12 Minutes of Yoga to Improved Bone Health

Just 12 minutes of yoga a day can improve bone density

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With a growing population of people over the age of seventy, and a diet that often is less than beneficial for optimal bone health coupled with reduced amounts of physical, particularly weight-bearing, exercise, osteoporosis and its precursor, osteopenia, are growing concerns in modern Western society and in many pockets across the globe. In the United States alone, more than 700,000 spinal fractures and more than 300,000 hip fractures occur annually. For years, Dr. Loren M. Fishman, a psychiatrist at Columbia University specialised in rehabilitative medicine, has been gathering evidence, hoping to determine whether yoga might be effective therapy for osteoporosis.

In 2005, Dr. Fishman began a small pilot study of yoga postures and their relation to bone density with some very encouraging results. Eleven practitioners had increased bone density in their spine and hips, he reported in 2009, compared with seven controls who did not practice yoga.

Whilst many bone-building drugs cause excruciating gastrointestinal problems and, therefore, frequently result in a low adherence rate, yoga’s ‘side effects’, according to Dr. Fishman “include better posture, improved balance, enhanced coordination, greater range of motion, higher strength, reduced levels of anxiety and better gait.” Of the 741 people who joined his experiment from 2005 to 2015, 227 (202 of them women) followed through with doing the 12 assigned yoga poses daily or at least every other day. The average age of the 227 participants upon joining the study was 68, and 83 percent had osteoporosis or its precursor, osteopenia. The 12 poses, by their English names, were tree, triangle, warrior II, side-angle, twisted triangle, locust, bridge, supine hand-to-foot I, supine hand-to-foot II, straight-legged twist, bent-knee twist and corpse pose. Each pose was held for 30 seconds. The daily regimen, once learned, took 12 minutes to complete. The researchers collected data at the start of the study on the participants’ bone density measurements, blood and urine chemistry and X-rays of their spines and hips. They were each given a DVD of the 12 yoga poses used in the pilot study and an online program in which to record what they did and how often.

A decade after the start of the study, bone density measurements were again taken and emailed to the researchers; many participants also had repeat X-rays done. The findings, as reported last month, showed improved bone density in the spine and femur of the 227 participants who were moderately or fully compliant with the assigned yoga exercises.

These are extremely exciting and important findings. Please feel free to share your own experiences of yoga for improved bone density below…we would love to get a conversation going about this important topic :)

Heather Mason

Founder of the Minded Institute, The Minded Institute

Heather Mason is a leader in the field of mind-body therapy and the founder of Yoga Therapy for the Mind. She develops innovative methods for mental health treatment drawing on her robust educational background including an MA in Psychotherapy, an MA in Buddhist Studies, studies in Neuroscience and a current MSc in Medical Physiology.. She is also a 500 RYT, a yoga therapist and an MBCT facilitator. Heather offers various professional trainings for yoga teachers, healthcare professionals and therapists, lectures around the world, and delivers training to medical students. She also develops protocols for different client populations by translating cutting edge research from the psycho-biology and neuro-biology of stress into yoga practices, breathwork, mindfulness interventions and therapeutic holding. Further she is involved in research on the efficacy of these practices, holds the annual UK yoga therapy conference and is blazing the trail for the integration of yoga therapy into the NHS