The Benefits of Yoga for Seniors: Yoga for Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis poses a seeming contradiction for senior citizens trying to maintain bone health.
On the one hand, health experts emphasize the importance of weight-bearing exercise in preventing bone-density loss. On the other hand, exercises such as jumping rope and high-impact dance aerobics puts too much stress on the bones.
The good news is that there is a growing collection of evidence pointing to the benefits of yoga for osteoporosis.
In this article, we will explore a few poses that you can use to improve your bone health. Since everyone’s body is different, we encourage you to talk with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine. That said, here are a few ways to use yoga to build better bone health.
Best Yoga Poses for Bone Health
You will find the following poses easier to perform if you are wearing comfortable clothing which does not constrict you in any way. Ideally, select clothes which are not so loose and baggy that you cannot see the shape of your body. Bare feet and an uncarpeted floor are preferable for practicing yoga.
Stand with your back next to a wall, first placing a chair beside you to the right, so that you can easily touch the chair back. Flex the toes of your right foot off the floor, and spread them slightly, then lower the toes back to the floor, trying to keep the toes spread.
With your right foot flat on the floor and your right hand resting lightly on the chair back, use your upper thigh muscles to turn your left foot outward. The right leg remains straight without locking the knee joint.
Bend your left knee, slowly lifting the foot until only the toes touch the floor on that side. Slowly draw the sole of the left foot toward your right ankle, then gradually lift the left foot off the floor. Avoid pressing the lifted foot against the opposite knee. Raise your left arm toward the ceiling as the left knee bends more deeply and the left foot rises.
If you cannot balance yet, keep just the toes of the left foot on the floor. Activate the muscles of the right leg very strongly. Breathe deeply for five inhalation-exhalation cycles. Then slowly lower the left foot down. When ready, repeat to the opposite side.
Unroll a yoga mat on the floor, or practice this pose on top of a firm mattress. Rest on your belly, face downward. Bend your arms and place your palms on the floor or bed, so that your hands are slightly more than shoulder distance apart. Keep your legs and ankles together, and as you inhale, lengthen your torso and neck, reaching the crown of your head toward the wall in front of you.
Push downward through your palms as you slowly lift your head and neck (keeping your face pointed toward the mattress/floor). Gradually permit your shoulders and upper back to also lift, coming up only as far as you comfortably can. Exhale, and lower yourself slowly downward again. Turn your head to one side. Rest for a few breaths before trying cobra pose a second time.
Yoga Poses to Modify for Osteoporosis
If performed without proper instruction, some yoga poses create a risk of compressed vertebrae for people whose bones have already thinned. If you have already been practicing yoga for years and know the proper alignment for these poses, you can continue to do them in your home practice. However, if you are a new yoga student, practice these poses very carefully. If possible, find a yoga teacher trained in therapeutic yoga to teach you the proper way to do these poses.
If performed incorrectly, forward folds can compress the vertebrae of the lower back. To prevent this, only bend forward from the hips, keeping the back relatively flat. Stop at the point where you would have to rather round your spine in order to go deeper into the forward fold. Place your hands and arms on a chair or table to help support your body weight as you move forward.
Twisting poses can be invigorating, but they must be done gently at first, especially if osteoporosis is part of your health profile. If you have osteoporosis, begin with this supported reclining twist, rather than seated or standing twists.
Come to a reclining position on the floor or atop a mattress, arms extended outward from the body, with your hands lower than shoulder level. Keep your knees bent with your feet on the floor. Place two or three folded blankets to the right of your thighs.
Exhale, and gently lower both legs toward the blankets, keeping your thighs together. Inhale and return to your original position, then move the blankets to your left side before lowering both legs to the left.
Have you tried yoga before? What health or emotional benefits have you seen from your yoga practice? What tips would you give to someone who is considering trying yoga for the first time? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.