Yoga for Strong Bones
“It would be hard to find a more direct medical application of yoga than to osteoporosis. Bones are strengthened by good diet and sunlight, of course, but that is true of tree trunks too. Force applied to bones stimulates them to grow stronger. The greater the forces applied to a bone, the greater the boney build-up at the point of stress. Yoga is a simple, silent, inexpensive, and impact-free way of applying that force exactly as one intends.”
(Fishman, 2010, p.3)
I try to write one blog post every month, and I usually succeed in that. However, I missed the month of April this year – it was a busy month!
At the very end of March, I traveled to Massachusetts for a yoga training/retreat, returning home on April 1st – and then, a few weeks after I returned, I taught my first ever 2-hour “Yoga for Strong Bones” workshop at the Regent Center in Mundelein, incorporating some of what I learned on the retreat into that workshop.
Participating in the training/retreat and then teaching my workshop, plus all the prep that comes with an out-of-state trip and teaching a new workshop – on top of my regular schedule of teaching and other daily/weekly obligations… Well, the blog post just never got written – until today! It’s a beautiful spring day (at last!) and I’m soaking in the sunshine (and its Vitamin D, so good for my bones!) on the screened-in back porch, as I type these words.
But before I tell you about the retreat and my workshop, let’s rewind about 5½ years, when I attended a “Yoga for Osteoporosis” teacher training at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas. That was just weeks before I was to start my 200-hour yoga teacher training, so I was not yet a yoga teacher -- but I was a yoga practitioner who had been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Wanting to avoid the often-prescribed pharmaceuticals, I was interested to learn whether and how yoga could help. And I wanted to hang out at a yoga ashram in the Bahamas for a week!
There were only two of us enrolled in this teacher training, myself and a woman named Cindy Brown. We were at very different places in our health and in our lives, yet had some similar reasons for being there. We both had osteoporosis, although her bone loss was much more serious than mine. We were both yogis, but I was only soon to embark on my yoga teacher training, she was already a yoga teacher of about 10 years. We bonded during our days in the Bahamas – and kept in sporadic touch after returning to our respective homes (she and her husband live outside of Boston, Massachusetts).
When I returned home, I spent the next several weeks poring over multiple books and websites about osteoporosis – starting with Yoga for Osteoporosis: The Complete Guide (Fishman and Saltonstall, 2010). But once my 200-hour yoga teacher training began, my focus understandably and by necessity shifted. And once the yoga teacher training was over, it was time to enter into and be somewhat-consumed by the world of yoga teaching – which, of course, is when the real learning begins.
Meanwhile, back in Massachusetts, Cindy expanded her existing yoga teaching to include “Yoga for Osteoporosis” weekly classes, later adding occasional 5-hour workshops on the topic. Then, in April 2018, she offered her first “Yoga for Osteoporosis” weekend retreat. I was vaguely aware that the retreat was happening, but the thought never crossed my mind that I might want to attend. She was half-way across the country, after all! But when I learned that she was offering her second such retreat in March 2019, I started thinking it might be fun for me to see her after so long a time, and educational to see what she had learned in the 5+ years since we had trained together.
In that same 5+ years, I had mostly ignored my personal osteoporosis diagnosis. I sporadically took some supplements, and tried to include high-calcium foods in my diet – but mostly I kept my blinders firmly in place.
And while I teach all my yoga classes with some sort of focus – and sometimes the focus is on the hips or the spine – it wasn’t until last fall that I finally put together some classes specific to strengthening the bones, at the request of one of my regular yoga students. I based those classes primarily on the poses that Dr. Loren Fishman used in his research, and that can be found in the following resources:
Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Regimen Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss (Lu, Rosner, Chang, and Fishman, 2016, Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851231/pdf/tgere-32-81.pdf
Dr. Fishman’s Method – 12 Poses vs. Osteoporosishttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8SjystaH-E
Dr. Fishman’s Method – 12 Poses vs. Osteoporosis, Second Series (DVD)
Reading these and other references, and teaching these few “Yoga for Strong Bones” classes, gave me an excellent foundation on which to build all that Cindy offered in her weekend retreat. I left her retreat not feeling overwhelmed, but feeling more knowledgeable and empowered to take on my own bone health at last – and to try and help other women to do the same.
I taught my first “Yoga for Strong Bones” to nine amazing women in mid-April – and I felt that I was able to pass on just a small bit of that same knowledge and feeling of empowerment to them. I plan to offer additional workshops in the coming months, if you would be interested in joining me. As they're scheduled, they'll be posted on my Essential Journey Yoga website and on my EJY Facebook page.
Let's learn together the best ways to build strong bones naturally!