Part Eleven in a Series on Yoga for Healthy Bones.
A new study tells us that a yoga practice can not only help prevent osteoporosis — it actually builds the bones back up!
In early March of this year, at the annual Yoga Therapy conference in Los Angeles, (www.sytar.org), Dr. Loren Fishman and his study partner, yoga teacher Ellen Saltonstall, presented the most compelling information about yoga and osteoporosis.
They emphasized that bones need STRESS ( not the anxiety building kind) to maintain strength. Yoga poses act on the bones by “applying forces of opposing muscle groups to them that greatly exceed gravity, stimulating bone cells (osteocytes) to create more bone.”
The 72 Second Rule
Dr. Fishman is quoted as saying that there is a magic number to initiate this process of new bone growth. 72 seconds. This is another reason that practicing with the support of a wall, chair, yoga block and other props, as discussed in previous Journal Entries, is so beneficial. The support of a wall not only improves your alignment but allows you to safely build enough strength so you can stay in Standing Poses, and other weight bearing poses, for 1 minute and 12 seconds, to reap the benefits.
The "72 second rule" should be approached gradually, as building up the strength to stay in a pose for this length of time may take several weeks or even months.
With the help of a wall, kitchen counter or other sturdy support, even my older beginners safely stay in key stength building Standing Poses like the Triangle Pose, Half Moon Pose (where you are balanced on one leg, which increases the weight-bearing benefits) and the Extended Lateral Angle Pose, where the front leg is at a right angle. (See photo links below)
Loren Fishman, MD, is a professor at Columbia University. Ellen Salstontall is a certified Anusara Yoga instructor. They are co-authors of the forthcoming book, "Yoga for Osteoporosis."
In his previous book, "Yoga for Arthritis," Dr. Fishman also suggest that yoga greatly improves arthritic joints by circulating synovial fluid, and stimulating all of the connective tissues around the joints, helping to mobilize these stagnant tissues.
The link below illustrates a wide-range of yoga poses. All the teachers and students (with the exception of the photographer's teen-age son) are over 60.
Please note that I do not recommend all of the poses shown in this link for people with osteoporosis. Pease see my previous Journal Entries ( especially Part One and Part Two ) for cautions, safe yoga guidelines, and how to find a qualified teacher.
In general, the safest and most important category of poses for building a healthy skeletal structure is the weight-bearing Standing Poses. Please see the chapters in my books, or other books on yoga and osteoporosis that have been recommended on this site, for more detailed guidance.
Suza Francina, author
Certified Iyengar Yoga Instructor
Edited October 7, 2009 at 10:07 am