone problems become more prominent in older age. So, it is crucial to take measures from now and avoid any kind of complications later.

Here are 5 yoga poses that can help to improve your bone health. Combine these with pranayama and the relaxation techniques of yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, and you will get even better results.

1.​Virabhadrasana or Warrior

Step 1: Stand on the ground with your feet hip-width apart and your arms by your sides.

Step 2: Exhale and take a big step to your left (2 to 3 feet away from your right foot).

Step 3: Now turn your left toes outwards and bend your knees at a 90-degree angle.

Step 4: Turn your right feet inwards by about 15 degrees. The heel of your right foot should be aligned to the centre of the left foot.

Step 5: Lift both your arms sideways. Bring it at the level of your shoulders. Your palms should face upwards. Take a few deep breaths in this position.

Step 6: Turn your head to your left and gently push your pelvis down as much as you can. Pause for a few seconds and then come back to the starting position. Repeat the same on the other side.

2. Vrksasana or Tree Pose

How to do it:

Step 1: Stand straight on the mat in a relaxed pose. Your feet should be close to each other.

Step 2: Bend your right knee and place the sole of your right feet on your left thigh.

Step 3: Slowly exhale and inhale while trying to balance your body in this position.

Step 4: Raise your hands and bring them over your head. Join both the palms together in Namaste mudra.

Step 5: Hold this pose 5-10 second and while doing so breathe in and breathe out.

Step 6: Then gently lower your hands and put your leg back to the ground. Repeat the same with the other leg.

3.Bridge Pose or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

Step 1: Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Your legs should be slightly apart from each other and arms resting by your side.

Step 2: Press the feet into the floor, inhale and gently lift your hips up rolling the spine off the floor.

Step 4: Press your arms and shoulders on the ground to lift your chest.

Step 5: Engage your legs and butt muscles to lift your hips higher. Hold this position for 4-8 breaths and then return to the normal position.

4. ​Corpse Pose or Savasana

Step 1: Lie down comfortably on your back with your hands and legs completely stretched out.

Step 2: Close your eyes and try to relax your mind and body.

Step 3: Inhale slowly through your nostrils and draw attention to every part of your body starting from your toes.

Step 4: Exhale and think that your body is relaxed. Stay in this pose for 10 minutes and then come back to normal pose.

5.​Phalakasana or Plank pose

Step 1: Lie down flat on your stomach on the mat. Inhale and slowly lift your body to come to the plank pose by straightening your hands and at the same time tuck your toes under.

Step 2: Your arms should be perpendicular to the floor and shoulders directly over the wrists.

Step 2: Your body should be in a straight line from head to heels.

Step 3: Pause for a few seconds in this position and take deep breaths. Slowly come back to the normal position.

Yoga can be done by almost everyone, as it is low- impact and easy on the body; you may need to exercise some caution if you suffer from back pain, a medical condition like diabetic retinopathy or are pregnant (some asanas may not be allowed in this case). Consult your doctor before taking to yoga. Also, don’t use yoga to replace conventional medical care.

Please let us know if you have any questions and do leave a comment

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