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Exploring the use of yoga to improve the health and strength of bones

yogaosteo I’ve written before about research studies on yoga, as well as components of my yoga teacher-training program. Delighted to find connections between the two worlds, I was interested recently to attend a workshop on yoga for osteoporosis and osteoarthritis with Loren Fishman, MD, an assistant clinical professor of rehabilitation and regenerative medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, and Annie Carpenter, founder of SmartFLOW® yoga.

Fishman is a physiatrist, dedicated yogi and proponent of yoga as a non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical approach to healing and preventive medicine. He’s published books on yoga for back pain, arthritis, and sciatica, among others, and he’s conducting a study of yoga in people who have osteoporosis.

Based on a 2009 pilot (.pdf) that showed improvement in bone density over a two-year period for the group of yoga practitioners versus a slight loss of bone in the control group, the current study prescribes a sequence of 12 yoga poses designed to place stress on the bones to generate cells and strengthen the bone’s dynamic support system. Participants track the poses they complete using an online scorecard, and their bone density is measured before and after practice is introduced. So far, he recently reported, in 65,000 hours of practice among 575 participants worldwide, no yoga-related fractures have been documented.

It’s essential for a patient to have a physician’s diagnosis of his condition before beginning yoga or any treatment program, Fishman and Carpenter emphasized in their workshop. And the most important job of a yoga teacher or therapist, Carpenter said, is being able to see the problems people are dealing with in their practice. She provided instruction on how to look at bodies in all three planes, find imbalances, examine the patterning in structure and movement and determine what to offer students as tools to improve their own well-being.

Previously: Ask Stanford Med: Pain expert responds to questions on integrative medicine, Exercise programs shown to decrease pain, improve health in group of older adults, Moderate physical activity not a risk factor for knee osteoarthritis, study shows, Treatments to reduce fractures for children with brittle-bone disease and New genetic regions associated with osteoporosis and bone fracture
Photo by Tiffany Caronia

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