The short answer is YES! But there are some important factors to be aware of:
Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become less dense, predisposing them to fractures. There are no obvious symptoms of the disease. Oftentimes, people are unaware they have it unless they’re tested for it, or unfortunately, they find out after they break a bone.
Exercise is an important component of the treatment plan for people with osteoporosis, but certain movements can increase the risk of fracture. Always check with your doctor to make sure it’s safe to proceed with exercise. In severe cases of osteoporosis, which are rare, yoga may not be advisable at all.
Yoga can be beneficial for people with osteoporosis. A small study in 2009 found that practicing yoga can actually increase bone density if done consistently and properly. Yoga also improves balance and flexibility, which can prevent falls and therefore prevent fractures.
Where do I start?
- Start slowly and gradually increase difficulty and duration of poses as you build strength and endurance.
- Practice poses that strengthen your back, usually involving some gentle back bending. These poses include sphinx, baby cobra, and bridge.
- Implement poses that improve leg strength such as mountain pose, chair pose, and Warrior II. Always keep your spine in a neutral position when performing these poses.
- Include poses that encourage weight bearing by your hands. Examples of these include tabletop, plank. and downward-facing dog.
- Practice poses that improve balance, such as tree pose. Always do these next to a wall for support if needed.
- Always move in and out of poses slowly and deliberately.
- Enjoy the mental calm that comes with doing yoga.
- Find a teacher who understands the limitations of students with osteoporosis.
What should I avoid?
- All poses that require spinal flexion. This means poses that cause the back to round. This position places forces on the spine that can lead to compression fractures. In general, full-forward bending should be avoided.
- Sit-ups and crunches also place a great deal of stress on the spine. These should be avoided. But stomach strengthening can be accomplished safely in other poses.
- Poses that place all of the weight on the hands, such as a handstand, can put the student at an increased risk of a wrist fracture.
- Full backbends.
- Extreme twists.
- Many inversions.
Have fun! Build muscle! Keep those bones healthy!