What is osteoporosis?
It is a chronic disease that causes brittle bones or reduced density in the bone. It can progress until the bone breaks. The hips, spine and wrists are most susceptible.
Why am I writing this article?
I read a piece in the Yoga Journal magazine dated May 2011 entitled ‘Good to the Bone’. At first I was fascinated, then I was scared as I read the facts, as I read on I was pacified when I discovered how yoga, amongst other things, can help.
I was inspired to create a lesson based on poses that can help increase bone mass.
Who suffers from it?
I don’t know the number of people who suffer from it in England but 10 million Americans have it and 34 million Americans have osteopenia, which means they have low bone mass. 80% of those with osteoporosis are women.
Around the age of 30 our bodies reach maximum bone mass and then after that we have to maintain what we’ve got. After menopause women can loose up to 20% of our bone mass.
Can the symptoms be reversed?
Practising yoga can help
Yoga is a weight baring exercise. You hold the weight of your body up against gravity. Resisting gravity puts a mild stress on the bones. The stress forces bones into laying down new growth.
Yoga is safe and gentle. It allows the body to build up strength over time. The difference between practising yoga poses from other weight baring exercises like walking, jogging or tennis is that you won’t stress the joints or damage the cartilage. As I said in class the muscles are lengthened and while we take time to breathe into a pose it holds them there, creating tension on the bone. Those of you who practise yoga will be able to visualise this action during a pose. It is this pulling action of the muscle on the bone improves the bone density and strength.
Studies have shown that any amount of yoga will help prevent bone loss. The more you do the more beneficial it will be.
If you have osteoporosis make sure that you practise yoga safely, that you focus on correct alignment. Be particularly careful when doing forward bends and seated and standing twists.
Nutrition and Diet for strong healthy bones
Foods you are recommended to eat:
Foods that are low in acid – some of these alkaline foods as listed below:
Vegetables – especially broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, kale, courgettes
Fresh fruit – especially apples, pineapple, bananas, oranges and peaches
Limit high acid foods such as:
Cheese, meat, eggs, fish
A suggested salad in the YJ magazine sounded lovely made up of lettuces, fresh berries, mango, pine nuts, dried cranberries and raw kale chopped superfine like parsley.
It is important to have a good balance of lots of vegetables and fruit to a small portion of protein-rich food. Too much protein in the diet may weaken the bones. Protein is acid forming. When too much acid enters the blood stream, the body pulls calcium, which is alkaline, from the bone to neutralize it.
We need to think about strengthening the bone.
For those with osteoporosis the intake of calcium from dairy products, especially yogurt and cheese is recommended along with calcium rich veggies like greens, broccoli, kale and spinach.
Fish oil is a good source of vitamin D and this vitamin improves the absorption of calcium.
Stress is also a contributing factor to osteoporosis. It creates acid in the blood. We should take a little time to practice breathing techniques, deep relaxation or meditation so that the blood can become more alkaline.
Other factors to help keep the bones strong:
§ Sunlight – it is advisable to sit in the sun for 15 minutes a day. Vitamin D can be absorbed from the sun. This has the added bonus of giving you that feel-good factor helping to reduce stress. Vitamin D is the essential nutrient that increases calcium absorption.
§ Don’t smoke – cut out cigarettes
§ It is advisable cut out alcohol as this increases the likelihood of brittle bones.
§ Lower your salt intake as salt takes calcium from the bones
I hope that you have found these few facts helpful. I believe that if you can do even as little as 10 minutes of standing poses, forward bends, backbends, twists and inversions a day you will be building up your bones. As the experts say ‘it is never too early to start saving bone’. And if you are a little more mature it is never too late.
Whenever we do some yoga we are also building up our muscles. If you have firm muscles these can act as a shock absorber and can help to cushion a fall and help prevent damaging your bones.
Do look on my previous blog articles where I have spoken instructions on how to do the bridge pose and the 3 way stretch.
Those who would preserve the spirit must also look after body to which it is attached.