This article is separated in 4 chapters:
Part 1: How can yoga help to strengthen your bone capacity?
Part 2: Yoga for osteoporosis
Part 3: What kind of asana practise is suitable for people with osteoporosis?
Part 4:Do’s and don’t in Asana Practise for students with osteoporosis
Written by Sophie Nusselder
Today you can read part 3:
What kind of asana practice is suitable for people with osteoporosis?
First, the good news: osteoporosis is a condition that is both preventable and treatable if caught in time. However, the bad news is that there is not enough awareness of the opportunities for prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, and too many people, mostly women over the age of 50, suffer significant illness, deformity and sometimes death from this condition.
Osteoporosis itself does not cause back pain. However, osteoporosis can weaken the vertebral body (spine) so that it can no longer withstand normal stress or a minor trauma resulting in a fracture. In fact, a fracture is typically the first outward sign of the disease, and advanced osteoporosis is potentially very painful and disabling. Therefore National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends not to do risky movements like bending forward from the waist, twisting the spine to a point of strain, and doing toe touches and sit-ups.
Three years ago when the doctors did discover I have osteopenia in the spine. This information left me quite worried. Could the mainly ashtanga yoga based practice I love actually be damaging my skeleton? Should I stop doing forward bends and deep twists? Did I need to give up yoga entirely? It turns out that osteopenia requires me to have patience, honesty, and perhaps most important, humility. Nowadays I adapt my yoga practice to avoid injury. Asana practise helps me to maintain the bone mass I still have.
So what postures are safe for people with compromised bone mass?
Not everyone is in agreement on which postures are safe and effective for people with compromised bone mass. In Yoga for Osteoporosis, the authors—yoga therapist Ellen Saltonstall and Dr. Loren Fishman, medical director of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation—caution against a convex rounding of the spine. An example of these is Cat-Cow Pose, which can cause tiny fractures in the spine. Twists have the potential to do the same, but Fishman contends that twisting poses are “the only way I know to strengthen the anterior part of the vertebral body.”
Although some teachers might say the opposite, Ellen Saltanstall feels that gentle, supported twists are safe to do as part of one’s yoga practice. There’s almost no other way of developing strength and stimulate bone growth than exposing that vertebra to some pressure. Therefore, twists are very important, because they give a complete stimulus to the vertebral body. Only if you have certain other spine conditions, like a herniated disk, twists can be a problem.
Actually twisting the vertebra is one of the few ways to get all of the vertebrae under some compression and stimulate bone growth in the vertebrae. This is extremely important, because so many osteoporosis fractures happen in the vertebrae. On the other side Saltanstall recommends to avoid forward bends for people with osteoporosis, and the side bends they can do are limited.
Over the last 10 years, Ellen Saltonstall has given yoga practices including twists to many people, generally over the age of 65, from whom almost all have had significant osteoporosis. This has been well over 30,000 hours of yoga. There hasn’t been a single incidence of fracture, In fact, nothing bad has happened. We haven’t had one thing go wrong. This is something that both yoga teachers and yoga practitioners should know.
7 poses who are “ good to the bone” 🙂
In her Yoga Journal article “Good to the Bone,” Catherine Guthrie lists bone strengthening yoga poses recommended by Loren Fishman, Carol Krucoff and Sara Meeks. Guthrie suggests incorporating these seven poses into your home practice or substituting these poses in class when everyone else is practicing poses that are contraindicated for you:
- Tree Pose
- Warrior II
- Warrior I
- Chair Pose
- Cobra Pose
- Alternating arm and leg lifts from table position
- Bridge Pose