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Osteoporosis and Yoga

Updated: Feb 17

Osteoporosis is often referred to as the 'silent disease' because, although almost 3 million people in the UK are estimated to have osteoporosis, worryingly few people know they have it until they break a bone. There are more than 300,000 fractures every year due to osteoporosis.


About 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 will have a fracture due to osteoporosis.


Age UK Website – useful links at the bottom of the page


What is Osteoporosis and Osteopenia?

After the age of 40 it is normal to lose bone, but some people lose more than others, this may lead to Osteopenia (low bone density) or even Osteoporosis: the bones become more fragile and more likely to break. A bone density test measures bone mineral content:

Osteopenia is defined as a T score of 1 to 2.5 standard deviations below the mean and means that you are at risk for developing osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is defined as a T score of 2.5 standard deviations below the mean. The higher the T score (or the more negative the numbers), the higher the fracture risk.


How can you prevent developing Osteoporosis?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout your life and including weight bearing exercise in your life. I have included links to some useful websites at the bottom of this article. Weight-bearing exercise such as running, walking, Tia Chi and, of course, Yoga.

These all help because of Woolf’s law:

1. The architectural strength of a bone develops along the lines of force that the bone is subjected to.


2. If a bone is loaded, the bone will remodel itself over time to become stronger and resist that sort of loading.


(See links at the bottom to Loren Fishman and Baxter Bell if you would like to know more)


There are differences in approach, but all agree the sooner you start exercising the sooner you build up your bone strength, and it is never too late!


Beware though of exercising to excess and excessive weight loss which can increase your risk of osteoporosis. Also, if your weight bearing exercise consists only of walking and running this only benefits the lower limbs – the great variety of moves and poses means yoga reaches more areas.


I am over 50 and in a high-risk category – can I still do Yoga?

It is important to keep exercising, or even begin a class, as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Though it is more important to listen to our bodies and choose the exercise or the yoga class that works for you. Being in that category myself there are some yoga postures I no longer teach, for example strong inversions.


I have given some tips below that will help you keep your bones healthy, but If you have loss of height, excessive rounding of the back or severe back pain check with your doctor before starting a Yoga practise and find an Osteoporosis friendly class


Useful things to consider


· Research Yoga Classes to find one that is suitable for you.


· Listen to your body, do not go beyond your range of motion, or crank yourself into poses


· Check you are not rounding your back in forward bends (that includes cat pose and downward dog). Keep twists and side bends to 50 - 80% of your capacity.


· Move slowly into poses: this can ease you into them or add a level of challenge to help the build bone density. Slow isn’t always easier!


· Include strengthening asanas for muscles and core strength which help protect your bones


· Move limbs through all 6 directions


· Balancing postures can be twice as good for building bones


· Dynamic balances will help prevent falls!


· Keep it soft – do not tense or hyperextend the joints


· Your breath is your barometer; if it is ragged you are over working


· It is more than just the postures – according to the NHS website relaxation techniques help


I have been diagnosed with Osteoporosis or Ostenpenia - can I still practice yoga?


Yes - but you do need to practise with care.


Check with the doctor first (in advanced cases non-weight bearing poses like swimming may be more suitable). Research teachers that are knowledgeable about osteoporosis and consider working one to one with a Yoga Therapist initially; avoid some poses and maybe the vacuuming – see below.


Continuing or beginning a Yoga Practise, in a Yoga setting that meets your needs, can provide an all-round weight-bearing activity to maintain/build bone strength, improve your range of motion as well as all the other positive effects of Yoga such as reduced blood pressure; better co-ordination and balance; improved posture and improve your sense of well-being.


AVOID:

Forward folds that involve rounding of the back; inverted postures; strong twists and side bends; toe touches; abdominal crunches and sit-ups. Downward Dog with a rounded back should be avoided – there are alternatives and even, seemingly gentle poses like cat pose and child’s pose may need adapting or removing from your practise.


Beware of twisting the torso and bending forward when doing activities such as coughing, sneezing, vacuuming or lifting!


Loren Fishman

https://www.yogauonline.com/yogau-wellness-blog/yoga-for-osteoporosis-interview-loren-fishman-md-and-ellen-saltonstall


Baxter Bell

http://yogaforhealthyaging.blogspot.com/2013/02/what-is-osteopenia-and-how-can-yoga-help.html



Age UK

https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/health-wellbeing/conditions-illnesses/osteoporosis/#:~:text=About%201%20in%202%20women,to%20keep%20your%20bones%20healthy


Versus Arthritis

https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/conditions/osteoporosis/?gclid=CjwKCAiAwrf-BRA9EiwAUWwKXoMeeexiaaSd0P4cDzZ5oeFYFetz8bD80CtNSGeFyso532SPPlyJfhoCNjMQAvD_


Royal Osteoporosis Society

https://theros.org.uk/information-and-support/?gclid=CjwKCAiAwrf-BRA9EiwAUWwKXrhiRFzWyKW7KLyccuCMYuO2mRleXJubk_PkwbTJM_xGboCWG2s8vRoCdnUQAvD_BwE


I was inspired to write this blog after attending this course:





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