Bones, balance, muscle: research team demonstrates the power of yoga v osteoporosis

Bones, balance, muscle: research team demonstrates the power of yoga v osteoporosis

Building bone density is important for all of us, but it’s a fact four out of five people with osteoporosis are women. Hormone changes we experience as we move through menopause are one reason women are more at risk of developing osteoporosis. Having lighter bones is another.

But for everyone, family history, vitamin D levels and life style choices can contribute.

Doctors used to say our ability to build bone mass more or less stopped when we hit menopause, but that’s found to be incorrect.

The good news is you can build bone density at any age – it’s never too late to create change.

Because it’s weight-bearing, yoga has been identified as a great way to strengthen your bones. But it’s also a powerful way to strengthen muscles and improve balance, all of which will improve your wellbeing at any age.

Research published in 2015, which conducted trials with participants diagnosed with osteoporosis or its precursor osteopenia, discovered marked improvements in bone density in 80 per cent of the group.

The average age of those joining the study was 68. Over two years, the participants practiced 12 yoga postures daily, for just 12 minutes.

The research team included Dr Loren Fishman of Columbia University who specialises in rehabilitative medicine and who studied with BKS Iyengar.

Now researchers are keen to conduct more research, to discover whether osteopenia could be avoided in younger people practicing daily.

The 12 postures selected were specifically chosen to impact the spine, hip and femur bone regions. And they all came with modifications to make them highly accessible to trial participants. They were:

  • Tree posture (Vriksasana)
  • Triangle (Trikonasana)
  • Warrior II (Virabhadrasana)
  • Side angle pose (Parsvakonasana)
  • Twisted Triangle (Parivritta Trikonasana)
  • Locust (Salabhasana)
  • Bridge (Setu Bandhasana)
  • Supine hand to foot I (Supta Pandangusthasana I)
  • Supine hand to foot II (Supta Pandangusthasana II)
  • Straight-legged twist (Marichyasana II)
  • Bent knee twist (Matsyendrasana)
  • Corpse posture (Savasna).

‘The new research shows that yoga can outweigh the hormonal effects of age,’ Fishman told Yoga Journal.

An added yoga bonus is several of these postures also develop balance, giving practitioners better stability, as well as agility, should they slip or trip as they go about their daily lives off the mat.

In my next blogpost we’ll look at life style shifts and nutrition for healthy bones.

Making choices for your menopause

menopause yoga, second spring

How’s your journey through menopause going to go? Have you given it a second thought?  Do you know what your choices are?

Or are you now ‘through the other side’ and perhaps missing the woman you thought you knew? Do you assume she’s ‘lost’ now, fading into the past?

All women move through menopause sooner or later and that transforming time varies greatly from woman to woman.

Around 13 million women are going through menopause in the UK today, according to the British Menopause Society, and three out of five women say the symptoms they experience seriously impact on their lives (Newson Clinic).

My journey through menopause was no easy ride. But at the time I would have shrugged and said everything was fine.

I hadn’t considered that the exhaustion and the anxiety were related to menopause and I certainly thought everything I felt was due to my ‘lack’.

Back then I thought menopause was just about hot flushes. Now I know that while they are a symptom, they’re one of many you may experience.

There were no leaflets handed out at my doctor’s surgery and it never came up in conversation. I thought I knew the facts, but I really didn’t.

And that is precisely why I am so passionate about Menopause Yoga which aims to empower women, offering pointers to up-to-date facts and knowledge that offers choices and practices that help us to help ourselves.

Because I didn’t have them. My choices were based on what turned out to be old science and assumptions that if menopause was one way for my mother it would be the same for me.

I’m also aware that the changes we go through during this time aren’t always physical; frequently they are emotional.

My menopause symptoms weren’t physically dramatic, but the changes that went on for me during that time were extraordinary.

Between 49 and 53 my life was tipping about so fast I could have been living in a snow globe.

  • I was diagnosed with stage three arthritis in my hip that required an immediate joint replacement
  • Overwhelm was a frequent visitor and PMT seemed to have moved into my life for good
  • I found it really hard to focus on fiddly tasks I would have found a breeze before.

Looking back, I can see my life would have been so much easier if I’d had more facts at my fingertips. But it doesn’t have to be like that for you.

Here are three things you can do to empower your menopause:

  • Attend a MY workshop or retreat where you can explore postures, breath works and meditations that can help you manage menopause symptoms and find out lots more info.
  • Learn from experts before you talk to anyone – the UK has excellent resources, many of them free. Dr Louise Newson’s website and podcasts are just two.
  • Talk with your friends and share your knowledge and experience; or find an online community where you can meet women facing similar issues who understand.

Whichever route you choose, talk to your health professionals from a place of informed ideas about what you want. Your research will help you get clarity on what’s right for you.

And don’t be afraid to write down bullet points when you have conversations with a doctor or alternative health practitioner.

Brain fog moments love to strike when we need to focus and we’re talking about deeply personal issues.

And if you’d like to join me at a Menopause Yoga workshop my next one is Sunday 18 October 2020 at Yoga Life Studio, The Stables, in Eastbourne on World Menopause Day. There are 10 places available.

Second Spring Wonderland

Second Spring Wonderland

How do you see life as a post-menopause woman?

Close your eyes. Let your imagination show you what it sees, hears and feels about this time.

If you’re already way past your last period, then you’ll know, physically, change is going on and that may be hard for you, or perhaps manageable or even very easy.

Your physical symptoms may have been mild. But as you travel through post menopause world you’ll notice changes. Certainly in your skin. Maybe in your hair. Possibly in the type of irritating infections you’re prone to.

All that aside, for our minds and our emotions there are big changes going on too. And if you’re interested in yoga then you’ll know the mind, body, emotional experience – it is all very much connected.

What’s the picture for you?

This?

Or more… this?

Other cultures are much better at handling ageing than ours.

In Menopause Yoga the post-menopause space is the second Spring. The time when we have more freedom. More space. More time to consider the real work we want to bring into our lives. Where we of service to the people who matter to us most.

In Menopause Yoga we see childhood as Spring. Summer as the mother-becoming years. Autumn is the perimenopause space and then Winter is pretty short. The ahh… big changes happening. Pause. Consider and then move on… to the second Spring.

In Japan the post menopause years is the wisdom time. Elders are respected and revered. And Japan is not alone. Native American-Mexican Spanish heritage writer and analyst, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, writes extensively in this area, quoting the South and Central American traditions and stories.

And of course in yoga and Ayurveda there is this tradition too. It’s just that in our gym culture, western interpretation of yoga it’s dominated by the asana-driven elements of an extraordinarily wide-ranging and rich potential experience.

Yes, in the West we are seeing change. The pro-ageing, post 50 years movement is gather pace and connecting and championing each others’ rights to be seen and valued.

But how do we grow in this space with powerful confidence? Here’s three powerful steps:

  1. Spend time considering what your big work will be for this time.
    Do you want to be an environmental crusader like the designer Vivienne Westwood? Do you want to write a book? Do you want to work on that invention you put to one side in your Thirties when the kids came along and it felt silly or self-indulgent.
    If you don’t know yet, try this;
  2. Reconnect with a hobby you loved as a child. Writing, drawing, riding your bike, making clay pots… whatever it is see if it still gives you joy. And if it does, is that a clue?
  3. Spend time recalling what you were instinctively drawn to as a small kid. Recall how you spent your time before you got caught up in the external world. What was your inner world connected to?


I offer .3. because that’s a path towards your inner guide. Your intuitive ‘yes, this is me’ teacher. Before you felt judged. Before you felt victimised. Before you experienced shame. Before you started pleasing others and thinking their praise was enough.


Letting go of judgement and victim personas are routes to self-love and embracing post menopause has to be the only way – because unless you’re planning on getting off the bus, your life journey is taking you there.

And whether it’s Spring while you are there. Or eternal Winter. That is up to you.

What do you think? Are you ready for Spring? Are you skipping through puddles and dancing through the cherry blossom? Let me know your thoughts and feelings on this one. I’d love to know.

Menopause Yoga – YES!

Menopause Yoga – YES!

There’s a new, first of its kind UK yoga teacher training course specifically designed to support women during peri-menopause, menopause and post menopause times in their lives.

Developed by London-based teacher Petra Coveney, Menopause Yoga is accredited by the British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) and is supported by Dr Louise Newson, a leading UK menopause specialist and campaigner for menopause women’s rights.

I’m thrilled to be able to announce I’ve been accepted onto this course and my training takes place next month, February 2020.

I’ll be delivering group and 1-2-1 classes, workshops and day retreats in the South East of England and beyond, just as soon as I can.

When I heard Petra had developed this programme I immediately applied. This CPD course builds on the rigorous yoga teacher training programme I completed with BWY several years ago.

As many of us are fully aware, menopause is a transformative time in a woman’s life. The loss of the hormone oestrogen can cause physical, emotional and mental symptoms that can destabilise our health, work, relationships and sense of self. 

An estimated 13 million women in the UK aged 45-60 are currently going through one of the stages of menopause (peri-menopause to post-menopause), and 1 in 4 are experiencing severe symptoms that negatively impact their lives, work and relationships. 

There are more than 20 symptoms which can include: hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, low mood, irritability, depression, midriff weight gain, headaches. There is a growing demand for yoga teachers to support these women.

Specialising in working with midlife women who want to live their best lives, what better way to add to the ways I serve my clients?

What is Menopause Yoga?

Menopause Yoga (MY) includes both a positive approach to menopause and a toolkit of techniques to support you on your menopause journey.

The MY method educates, by providing a trusted information in a supportive and confidential space, plus a tool kit of techniques to take home and use, according to individual needs. 

The toolkit includes specially adapted yoga, breathing, CBT and meditation techniques. MY women are also given information about nutrition, natural remedies, supplements and other lifestyle changes you can make to ‘nurture and nourish’ your way through menopause.

While some of the yoga sequences are restorative, others are energy boosting or focus specifically on symptoms such as hot flushes and anxiety.

What is Menopause?

Menopause is a transformative time in a woman’s life. The loss of the hormone oestrogen can cause physical, emotional and mental symptoms that destabilise her health, work, relationships and sense of self. 

An estimated 13 million women in the UK aged 45-60 are currently going through one of the stages of menopause (perimenopause to post menopause), and 1 in 4 experiencing severe symptoms that negatively impact their lives, work and relationships. There are more than 20 symptoms which can include: hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, low mood, irritability, depression, midriff weight gain, headaches. There is a growing demand for yoga teachers to support these women.

While HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) is now prescribed by doctors in the UK and can help with many of the symptoms, this is contra-indicated for many women who have a history of breast cancer or coronary heart disease in their families. Many women prefer to use alternative therapies, and even those taking HRT say they still experience symptoms. Studies undertaken by the British Menopause Society have shown that yoga, breathing techniques, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Meditation are helpful for women in menopause, but until now they have not been drawn together in an easily accessible teacher training.

I’ll tell you much more about what I learn in coming weeks – stand by!