By Faye Martins
Studies show that Yoga helps to fight one of the most common diseases affecting older Americans. Osteoporosis, a disorder that results in the loss of bone density and the thinning of bone tissue, affects 20 percent of American women over the age of 50. Bone loss is gradual and for some adults it may start before the age of 40.
When we are young, our bodies use calcium and phosphate to produce strong, healthy bones. With age, production of these minerals declines, making bones brittle and vulnerable to fractures. Although bone loss is more common in women, it also affects men.
Areas like the spine, wrists, and hips are especially prone to breaking. Yoga helps to build bone density, improve posture, and prevent hunched backs. Depending on the health and age of the practitioner, exercises can be adapted to fit individual needs. For beginners with osteoporosis, chair Yoga may be a good choice. However, a specialist chair Yoga instructor is essential for a safe class.
Ten Poses that Increase Bone Density
• Chair Pose
• Cobra Pose
• Mountain Pose
• Forward Bends
• Backward Bends
• Warrior Pose
• Bridge Pose
• Triangle Pose
• Upward Facing Dog
• Downward Facing Dog
Although Yoga is a weight-bearing exercise, it is much less likely to overwork the joints or damage cartilage than exercises like walking or jogging. Instead, asanas lengthen muscles and pull on bones, stressing and strengthening them in the process.
In a small study done in 2009, older adults with bone disease practiced a series of ten asanas. Two years later, bones scans showed that 85% of the participants had increased bone growth in the hips and spine. An unpublished study completed at California State University also showed that participants who practiced Yoga increased the density of bones in their vertebrae.
Another weapon in the war against osteoporosis is Yoga’s ability to reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone produced during “flight or fight” response. Not only does cortisol suppress the immune system and raise the blood pressure, but it also depletes the supply of calcium in the bones and inhibits its absorption in the intestines.
Although an early start helps to prevent problems that come with aging, it’s never too late to begin a Yoga practice. Especially for people already suffering from bone loss or other health problems, it’s always a good idea to speak with a doctor before starting a new program.
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