Sunday, 19 April 2015

Increasing bone density

If you are in your 20s or 30s, you may not give your bone density a thought.  Research indicates however that this is the best time to maximise your bone density although I believe that it is never too late to make positive changes.

Below are some of the ways that yoga can help

  • Yoga includes weight bearing exercise which helps increase bone density.  Often this involves using your own body weight.  For instance in arm balances such as Crow pose, Side Plank, and  in standing poses and balances such as Warrior 1, 2 and 3, Half Moon Balance, Tree Pose etc.  To enhance the weight bearing effect you may want to think about using weights (see below).  I would not recommend this approach if you already have osteoporosis. 
  • Yoga twists, forward bends and squats help with digestion thereby optimising the absorption of nutrients that help support bone health
  • Yoga calms the mind reducing stress which also has a positive effect on digestion and the absorption of nutrients to support bone health
  • Yoga stretches cause muscle to pull on bone which encourages increase in bone density
  • Yoga dynamic flows and twists purify the body enhancing bone health (remember bone is LIVING tissue)
  • Yoga helps maintain strength and flexibility in the hips, spine and wrists where most fractures due to osteoporosis occur.

To increase the effectiveness of your yoga practice, I would recommend an alkaline diet.   This means eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, lentils, beans tofu, quinoa, and millet and limiting red meat, dairy, fish, eggs, saturated fat, processed foods, some wholegrains, salt and sugar which enhance bone loss.

  • Make sure your diet is rich in calcium.  Foods rich in calcium include skimmed milk, low fat yogurt, low fat cheese such as cottage cheese, fortified soya milk, green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, Brussel sprouts etc.
  • Include vitamin C to help with collagen production, a component of the bone matrix. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits. Although these taste acidic they are alkaline forming in the body.  Kiwi fruit and peppers are also a good source of vitamin C.
  • Avoid fizzy drinks which contain phosphoric acid which accelerates bone loss.  Caffeine in drinks such as coffee also should be avoided as it interferes with calcium absorption as does alcohol
  • Certain other minerals are important to help maintain such as magnesium (in beans, soya milk, white fish, almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds) which regulates calcium metabolism, and boron (in fresh fruits such as apples) which aids calcium absorption

Yoga with weights

IMPORTANT - When using weights, it is important to remember ahimsa, non-harming. Listen to your breath and if the breath becomes strained, it means that you need to let the pose go.  Listen to your body and never strain.   If a pose does not feel right for you leave it out.  

These poses are not recommended if you already have osteoporosis or osteopenia, at least not without the approval of your doctor.  Also not recommended if you are pregnant (for advice on practicing yoga during pregnancy please see-

Hold the weights firmly and move slow and steady, no jerky movements.

Never hold the weights directly above your head.

The weights used in the photographs below are 1kg, although you might want to try 0.5kg weights.

Always practice on your mat, so that you do not slip

Here are some yoga poses with weights to inspire you

To start warm up your muscles with several rounds of Sun Salutations.

Tadasana with bicep curls - stand with your feet at hip distance, straight spine, shoulders back. Hold the weights with your hands facing forward.  

Inhale, exhale bend your elbows bringing the weights towards your shoulders, inhale lower. Repeat 10 times.

Balancing Cat - come to an all 4s position holding the weights in your hands.

Inhale, exhale stretch out your right arm and left leg.  Repeat with the left arm and right leg. Repeat 5 times each side. Take a Child Pose then come into a prone position.

Locust - lie holding the weights down by your sides.  Press your tailbone away.

Inhale and lift your head, chest and arms, exhale to lower.  Repeat 5 times.  Sit back and with your big toes touching take your knees wide.  Stretch forward from the hips to the armpits, armpits down to the fingertips.

Downward Facing Dog variation - come back to all 4s holding the weights. Inhale, tuck your toes under, breathe out lift your hips.

Breathe in, breathe out lift your right hand towards your right armpit.  Breathe in to lower your right hand.  Repeat 5 times each side.

Goddess Squat - stand with your feet wide and turn your toes out to the corners of the mat. With the weights in your hands bring your arms into cactus, elbows bent and level with the shoulders. 

Breathe in stretch the arms up and out, straighten the legs.  Breathe out and bring your arms back to cactus, bend your knees.  Repeat 10 times.

Warrior 3 - stand facing the short edge of the mat, arms by your sides, weights in hand, Breathe in, breathe out and hinge forward, raising the right leg and taking the arms back. Inhale to come back to the start position and repeat on the other side.  Repeat both sides.

Anchored Boat - sit with your knees bent, hands by your sides with weights in your hands. Breathe in, breathe out, rock back on your sit bones and raise your arms out in front of you. 

Breathe in, breathe out and take your arms out to the sides.  Breathe in, sit upright and bring your arms forward, breathe out and return to the start position.  Repeat 5 times.

Take a long, well deserved savasana.

Please also see the videos on my YouTube channel-
How Yoga can help Heal- Osteoporosis 
Osteoporosis 1-Part 1-
Osteoporosis 1-Part 2-
Osteoporosis 2-Part 1-
Osteoporosis 2-Part 2-

How Yoga Boosts Health-Bone strength-

Janet x

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