YogaAndBackCare - Osteoporosis


Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones. The word comes from the Greek.. osteon.. meaning bone and poros .. meaning pore and together it means porous bones.

If you scan a healthy bone, you see a mesh like structure much like a honeycomb with small spaces within the mesh. In osteoporosis, the scan would show much larger spaces. This makes the physical structure of the bone less dense and therefore much weaker and the bones are more likely to break.

I always recommend to my over-fifty students that they ask their doctors if they can have a DEXA test. DEXA stands for Duel Energy X-ray absorpiometry and the test measures the bone mineral density. A preventative programme can really help a person in the early stages of osteoporosis, for example there are pills that can be taken to keep the calcium level up in the bones.

The National Osteoporosis Society has a lot of useful information on their web site. The NHS Choices web site also gives useful information about Osteoporosis.

So what about Yoga and Osteoporosis? The good news is that it really can help as part of a preventative programme and it can enable a student to regain height lost through osteoporosis.

However, the student must take care to find the right yoga class. There are many different styles of teaching Hatha Yoga and when we are young, fit and flexible they are all fine but as we get older we have to be more selective if we are developing aches and pains.

The student will need to be able to move from one posture into another slowly and at her/his own pace. Jumping into postures has to be a thing of the past. So choose a teacher who understands the limitations that osteoporosis brings and who will be able to help the student practise the poses that will undoubtedly benefit the student.

Many yoga teachers encourage students to hug their knees to their chests and then roll over to one side and return back to the centre, before rolling over to the other side. It gives a lovely massage to the lower back but if a person has osteoporosis the rolling can be enough to fracture a bone, so this is something to avoid.

1. Posture. Practise Tadasana the Mountain Pose.

One of the early signs of osteoporosis is the head beginning to drop forward, the shoulders rounding, the back humping and a folding up across the chest. Not only is this not good structurally for the body, it also makes it more difficult to breath easily, so the yoga teacher should be helping the student to improve their posture and open up their chest.

This lady with osteoporosis has difficulty keeping her head up when she is practising Tadasana A student with osteoporosis working hard to improve her posture in Tadasana

Compare the two side ways views of Tadasana. You will notice in the one on the right, the student is working hard to pull her shoulders back. This is helping her open out her chest and will enable her to breath more deeply. She is also trying to hold her head higher.

As we grow older, we can't rely on our bones to hold us up but if we work on our muscles they can help hold us up.

2. Balance Practise Vrksasana -the Tree Pose

Balancing on one leg is a weight bearing exercise which will strengthen the bones. Do look at the posture in the posture section.

Even if you can only start by resting the one foot on top of the other and gently lifting the toes on the top foot of the floor that will help strengthen your legs.

The Tree Posture is strengthening the legs for this student with osteoporosis

3. Open out the Chest. Practise Setu Bandhasana The Bridge

The Bridge enables the student to relax in a position which helps open out the chest. This is really helpful for a person with osteoporosis because the shoulders tend to start rolling forward and dropping which makes breathing harder.

The student's shoulders need to be opening  during this posture