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.