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Yoga and Osteoporosis

yoga and osteoporosis
Yoga and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis affects 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over the age 50. It is a condition where there is loss of bone mass and bone density. The bone becomes brittle, porous and prone to fractures. A 1 percent increase in bone density reduces the risk of fracture by up to 5 percent. These are staggering numbers, a real health issue and although the most common instances of osteoporosis occur in men and women over the age of 50, they can also occur in younger people.

The leading cause of osteoporosis is estrogen deficiency which leads to and calcium. Estrogen aids in calcium absorption and declines in levels after menopause. Hence, why it occurs predominantly after menopause when estrogen levels decline. Men also produce estrogen in lower amounts. Low body weight, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, inadequate calcium or vitamin D intake, low reproductive hormone levels and physical inactivity are all factors that can lead up to osteoporosis.

Is it possible to reverse osteoporosis with yoga? The short answer is yes. Yoga can reverse osteoporosis, depending on how far it has progressed. Yoga can increase bone mineral density especially in the hip and long bones. However, there are certain precautions to take and certain postures to avoid for the yoga practitioner over the age of 50. These are yoga postures that put too much pressure on the weight bearing and or fragile joints of the hip, knees, lumbar spine and cervical spine.

Dr. Loren Fishman, Assistant Clinical Professor of Rehabilitation and Restorative Medicine at Columbia University Medical School and his team have spent several years studying yoga and its effects on bone mineral density. They have established a strategy to safely increase bone health via yoga. A set of yoga postures were chosen as part of the yoga for osteoporosis sequence and their effects on bone mineral density studied over many years and several studies - a pilot study in 2005 and a longer study from 2005 - 2015.

The yoga poses in the Fishman Method for Osteoporosis are :

  1. tree pose

  2. triangle pose

  3. warrior 2

  4. side angle

  5. revolved or twisting triangle

  6. locust pose

  7. bridge

  8. reclining hand to big toe

  9. reclining hand to big toe opening to the side

  10. seated twist

  11. half Lord of the fish pose

  12. corpse pose

According to Loren Fishman, Yoga helps build bone density, but because it postures strain and flexes the bones across all angles, it may also accelerate the construction of the structure of bone that can withstand higher pressure levels and a variety of problems. Although osteoporosis can be treated by medicines. These often have a long list of harmful side effects and can be very expensive.

Dr. Fishman bases his study on an old scientific law developed by Julius Wolff in the 19th century. According to Wolff's law bone is formed and strengthens along lines of mechanical stress.” (Julius Wolff 1836-1902) . When bone cells are activated by being squeezed, bent, or extended, additional bone mass is produced until the bone becomes capable of withstanding the strain. Isometric contractions at various positions for long periods activate the bone in yoga. This sends an electric signal to the up-regulate certain DNA and down regulate certain DNA to cause the bone to form more layers and strengthen the bone. What a fantastic mechanism of feedback.

In a nutshell, yoga is effective in the treatment of osteoporosis by putting the necessary stress on the bones that causes them to grow stronger. The same mechanism and effects are seen in other weight bearing exercises such as running, jogging, or rope jumping, important activities for the maintenance of healthy bones.

Many individuals believe that twists are harmful to older people. Twists, the other hand, have proven to be quite useful and pose minimal, if there is any, danger. Twists apply balanced stress on the vertebral body, reducing the chance of fractures. Even while doctors advise their osteoporosis patients to avoid twisting, there appears to be no proof that twists are harmful or even of themselves. Dr. Fishman mentions this in the study and also mentions that the forward bending motion of the spine is the more harmful movement as it causes too much pressure on the lumbar spine. Patients with osteoporosis must prevent front bending, and their side bending options are restricted.

Yoga also helps persons with osteoporosis by increasing balance, muscle mass, coordination, and variety of motions, as well as reducing anxiety. These are some of the other significant advantages of yoga for persons having osteoporosis, as they all assist to lower the chances to fall.

Yoga's moderate, lowered impact motions, according to Dr. Fishman, are great for people with osteoarthritis or osteoporosis. These motions aid in the distribution of synovial fluid (is a viscous fluid present in all of your joints), which greases and maintains the smooth working of joints.

Learning about bones, including osteoporosis and osteoporosis for yoga and yoga for older adults is part of the yoga teacher training curriculum at Awake Space, Formation Prof Yoga.


  1. Fishman, Loren. (2009). Yoga for Osteoporosis: A Pilot Study. Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation. 25. 244-250. 10.1097/TGR.0b013e3181b02dd6.

  2. Yoga for Osteoporosis – A pilot study.” Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation 25, No. 3, 2009 pp. 244-250.

  3. Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Regimen Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss.” Lu, Yi-Hsueh; Rosner, Bernard; Chang, Gregory; Fishman, Loren M. Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation: April/June 2016 – Volume 32 – Issue 2 – p 81–87.

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