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Yoga Insights

Practicing Yoga Asanas with Osteoporosis

Whether you have just started practicing yoga exercises or have been doing them for some time, keep it up and you’ll be reaping the benefits for years to come. Aside from managing stress, improving concentration and balance, and maintaining muscle strength and flexibility, doing yoga asanas regularly also helps keep our bones strong. This means we’ll be less likely to suffer the painful fractures that many people experience in old age.

Our bones are strongest and densest at around the age of 30, and after that our bone mass slowly decreases. Women lose bone the fastest in the first few years after menopause, a time when many are diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis.  The bone density of both men and women generally continues to decline into old age. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, chances are your doctor has told you to exercise since weight-bearing exercise helps keep bones strong. Yoga poses are a good choice. In fact, a couple of small studies done over the past few years suggest that the practice of yoga asanas helps maintain or improve bone density—even if done for only 10 minutes a day or an hour a week. While the number of participants in these studies was small, all of the people with either osteopenia or mild osteoporosis who practiced yoga asanas showed improvements in bone density over the control groups. These results are really not so surprising. After all, as we move into and hold the various poses, we put positive stress on every bone in our body. This strengthens the bones and helps protect them from fractures.

A word of caution, however. If you have type 2 (advanced) osteoporosis or you’re thinking about encouraging an elderly parent with the disease to practice yoga poses, be sure to consult a doctor or health care practitioner first. Many of the movements we do when practicing yoga poses increase the load on the vertebrae, so be sure to get the doctor’s approval or discuss with him/her which types of movements are good for you and which should be avoided. In general, spinal twists and any kind of forward bending would be no-nos.

That said, our asana of the week, Diving Pose, not only helps keep your bones strong but also works nearly every muscle in your body. It’s a heating pose, too, so it’s a good one to warm you up in the cooler weather!

Practicing Asanas with a Healed Injury

Think back to any injuries you might have sustained—maybe a broken bone, a torn ligament, sprained ankle, or a back or shoulder injury. Most of us have hurt ourselves in one way or another over the years. If we were able to take care of these injuries properly and they healed well, they may not bother us anymore. But sometimes, though seemingly healed, they can come back to haunt us.

Three Qualities for a Stress-Free Asana Practice

The ancient science of yoga offers profound benefits that go far beyond the physical. But in order to enjoy all of yoga’s benefits—physical, mental, and spiritual—we need to cultivate a certain mindset.

Asanas were designed to enable the practitioner to sit for long periods of time in meditation, so as to achieve the ultimate goal of self-realization. Even if our goals are less lofty, our asana practice can help us develop qualities that contribute to inner peace and a higher consciousness.

De-Stress Your Asana Practice

Why do we practice yoga asanas? I would guess that most of us do it for our health and well-being, to reduce stress, or to experience inner peace. Those are good reasons. But to achieve those results, it’s important to practice in a way that leads to those goals.

Remember that the word “asana” can be translated as “comfortable seat.” The word “comfortable” is the key to your practice. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t gently extend your boundaries—on the contrary, without doing so, the poses won’t get any easier. But it should be a gradual process, approached with patience.

Gaining Insights Through Meditation

Approaching life with the principles of yoga as our foundation will bring us keen insights—whether about our relationships, our personal situation, or our work. These insights will enable us to find a solution to any situation or problem in life.

When we’re faced with a difficult decision, if we’re unable to come up with a solution after analyzing the pros and cons, all too often we just sit there focusing our attention on the problem.

Extra Care for Yoga Flow

A lot of times I like to practice asanas one at a time, holding the poses for a while and taking short rests in between, when appropriate. But I also like to practice Salute to the Sun, flowing from one pose to another. Because there are so many different types of flow yoga classes available now, I just wanted to give you a few words of caution, especially if you’re new to the practice of asanas.


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