By Bhavan Kumar
If you teach hatha yoga to younger adults, their minds focus on the muscles during asana practice. If you are a hatha yoga instructor who teaches asana to older adults, the mental emphasis of the average student is on the bones and joints. Although a yoga teacher asks students to be present for class, there is some outside thinking going on in the minds of our best students.
Bone health is always important, but we become more aware of it as we age. As with all weight-bearing exercises, practicing yoga consistently is good for bone health. This is because asanas include many body-weight exercises, and when the muscles engaged in these load-bearing activities pull on bones, the bones become stronger. Actually, the bones don’t just get stronger, they grow thicker and denser as well. Studies have concluded, for example, that athletes like soccer players, gymnasts and weight lifters have a bone mass density averaging about 13 percent higher than non-athletes because sports require plenty of load-bearing moves. These results have led experts to agree that performing weight bearing activity like yogic exercise for thirty minutes a day, even beyond your twenties and thirties, will build bone density and prevent bone loss as you age.
Weak bones and gradual bone loss can lead to osteopenia and osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease wherein the bones gradually become more brittle and porous, leading to loss of height, pain and increased risk of serious fractures. Post-menopausal women are especially susceptible to developing osteoporosis, but doctors have concluded that practicing yoga regularly can prevent continued bone loss and strengthen bones even in people who already have osteoporosis, as long as their doctors have approved the exercise beforehand.
Yoga for Bones
As already mentioned, yogic exercise is a weight-bearing practice that can improve bone density and strength. More precisely, as the practitioner holds poses in which both body weight and gravity cause the muscles to work and fatigue, bones grow stronger along with their companion muscles. This is true of all activities like hiking and jogging, which will strengthen hip and leg muscles and bones, or like pushups and throwing, which will strengthen arm, shoulder and upper back muscles and bones, but it is especially true of yoga, which works the entire body from the toes all the way up the spine and into the neck.
Yoga also encourages correct posture and spinal alignment, which improves blood flow to the muscles and bones in the limbs, aiding in improved bone health. And because practitioners progress slowly into new poses and deeper stretches, the muscles and bones are not suddenly assaulted by too much weight or activity. This is a special benefit for older students or those who already suffer from bone health problems. Yoga as a low impact fitness practice also makes it an ideal place to start for those who have led inactive lives and wish to begin weight-bearing activities to improve their bone health.
© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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