Yoga Poses to Avoid With Osteoporosis
By Andrea Cespedes
The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimated that osteoporosis affected 12 million people as of 2010. Osteoporosis puts your bones at risk for fracture, which can compromise the ability to do daily tasks, cause severe pain, negatively affect your posture and shorten your spine. Yoga can help people with osteoporosis by offering weight-bearing exercises to stimulate bone growth. The risks of certain poses outweigh the benefits when you have osteoporosis.
Forward folds, such as Standing Forward Bend, Seated Forward Bend, Seated Bound Angle Pose, Wide-Legged Seated Forward Fold, Cow to Cat performed on your hands and knees and Standing Wide-Legged Forward Fold, should be avoided if you have osteoporosis. When you fold forward, the vertebrae compress, increasing your risk of fracture. You can still create the shape of these postures, but support your arms on a chair or a countertop to prevent a full bend forward. When seated, avoid reaching for your toes and sit up tall with your hands pressed into the floor alongside your hips instead. You will still activate, strengthen and mildly stretch your hamstrings with these modifications.
Many yoga poses involve twisting, but these should be avoided or performed very carefully under the supervision of a qualified instructor if your doctor says they are okay. Poses that include twisting include Revolved Lunge, Twisting Triangle, Half Lord of Fishes and Reclined Twists. Just like forward bends, twists put a lot of pressure on your spine, increasing the risk of compression and fracture.
Jumping exercises are discouraged when you have osteoporosis because they also increase the compression in your spine, which may result in fractures. Some styles of yoga, such as Ashtanga or Power Yoga, may require you to jump from a Standing Forward Fold into Chatturanga or to kick up into Handstand or another arm balance. Forgo these options and step mindfully through the poses. Rest in Child’s Pose or a seated posture while others perform arm balances.
Yoga classes that focus on core strength may have you move through controlled crunches or move from Boat Pose into a low Boat Pose in which you are hovering on your tailbone with your back and legs barely lifted off the floor. These types of poses, which are essentially situps with a focus on the breath, may be valuable in training your core muscles, but they put pressure on the bones of the spine, increasing your risk of compression fractures, explains the Mayo Clinic. Instead, opt for Plank Pose or lie on your back with your legs extended toward the ceiling and lower your legs one at a time toward the floor to train your core. A strong core helps hone your balance and stability, so you are less likely to suffer a fall.
When practicing yoga, use deliberate, controlled movements. Avoid sudden changes in poses that jerk your position suddenly. Just because some poses are contraindicated for osteoporosis does not mean you should avoid yoga altogether. After just 12 weeks of regular practice, yoga had a positive effect on bone strength by slowing down bone resorption, found a study published in the “Journal of the Medical Association in Thailand” in September 2009. Restorative classes, chair yoga and classes designed specifically for seniors are among the best options if you have osteoporosis. Look for a practice that emphasizes spine strengtheners, core exercises that are not performed on the back and hand dexterity.
About the Author
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Photo Credits Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
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