12 Minutes Of Yoga For Stronger Bones
By Lindsay Sibson
Ever wonder what happens when you stop practicing yoga for over a year and then decide you are going to “jump back into it?”
Well, no worries… I am here to tell you that the results are quite comical. You will either feel like your limbs are about to snap at any second, OR you will have an ongoing battle with your mind to stop obsessing about how you should have painted your toenails before class.
Either way, I enjoyed the class and look forward to regularly enjoying the joys of yoga.
It’s not new news that yoga has a long list of health benefits, such as:
- Stronger muscles
- Better posture and balance
- Greater flexibility and range of motion
- Reduced emotional and physical stress
- Increased self-esteem and self awareness
What is difficult about these claims is that it is challenging to research large groups of yoga students to prove the benefits. It requires a lot of time and money to research. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible to find a group of volunteers in which no one is already taking pharmaceutical drugs.
This is something that Dr. Loren M. Fishman, a physiatrist who specializes in rehabilitative medicine at Columbia University, knows all too well.
He has been hoping to determine if yoga could be an effective therapy for osteoporosis and has been gathering evidence on yoga and bone health for years. Making it even more challenging is that this idea is not widely accepted in the medical community.
However, in 2004, Dr. Fishman started a small pilot study where he had participants engage in yoga postures, which produced some inspiring results. Eleven people have completed the 2-year-10-minute-a-day yoga protocol and have been successful in increasing their bone mineral density.
Dr. Fishman is optimistic that if a larger study is conducted, similar results may help persuade doctors that yoga, which is low-cost and less dangerous than bone-loss drugs, is worth pursuing.
The impact would be profound, considering that more than 700,000 spinal fractures and more than 300,000 hip fractures occur a year in the U.S.!
Many of these injuries are treated with drugs and these medications have various adverse side effects such as fractures of the femur and gastrointestinal distress.
Why YOGA Is A Safer Solution
For people with bone loss, weight-bearing activity is often recommended. Yoga fits this “prescription” perfectly.
As stated by Dr. Fishman:
“Yoga’s side effects include better posture, improved balance, enhanced coordination, greater range of motion, higher strength, reduced levels of anxiety and better gait.
“Yoga puts more pressure on bone than gravity does. By opposing one group of muscles against another, it stimulate osteocytes, the bone-making cells.”
Gaining significant bone mass as an adult is extremely difficult, if not impossible, as argued by most experts. However, Dr. Fishman continued undeterred and invested his own time and money along with three collaborators (Yi-Hsueh Lu of The Rockefeller University, Dr. Gregory Chang of NYU and Bernard Rosner of Brigham and Women’s Hospital), who solicited volunteers worldwide for a small pilot study follow-up.
What they found was:
- Of the 741 participants of the 2005 to 2015 experiment, 227 completed the 12 assigned yoga poses daily or every other day (which took 12 minutes to complete – each pose held for 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds).
- The average age of the 227 participants was 68 years old and 84 percent had osteoporosis or its precursor, osteopenia.
In 2010, bone density measurements and x-rays were taken again of the participants, which showed that completing the recommended yoga exercises had improved their bone density in their femur and spine as well as their hips. However, the hip improvements were not statistically significant.
What is even more promising is that, before the study, the x-rays reported that the participants had had 109 fractures. Since engaging in a yoga practice, “more than 90,000 hours of yoga practiced largely by people with osteoporosis or osteopenia, there have been NO reported X-ray detected fractures or serious injuries of any kind related to the practice of yoga in any of the 741 participants,” said Dr. Fishman and his collaborators.
The Final Takeaway
Even for people who have suffered significant bone loss… YOGA is a safe solution that can help improve posture and balance, which can ultimately help protect your bones.
Dr. Fishman concludes by adding, “Yoga is good for range of motion, strength, coordination and reduced anxiety, all of which contribute to the ability to stay upright and not fall. If you don’t fall, you greatly reduce your risk of a serious fracture.”
Do you practice yoga? What does it do for YOU? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!
Lindsay Sibson turned her lifelong dream of traveling the world into a reality when she first stepped on a plan in April of 2014. With the simple intention of learning more about this beautiful world, she stepped away from corporate America to explore an alternative lifestyle of long term international travel, volunteering, blogging and pursuing a blissfully happy and fulfilling way of life.
Lindsay documents her journey in hopes of empowering others to find their passion, reignite their spark and freshen their outlook on life. Connect with her on her website and follow her travels on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/_traveloholic_).
Through her blog, Lindsay documents her journey in hopes of empowering others to find their passion, reignite their spark and freshen their outlook on life.
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