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!