Can you do yoga with osteoporosis?
A common question I hear asked is, “Can you do yoga if you have osteoporosis?”
While there are certain yoga poses you’ll want to avoid, yoga is such a vast practice that there is something in it for everyone. In this post, we’ll dive deeper into how to practice yoga safely if you have osteoporosis or osteopenia.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is basically a loss of bone density, meaning that the bones become weaker. There are different levels of osteoporosis depending on your bone density.
Osteopenia is the stage before osteoporosis occurs. So with osteopenia, bone density is lower than normal, but not as low as is found in osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis can occur in all genders but is most common in post-menopausal women. This is due to the hormone changes that occur during menopause. That being said, not all post-menopausal women will develop osteoporosis as there are things that can be done throughout your life to prevent this from occurring. Things such as a balanced diet and weight bearing exercise can help in prevention of bone density loss.
Yoga with osteoporosis
I think people often are told that they shouldn’t do yoga with osteoporosis because the common type of yoga we see in the Western world today is vinyasa yoga, which does happen to have a large amount of poses that require forward bending and twisting which is generally not recommended with osteoporosis. But in reality, there is so much more to yoga than this. Yoga is also meditation and breath work and is a way we interact with our lives.
If you are drawn to practicing yoga in a vinyasa style (where you move through postures), you can still do so but you need to be mindful of what poses and movements to avoid in order to protect your spine.
I can’t possibly list every pose you should avoid but as a general rule of thumb, avoid poses that cause you to rotate your spine (twisting poses), poses that require you to flex your spine (meaning you are bending forward and rounding your spine), and poses that require side bending of the spine. These types of spinal motion place excess pressure on areas of the spine where bone density tends to be the weakest. If you consistently put pressure on these areas, you may increase your risk of developing compression fractures in the spine.
Other movements to avoid include crunches and sit ups as this puts the spine into flexion and you’ll want to avoid inversions such as shoulder stand, headstands, or handstands.
You’ll also want to avoid high impact activities such as jumping or running, but these aren’t done so often in yoga.
I highly recommend talking with your doctor so they can look at your levels related to osteoporosis combined with your history to determine what movements are right for you. Everyone is different. Talk to your doctor so that you’re safe but also so that you know what you may be able to do while others with osteoporosis shouldn’t.
A number of yoga poses are actually beneficial for those with osteoporosis, as many poses are weight bearing which can help improve bone density. Poses such as crescent lunge, warrior 1 and 2, and plank pose are all postures that are great for improving bone density. There are also poses such as sphinx and cobra which work on extension of the spine (the opposite of flexion) which is great for keeping the spine flexible.
Some poses require a neutral spine which may be difficult for some people to attain due to limitations in lower body flexibility, so you may need props or modifications in these poses to prevent your back from rounding in order to keep your spine safe.
Take easy pose for example, this pose sounds simple but some people may have difficulty keeping a neutral spine without the addition of props and modifications. Modifying and adding props is totally fine and is why yoga can work for all bodies, but it is important to have a teacher that understands and adjusts for this.
In a group setting, it’s difficult to tailor the class to the specific needs of each person.
If you want to practice vinyasa with osteoporosis, I highly recommend working one on one with an instructor that understands this condition.
For a vinyasa practice designed for those with osteoporosis, check out the video below.