As we age and our body breaks down physically, yoga can help to keep us strong and healthy; but we need to be more cautious of the way we move and the effects these movements can have on our bones that may be weakening.
Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, typically as a result of aging, hormonal changes, or deficiency of calcium or vitamin D. Bone remodeling, which is metabolism, is a lifelong process where mature bone tissue is removed by a process called bone resorption and new bone tissue is formed by a process called ossification or new bone formation. Up until our 30’s the new bone formation is greater than the bone resorption. Once we get to our 30’s this process slows down and we begin to break down our bone tissue as our bones become less dense. Osteoporosis actually means “porous bones”. For woman 5-7 years post menopause and for men in their 70’s when there is a decline in testosterone, is the greatest time for the loss of bone density.
The standard measure for bone mineral density is a DEXA (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry). The results of this scan will reveal your bone density and you may be told that you have osteoporosis, or the stage before, which is called osteopenia. This “diagnosis may send you on a search to try to strengthen your bones. There are about 1.5 million fractures each year contributed to osteoporosis. These fractures are mainly attributed to a fall or our posture.
Bones don’t break because they are porous, they break because we fall.
We have a higher tendency to fall as we age for a few reasons that are a part of the natural aging process. The muscles and the nerves that stimulate them degenerate so we lose strength and our ability to steady ourselves. Yoga helps to train our muscles to become stronger, stretches our muscles and connective tissue so the nerves can transmit more clearly and stimulates the bones through weight baring and tensile pressure to build more bone. In addition, yoga can help with posture. The natural rounding of the upper back increases with age due to gravity, sitting a lot, degeneration of the discs between our vertebrae and loss of strength in the muscles that hold us upright. Yoga raises awareness of this and helps to strengthen our back muscles to support our spine and correct our posture.
Once you learn a few poses and ways to strengthen your sense of balance and improve your posture you can incorporate this into your life in a daily practice to help strengthen your bones and go against the aging process. In yoga we work on our “health span” to live as healthy and happy as we can.