How does yoga make us healthier?
Let us count the ways:
- increases flexibility
- increases muscle strength and tone
- improved respiration, energy and vitality
- maintaining a balanced metabolism
- weight reduction
- cardio and circulatory health
- protection for injury
- improves balance
- improves mood and mental health
Add something else to this list – a benefit that is particularly important as we age: Yoga builds bones!
According to the National Institute of Health
, yoga appears “to be a safe and effective means to reverse bone loss in the spine and the femur” by raising BMD (bone mineral density). Osteoporosis and osteopenia affects up to 200 million people worldwide, and with an aging population, that number will likely continue to grow.
As compared to medications and invasive procedures, Yoga classes are a low-cost and less dangerous alternative. Side effects of a yoga practice include “better posture, improved balance, enhanced coordination, greater range of motion, higher strength, reduced levels of anxiety, and better gait”. All of these side-effects also keep our bones safe by preventing falls, too. As an added bonus, Yoga lowers cortisol
, a stress hormone that breaks down bones when it is chronically elevated, which is why even passive poses and restorative practices can help prevent bone loss.
The reason Yoga works to build bone strength, is that the postures pit one group of muscles against another. Bones are exposed to force by the pulling (contractions) of the and thereby the bone mineral density is enhanced. Specifically, the study looked at the benefit of twelve specific postures, all of which are accessible to most practitioners, especially if props are used (you can even practice while sitting in a chair), and proper instruction is provided. The postures are (see photos from the study above):
- Tree pose
- Warrior 2
- Side Angle/Side Warrior
- Revolved Triangle
- Reclined hand to big toe
- Reclined revolved hand to foot
- Seated twist
- Half Lord of the Fish twist
Hold each pose between 12 and 72 seconds to allow the stimulation of osteocytes (bone building cells). When you build muscle, you build bone. So get on your mat!