If you suffer from the painful symptoms of osteoporosis, or if you are at risk of developing this limiting disease, there is help (and health) in starting your own regular yoga routine. In fact, doctors are now prescribing yoga as treatment and prevention for osteoporosis and osteopenia, making it an important part of maintaining physical health and wellness throughout your 50s and 60s — and beyond.
Osteoporosis and osteopenia are conditions that commonly emerge throughout our later years, and if left untreated they can affect your mobility, bone density, and even your ability to remain self-sufficient. These conditions cause bones to be come weak and brittle, and over time more vulnerable to fractures and even breakage.
But a recent 2016 study discovered that yoga can be used in conjunction with other treatments to prevent the loss of bone density and in some cases reverse early onset of osteoporosis. Plus, as an added benefit, yoga is also a low-cost and low-risk treatment option, meaning there is little to lose by giving it a try.
The process by which yoga treats and prevents osteoporosis is simple — through stretching and strengthening your muscle tissue you can build bone density and prevent fractures. Yoga postures exert subtle force upon your bones, prompting them to build up density and become stronger.
Yoga also improves your balance, which can help prevent falls — which may result in fractures or breakage. Along with building strength and flexibility, yoga also increases your mobility, endurance, and energy levels, helping you stay active no matter your age.
It should be noted that yoga may not cure osteoporosis on its own, and for some advanced cases it may not be effective in reversing this disease. Results vary on an individual basis, depending on your age, bone density, and other factors such as weight and co-existing conditions
If you’re thinking of starting your own yoga regimen to prevent or reverse osteoporosis, there are a few things you should know. It’s important to first consult your doctor before practicing yoga for osteoporosis or osteopenia, to find out if there are any specific precautions you should be taking and whether or not it’s a safe activity for you.
Patients with advanced osteoporosis who have suffered fractures, breaks, or acute bone loss may need to avoid practicing yoga. If you’ve recently undergone surgery or if you’re still healing from an injury, you should wait until you’ve fully recovered before getting started.
Most importantly, you should take care to listen to your body when practicing yoga for osteoporosis. If a particular yoga pose causes pain or strain on your bones or joints, stop for a moment and take a break. Or, try using a modification like a bolster, block, or yoga blanket if applicable.
In their 2016 study, scientists found that the best results for using yoga as treatment for osteoporosis came from regular practice. Try performing yoga poses at least 3-4 times per week, or daily if you can. The more regularly you practice, the more bone density you’ll build, and the more strength and balance you’ll develop in your body.
If you’ve been cleared by your doctor to practice yoga and you’re ready to get started, there are some simple yoga poses you can do at home to help prevent osteoporosis. You can also try taking a yoga class specifically designed for patients with osteoporosis. Here at MyYogaTeacher , certified instructors can help you stay safe and injury free while giving you the independence to practice yoga in the comfort of your home.
Ready to get started?
Follow the steps below to begin your own personal yoga journey.
The foundation of all balance poses, Mountain pose helps you find stability and improve your posture.
Start by standing at the front of your mat. Keep your feet hip distance apart, and you can rest your arms at your sides or bring your hands together in prayer formation. Inhale and feel your chest opening and your collar bones widening as you focus on balancing your weight proportionally on both of your feet. Gaze straight forward and maintain this pose for 1-2 minutes.
From Mountain pose, you’ll begin to transition into Tree pose to further improve your balance and stability.
Bring your awareness to your left foot and firmly ground it into the mat. Begin to shift your body weight to your left foot, while gently lifting your right foot. Depending on your ability to balance, you can place the sole of your right foot on your left calf or thigh. As you do this, be sure to keep your pelvis aligned, your spine straight, and your gaze focused forward. Give yourself a moment to steady yourself, and then, if you feel comfortable, press your hands together in prayer formation. Hold for 5-6 deep breaths and repeat on the other side, then return to Mountain pose.
This standing pose also improves your balance and builds strength in your legs and core. If you have trouble balancing and wish to modify this pose, try practicing it next to a wall or with a chair.
Move to the back portion of your mat and step your right foot forward. Your right toes should be pointed forward and your left (back) foot should be kept parallel with your mat. Bend your right knee at 90 degrees, taking care not to overextend. Your right knee should not move forward past your toes. With your hips evenly squared, stretch your arms out to both sides, so that your right arm extended out in front of you and your left arm behind you. Open your chest and focus on activating your legs so that you are grounded into your mat. Hold this pose for 5-6 breaths and repeat on the other side.
This pose also requires strength and balance, and can be modified by performing it next to a wall. You can also place a block next to your front foot for easier hand positioning.
Just like with Warrior II, step your right foot forward for Triangle pose, keeping your left (back) foot parallel with your mat. Inhale and stretch out both your arms the same as in Warrior II, but keep your right leg straight with a slight, soft bend in your knee. As you exhale, hinge at your hip and bend forward, placing your right fingertips on the floor, or you can place your hand on the block positioned next to your right foot. Turn your upper body and reach your left hand toward the ceiling, and either turn your head to gaze up at your hand, or keep your eyes focused straight ahead. Hold for 3-5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
This pose is excellent for increasing mobility in your spine and hips.
Move to a tabletop position on your mat, with your hands and knees on the floor. Inhale and look up, lifting your chin and gently arching your back. Feel the stretch in your chest and abdomen. As you exhale, drop your chin and look down toward your naval as you curl your spine forward. Continue this movement 5-10 times.
Like Cat-Cow, Locust improves your spinal mobility with a soft backbend, but in this pose you will also be working your core muscles, glutes, and shoulders.
From Cat-Cow, lower yourself onto the mat so that you are lying face down on your stomach with your legs extended straight and your arms at your sides. On your inhale, strengthen your core and lift your head, legs and arms at the same time, balancing your body on your lower abdomen, pelvis and upper legs. Engage your glutes and press both of your legs together while holding them up. Hold this pose for 5-6 breaths, and then relax back onto your mat.
After the strengthening work of Locust pose, give your body a rest with Child’s pose
After Locust you’ve likely returned to lying face down on your mat. Press your palms and knees into the floor as if you were rising back into tabletop position, but this time bring your hips back so that your buttocks are resting on your heels, and your big toes are touching each other. Extend your arms forward so that your palms are resting on the mat in front of you, and bring your forehead to the mat. Breathe gently and allow your body to fully sink into this pose, supported by the floor. Hold for 5-6 minutes.
After practicing the above stretching and strengthening poses, it’s important to let your body fully digest the movement by resting in Corpse pose.
Come to a seated position on your mat. Slowly lower your body to the floor, so that you are lying flat on your back with your legs extended straight and your arms at your sides, palms facing up. Close your eyes and bring your focus inward. Bring your awareness to your body and check in with each and every body part, noticing if you feel any tension and allowing yourself to fully relax. Soften your face, neck, and shoulders, and let yourself melt into your mat while visualizing any tension leaving your body. Rest in this post for 5-7 minutes.
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