By Kimaya Singh
Bone deposition and re-absorption are normal processes that happen throughout life. Disturbance in the delicate balance of this process may either lead to an increase or decrease in bone mass. Increased bone mass leads to stronger bones, but decreased bone mass, on the other hand, leads to weakened bones – a condition known as osteoporosis.
Therapeutic Yoga is a gentle form of weight bearing exercise, which can strengthen the bones of the skeleton. Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by very porous and brittle bones that breaks easily, but heal slowly. It tends to affect women more compared to men. The bones of the wrist, hips and spine are the most commonly affected.
Osteoporosis is usually seen in women during their menopausal or post-menopausal period. It can result in the collapse of the vertebrae which is manifested by a curved spine. Treatment for this disease includes hormone replacement therapy, and drugs such as raloxifen, calcitonin, and alendronate. Weight-bearing exercises (weight lighting, Yoga, Pilates, etc.) have also been noted to be an effective prevention and treatment measure for this disease, as they can produce compressive stress that can strengthen bones, especially the lumbar spine.
There are specific Yoga postures (asanas), which are recommended for patients suffering from osteoporosis. These asanas include the following:
• For the hip joints, seated postures (Virasana, Janu Sirsasana, Upavistha Konasana, etc.) are recommended, as they require a large range of movement, increasing mobility.
• For the spine, postures that require the back muscles to contract proved to be helpful. These include gentle supported backbends. One should start with modified backbends or tilt backs, before considering deeper backbends, as the latter may cause may cause pain and injury. Deeper backbends include postures like Ustrasana, Dhanurasana, Salabhasana, etc. Backbends must be done in a slow and gentle way – avoiding skeletal compression in the spine and with the supervision of a qualified Yoga teacher or medical professional.
• Standing and balancing postures, performed with a support (from a wall, chair, or another person) are also beneficial.
On the other hand, some Yoga postures that involve flexing the spine and supporting body weight with hands are not recommended, as they may increase the risk of bone fracture.
If one is planning to do these postures, start with the simple ones first. Immediately trying difficult postures will not do any good, as there will only be increased risk of injury. Gradually increase the intensity of your practice.
Although there are helpful yoga postures for osteoporosis, it is still important to consult a physician first to before practicing any of those postures. Always begin new Yoga exercises under experienced supervision. Experienced professionals can help better demonstrate the techniques, while providing a watchful eye, an assist, or a modification.
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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