Yoga For Osteoporosis


#1

Osteoperosis is a bone density disease. Osteoperosis leads to abnormally porous bones that are compressible like a sponge. This disorder affects the skeleton, causing the bones to weaken and suffer from frequent fractures (small breaks). Osteopenia is the name of the condition that causes slightly less density in the bone which makes someone prone to Osteoperosis. Although x-rays can reveal the presence of osteoperosis, by the time they are usually taken, at least 30% of the bone has already been lost. Treatments of this disease usually come in the form of hormone therapy and vitamin D and calcium supplements, but yoga is a wonderful preventative measure to take in order to have strong bones with the proper density.

Normal bone is composed of protein, collagen and calcium. These give bones their strength and create bone density. All three of these compounds are regulated hormonally, and through the prana or life force coursing through the body. In yogic terms, our bodies are just vibrating energy, so any ailment is due to problems with energetic flow. This ancient practice can reduce tension, strengthen and stretch the muscles, tendons and connective tissues, balance and rejuvenate the circulation, and since many asana (poses) in yoga are weight bearing, they stimulate bone building by creating osteoblasts that create new bone. Further, yoga can promote the reduction of toxins that accumulate in the body by helping to eliminate them more expeditiously through pranayama (breathing exercises) and asana, and eventually through meditation. Finally, yoga helps to promote balance and coordination with its many balancing asana. This helps those who suffer from Osteoperosis to avoid falls that are more likely to cause fracture than in someone not suffering from the disease.

The spine, hips, ribs, and wrists are common areas of bone fractures from osteoporosis although osteoporosis-related fractures can occur in almost any skeletal bone, and these areas of the body are stretched and aligned in ways that put pressure on the bones, causing them to become stronger. Some specific asana one can practice to help build osteoblasts are the standing poses, such as chair, warrior one, two and three, tree, and tadasana. To avoid further complication; however, persons with Osteoperosis should abstain from practicing forward bending or twisting asana. Since the body is fragile, these asana can cause spontaneous spinal fractures in areas of low bone density. Once the bone density has been increased, then these postures can gradually be added back to one’s practice.

To practice chair pose (Utkatasana) begin in Mountain pose (Tadasana). Stretch your arms over your head, keeping the shoulders away from the ears, and the arms as straight as possible. Lengthen the spine, and keep the lower ribs in neutral, do not press them forward. Breathe in, and on the exhale, sit back as if you are about to sit in a chair, bending the upper body forward at a 45 degree angle. Be sure that the back is straight. You will wan tot use the erectus spinae muscles on either side of the spine, the lower abdominals, the rectus abdominus and the large muscle of the legs to maintain the posture. Let the weight of the upper body sink into the pelvic floor. Relax the calves, and allow the weight from the hips to sink into the floor. You can imagine your feet are actually sinking into mud, and this will keep the energy body active in the pose. To the same effect, send your energy all the way out through your finger-tips, and beyond. If the shoulders become too tight and strained, drop the hands to the heart in the heart seal, or prayer position (Anahata mudra). The chest should be slightly ahead of the belly. The breath should not be held, but deep and steady. Hold only as long as the body allows, especially for beginning students and those with advanced osteoperosis. You can build up the duration of the pose as your leg muscles become stronger. Those with lower back problems will need to find an alternate version of this posture to practice, as it is counterindicated in this case.

Any of the warrior poses are wonderful for building bone density as well, because they use the larger muscles of the legs to bear the weight of the body. Additionally, when done correctly, the legs are grounded well into the floor and ‘spread the mat’ making use of the leverage and traction of the feet to intensify the strength of the legs. To practice warrior one (Virabhadra’s Pose), begin by standing in Tadasana. As you exhale, step your feet 31/2 to 4 feet apart. You should have a relatively wide stance to help with balance. Raise your arms perpendicular to the floor (and parallel to each other), and reach actively through the little-finger sides of the hands toward the ceiling. Firm your scapulas (shoulder blades) against your back and draw them down toward the coccyx (the tail bone). Next, turn your left foot in 45 to 60 degrees to the right and your right foot out 90 degrees to the right. Your toe should be slightly ahead of the heel. Align the right heel with the left heel. Exhale and rotate your torso to the right, squaring the front of your pelvis as much as possible with the front edge of your mat. As you square your hips forward, press the head of the left femur back to ground the heel. Lengthen your coccyx toward the floor, and arch your upper torso back slightly. More advanced students can add a slight backbend. Beginner students should be sure to drop their hands to prayer position of the upper body gets too tense. Otherwise, the arms reach overhead. With your left heel firmly anchored to the floor, exhale and bend your right knee over the right ankle so the shin is perpendicular to the floor. They should form a 90 degree angle. More flexible students should align their right thigh parallel to the floor. This will cause you to drop deeper into the lunge, and feel a more pronounced stretch in the front hip flexor and lower back as it arches to support the legs. Warrior II and III can be added once this first posture can be practiced with stability and ease for at least one minute on each side.

To round out your practice, do some gentle stretches like cat/cow, and child’s pose (Balasana). You can also practice legs up the wall (Viparita Karani) to relax the spine into the floor, with support. End with some gentle breathing, and a focused meditation on the strength and resilience of the bone cells to help create the atmosphere of supportive healing in the body. Osteoperosis doesn’t have to be an insufferable disease that you just live with. You can heal your body through yoga.


#2

Thank you for this article and shedding much needed light on osteoporosis. There are a couple points/suggestions I’d like to offer.

You mentioned Vitamin D therapy, but it should be specified that D3 is the form of D to be used. D2 is synthetic or plant based while D3 is natural and better utilized.

And as you mentioned, forward folds are to be avoided until bone density is built back up. But you then go on to suggest child’s pose as part of a finishing sequence. Child’s pose is a forward fold and can place undue stress on vertebrae causing stress fractures and should be avoided. It can be part of a practice IF bone density has been built up sufficiently. You did say this earlier in your article, but warrants another caution in your last paragraph.

And finally, a word of caution about balancing and even standing poses. Agree 100% that they are wonderful weight bearing poses for osteoporosis, however should be noted that those with diagnosed osteoporosis should practice next to a wall or use a chair for support until they become more steady.

Namaste


#3

High-impact exercise is hard on joints and not recommended for people who already have osteoporosis; balance problems; or knee, ankle, or back problems. High-impact exercise that involves bouncing while stretching, or rapid stretching with poor body alignment, may cause crush fractures of weakened vertebrae and exacerbate existing problems due to osteoporosis and poor posture.


#4

[QUOTE=lotusgirl;69534]You mentioned Vitamin D therapy, but it should be specified that D3 is the form of D to be used. D2 is synthetic or plant based while D3 is natural and better utilized. [/QUOTE]

And those of us who belong to the vegan police tend to ignore D3 unless it’s from sunlight.

I’ve also read studies showing that D2 is as efficient as D3 when taken in the larger quantities that are generally prescribed for fighting osteoporisis.

There’s nothing really natural about how D3 is turned into a pill BTW.


#5

Terje,

While you are correct that vegans cannot take Vitamin D3, vegetarians can if it is derived from Lanolin. They do not harm the sheep, only shaving their wool for the lanolin.

Here is a link about the difference between D2 and D3: http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Research/Vitamin-D3-more-potent-than-D2-further-evidence

And here is a thread I started after being diagnosed with severe Vitamin D deficiency:
http://www.yogaforums.com/forums/f34/truth-about-vitamin-d-7447.html

And I guess Terje, as with anything, you will find studies to support both. All I know is as a vegetarian suffering from a severe deficiency (I am also a master gardener so I spend a lot of time outside, not always with sunscreen protection) the only D that raised my levels to normal and have sustained them is D3. Mine is lanolin derived.

And nothing we “take” is natural if you think about it. :slight_smile:


#6

lotusgirl,

I hope I didn’t offend you or come off as aggressive. I tend to do that in forums like this, because english isn’t my first language and because I tend to be sort of harsh when I debate something.

If D3 is what works for you then that’s what you should take. I’d do the same, vegan or not but my wife would rather die than take anything that wasn’t vegan. To each his own I guess.

I’ve had to look into it a bit because my wife has normal levels of vitamin D but some other problems that may in the future lead to osteoporosis. She’s not really using D2 either though… stubborn woman… but she gets clearly better when she is out in the sun a lot.

There is (as you may or may not know) a big debate over this in the vegan forums. Generally it seems that the vegan police won’t shoot you if you actually need to take D3, since the sheep aren’t killed. Takes a bit of chemical baths to get the lanolin from the wool though, which is what I meant with D3 not being so natural either.

Anyway, I’ll be following this thread since it is an interesting topic.


#7

You didn’t offend me at all Terje! Quite the contrary, you bring up very good points. When you are faced with a “crisis” like I was, all you think about is taking what works. I tried the more vegan/vegetarian friendly D2 with poor results. D3 is what worked best. D3 stays in your system and keeps levels elevated. D2 will only temporarily keep them up. It is most important during the winter months to take a D supplement as the sun’s rays are not strong enough to provide any D. I also use a happy light, which is full spectrum. I turn it on and sit in front of it 20 minutes a day during winter. Really helps! My levels have remained quite good.

I hope your wife is OK and re-thinks Vitamin D. All my best to you both.


#8

Thanks for the concern, we’ll se what happens with that :slight_smile: