When one looks at a skeleton, it can be easy to think that bones are fixed, finite, and rigid, but nothing could be farther from the truth of the bones in the body. Bones provide the matrix to support one’s shape and structure (including protection for organs) as well as a storage site for minerals and the production of red blood cells.
Bones are hard, but bones are also porous, flexible, and changeable. The old adage “you are what you eat” universally applies, but is never more apt than in relation to bones: calcium is the building-block for bone. From birth to old age a person has the same skeleton under her/his skin and it adapts and grows and changes throughout one’s life. For some people, those with osteoporosis and its predecessor, osteopenia, this changeability is not always such a good thing.
Osteoporosis is a disease of the bone when someone loses too much bone, makes too little bone or both. A person only truly builds bone from birth until their mid-20s after which there is a balancing act of bone formation and bone loss in accordance with the level of calcium in the bloodstream. Unfortunately for many, bone loss wins with age. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) there are a few things one can do to protect bone:
1. Get enough calcium and vitamin D in a balanced diet which includes lots of fruits and vegetables
2. Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption and
3. Engage in regular exercise.
The NOF notes that regular exercise can include weight-bearing exercises such as jogging, tennis, walking or aerobics or muscle-strengthening exercises such as lifting weights or yoga. Yoga is especially good for osteoporosis because it addresses both muscle-strengthening and non-impact exercises to improve balance, posture, and general mobility. Dr. Loren Fishman, medical doctor and foremost authority on yoga for osteoporosis reports that while “yoga helps grow bone mass” it may also “stimulate the formation of a bone structure that is able to resist greater amounts of pressure because yoga poses pull and stretch the bones from every conceivable angle.” Fishman also notes that the non-impact benefits of yoga such as improved balance, muscular strength, range of motion, and coordination can help those with osteoporosis reduce the risk of falling.
Those with osteoporosis and osteopenia should proceed with caution and always check with their doctor before embarking on a new activity.
While there are numerous benefits to practicing yoga, not all classes or poses are the same. Students new to yoga should find an experienced teacher who can offer modifications for poses or attend a class or workshop specifically designed for those with osteoporosis as certain postures are either recommended or contraindicated.
If you have osteoporosis, your bones may be more porous than they used to be, but make no bones about it, you can do something about it.
Janet Rankin, CYI, RYT, an experienced instructor at Grass Valley Yoga, teaches weekly classes in hatha yoga at 10052 Alta Sierra Dr. Suite C at the corner of Highway 49. For further information please visit www.GrassValleyYoga.com, email or call Janet – firstname.lastname@example.org at 530-401-0484.