I have just been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Is it safe for me to do yoga?
Many people have asked this very same question. To answer it, let’s begin with some background information about yoga. In recent years, the ancient mind body practice of yoga has become popular in the United States. Some of the many different types of yoga are:
•Ashtanga yoga (sometimes called “power yoga”)
•Bikram yoga (also known as “hot yoga”)
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, “the ultimate goal of yoga is to reach complete peacefulness of body and mind, helping you relax and manage stress and anxiety.” Yoga has many other benefits, including improved levels of fitness, flexibility, posture and balance.1
Some experts believe that yoga can help people who are at risk for bone loss and osteoporosis. Many yoga poses may improve muscle strength, which can benefit the bones. Also, by helping with posture, stability and balance, yoga may reduce the chance of falling. Many people break (fracture) bones as a result of falling.
If you have osteoporosis or low bone density, you may need to avoid certain movements or poses in yoga and other forms of exercise. Here are some examples of what to AVOID:
•Exercises that require you to bend forward from the waist, such as standing forward bend, head to knee pose and seated forward bend. These movements can cause fractures in the spine bones (vertebrae).
•Activities that involve rounding or hunching of the back
•Twisting your spine to a point of strain, especiallywhen in a standing or seated position
•Sudden jerking, rapid movements
•Poses that bear weight directly on the neck, such as headstand and shoulderstand positions
You can also make certain yoga poses or exercises safer by adding props. For example:
•When doing seated poses or exercises, sit on at least two firm folded blankets to avoid rounding or hunching the back.
•When lying down place support under your head to keep your forehead level or slightly higher than your chin. This is especially important if your posture is stooped or hunched.
•When doing bending exercises such as the downward facing dog pose, use yoga blocks to avoid bending from the waist.
•When doing balance exercises, if you feel unsteady to the point where you could fall, you may need to be near a wall or chair for hand support.
These guidelines may not be right for everyone. If you plan on taking a yoga class, let your instructor know if you have osteoporosis or low bone density (osteopenia) before you begin. Make sure he or she can help you to avoid any movements that aren’t safe for you.
You can also ask your doctor or healthcare provider for a referral (also called a prescription) to see a physical therapist who can help you develop a safe exercise program. Always check with your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise program.
1 National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National
Institutes for Health. Yoga for Health: An Introduction. http://nccam.nih.
For more information about Osteoporosis visit http://www.nof.org.