Groundbreaking study shows yoga can build bones

A groundbreaking clinical trial shows postmenopausal women with osteoporosis gained bone density after only 6 months of regular yoga practice.

This is the first clinical study to show the benefits of yoga — and the benefits are significant! Yoga can not only halt menopausal bone loss, but a systematic yoga exercise program can increase bone density after menopause when women normally lose bone.

Here’s what the study included

The 30 women who participated all had osteoporosis and practiced yoga for one hour, 4 days a week for 6 months:

  • The 1-hour session included: warm up, the sun salute movement and various yoga postures done in standing, sitting, supine and prone positions.
  • Each position included 3 different yoga postures, one of which provided relaxation before going into the next pose.
  • Each pose was repeated 5 times with holds of 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Sessions were concluded with a traditional Indian deep breathing relaxation exercise (pranayama) and chanting of the “ohm” sound.

Interested in getting started with yoga?

If you decide to take up yoga for its bone benefits, you’ll see the best results with a practice of at least 4 times a week. Consider training with a knowledgeable yoga teacher who can help you determine the most appropriate poses based on your fitness level.

One important note is that all the women in the study had osteoporosis by bone density (T score of -2.5 or more), but women were excluded from participating in the study if they had experienced a fracture associated with osteoporosis or an illness that deemed them unfit for yoga exercise.

Many of the postures used in yoga involve forward bends and are not appropriate for those with spinal fractures or severe vertebral body weakness. Depending on your back strength, you may need to work on some adaptations to these postures with your yoga instructor.

The authors of the clinical trial report that the yoga exercises they used were similar to those used by Dr. Loren Fishman in his promising yoga exercise study.

Yoga poses from the clinical trial

Standing poses
standing prayer pose
mountain pose
triangle pose

Sitting
half spinal twist
seated forward bend
lotus pose

Supine
bridge
reclined thunderbolt
corpse pose

Prone
cat pose
boat pose
crocodile pose

Pranayama: The closing breathing exercises (pranayama) were:
sheetali — cooling breath
sadant — another cooling breath
bhastrika pranayama 1 &2 — bellows breath
ujjayi pranayama — ocean sounding breath

The closing chant was: The OM mantra

If yoga is in your future, relax and enjoy the stretches and I suggest you end your sessions with several deep breaths and a prayer of appreciation.

 

References:

Fishman, L. M. 2009. Yoga for osteoporosis: A pilot study. Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation 25(3):244–250.

Fishman, L. M., and E. Saltonstall. 2010. Yoga for osteoporosis: The complete guide. New York: Norton.

Motorwala, Z. S., S. Kolke, P. Y. Panchal, N. S. Bedekar, P. K. Sancheti, and A. Shyam. 2016. Effects of yogasanas on osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. International Journal of Yoga 9(1):44–48. [http://www.ijoy.org.in/article.asp?issn=0973-6131;year=2016;volume=9;issue=1;spage=44;epage=48;aulast=Motorwala]

Lu, Y. H., B. Rosner, G. Chang, and L. M. Fishman. 2015. Twelve-minute daily yoga regimen reverses osteoporotic bone loss. Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation, epub ahead of print. DOI: 10.1097/TGR.0000000000000085.


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