Because our bones are so dense, and provide us so much stability and structural support, it can be easy to forget that they are in fact living tissues. Living tissues which are susceptible to aging and gradual degradation much like any other tissue of the body.
Loss of bone loss begins in your 30’s after your bones reach their peak density. At this point existing bone cells begin to be reabsorbed by the body more quickly than the body produces new bone cells. This results in mineral loss, mass loss and even structural loss, making bones more brittle and increasing risk for a break. Broken bones also take longer to heal later in life for this same reason. Rates of osteoporosis are very high, particularly in the senior population and among women.
Research indicates that the thicker your bones are at about age 30, the longer it will take to lose significant bone cells and minerals to result in low bone density (osteopenia) or osteoporosis. That means that bone-density building activities, particularly early in life are very important to longevity.
Popular culture tells us that only common weight-bearing exercises such as walking, running, jumping, and lifting provide enough stress on your bones to maintain or increase their density. Research now reveals this is not true!
A groundbreaking study entitled “Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Routine Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss,” found that not only does yoga increase bone density, it also helps to reduce risk of falling, a major cause of osteoporatic fractures. Poses which impose force on the spine and hips when practiced over two years were found to compensate for loss due to aging but were also found to increase bone mineral density in the hips, spine, and femurs.
The winning sequence explored in this study featured the following poses with long holds of about 72 seconds each:
- vrksasana (tree pose)
- trikonasana (triangle pose)
- virabhadrasana II (warrior II)
- parsvakonasana (side-angle pose)
- parivrtta trikonasana (revolved triangle)
- shalabhasana (locust pose)
- setu bandhasana (bridge pose)
- two supine hand-to-foot (supta padangusthasana) variations,
- two seated twists,
- and savasana (corpse pose)
Yoga was also found to enhance practitioners ability to balance, reducing the risk of loss of balance causing a fall. Yoga thus protects bone health in more ways than one and in both an acute and chronic sense.
Healthwise Staff. (2019). Low Bone Density. Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/tp23004spec#:~:text=All%20people%20begin%20losing%20bone,low%20bone%20density%20or%20osteoporosis.
Lu, Y. H., Rosner, B., Chang, G., & Fishman, L. M. (2016). Twelve-minute daily yoga regimen reverses osteoporotic bone loss. Topics in geriatric rehabilitation, 32(2), 81.
Harvard Health. (2020). Yoga: Another way to prevent osteoporosis?. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/yoga-another-way-to-prevent-osteoporosis]
Yoga International (2020). New Research on Yoga and Bone Health. Yoga International. https://yogainternational.com/article/view/new-research-on-yoga-and-bone-health