Yoga for Osteoporosis and osteopenia
Osteoporosis is a disorder that thins and weakens bones, making them more porous. Osteopenia, or low bone density, is a precursor to osteoporosis and puts one at an increased risk of fracture.
Boning Up: The skeleton is very much alive, constantly breaking down and renewing itself in a two-step process called bone remodeling. The rate at which bone remodeling happens is affected by how much calcium is stored in the bones and introduced in the diet, as well as by three catalysts (vitamin D, hormones, and exercise) that determine how effectively the body uses calcium to build new bone and prevent bone loss through resorption. Osteoporosis results from an imbalance in remodeling—where too much old bone is broken down and removed, or too little new bone is formed, or both.
Maintenance Plan: Peak bone mass is achieved by age 20. After about age 40, bone’s withdrawal period starts, and less bone is replaced during remodeling. For women, a drop in estrogen at the time of menopause leads to a more rapid and significant loss of bone mass. Hormone replacement therapy was used in the past to strengthen bones and reduce fracture risk in postmenopausal women but was subsequently shown to significantly increased the risk of breast cancer and stroke. But you can strengthen the bone mass you already have by:
1. adding Vitamin D
2. aerobic exercising, especially progressive-resistance exercise [such as jogging, jumping, or walking], where you move your body or a weight against gravity while you remain upright
3. yoga, specifically weight-bearing postures
Yoga Practice for Osteoporosis
DO Include weight bearing poses like table and plank, or half plank:
Chaturanga Dandasana and Extended Catcan also help strengthen bone.
Recognize the stress response from any health challenge and practice savasana, pranayama and meditation. These practices can shift the balance in the autonomic nervous system which in turn can promote. a better ratio of old bone being broken down and new bone being built. They also increase balance, reduce the fear of falling, and elevate mood, which research demonstrates are key for maintaining bone health.
Pranayama: Sitali (straw) Open the mouth and form the lips into an “O.” Inhale deeply across the tongue and into the mouth as if drinking through a straw. Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath as the abdomen and lower ribs expand. Withdraw the tongue and close the mouth, exhaling completely through the nostrils. Continue doing sitali for 2 to 3 minutes.
Mudra: Rupa, gesture for osteoporosis and health of the skeletal system (see attached)
DO WITH CAUTION:
1. Cat-Cow Pose, which can cause tiny fractures in the spine. Also use caution and modification with other back bends.
2. Twists could also cause tiny fractures but are the best way to strengthen the anterior part of the vertebral body.
It is important to maintain a neutral spine. Poses which put pressure on the neck, or the spine is in strong flexion or extension should be avoided. These include headstand, plough and shoulder stand. Sun salutations should be done with bent knees and a long spine.
Suggested Practice for osteoporosis and osteopenia: To build bone strength see http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/standing-strong/