Break that fall: Keep bones healthy with gentle yoga
Falling and fracturing a bone is probably one of your greatest fears if osteoporosis runs in your family. Leg and hip fractures are a major cause of long-term disability among families with osteoporosis, so you may agree that prevention is the very best medicine!
Even if you are still under 40, it's not too early to start preserving the bone you have and not let it slip away from you. There are two major prevention strategies to preserving your skeleton: improving balance and strength, and increasing bone density.
Despite the old claims that milk "does a body good," long term studies have shown that milk and other dairy products contribute to an acid blood pH which does not build or preserve bone ("The China Study," T. Colin Campbell). These studies show that a plant-based diet and weight bearing exercise does maintain and improve bone density! And since a regular yoga practice has shown to be as effective as light weight training (and with less incidence of injury!) for improving your bone density, the chances of full recovery from any type of fall are much greater.
To understand how yoga can help, let's take a look at the mechanics of what happens during a fall. Something takes you away from a well balanced standing posture or steady walking gait. Perhaps your cat darts between your feet, or you misstep the curb. As soon as you are off balance, gravity and momentum pulls you further away from your center, where there is least resistance, to the ground. Someone with good strength can pull themselves back to center and regain balance. Someone with good balance and agility can right themselves before they stumble.
So the first step is having good posture to begin with. Poor posture already has you at a disadvantage by pulling parts of you (perhaps your neck and shoulders) forward. Yoga postures align the body so that the skeleton can stand its ground like a well balanced sculpture. That is body architecture at its finest!
After posture is balance. Balance postures help you reach out from your center of gravity and come back to a standing posture without toppling overDo you have a good sense when gravity is pulling on you in an unbalanced way? A good test of this imbalance is if you have pain in your neck, shoulders, or back. This is an indication that gravity has already started pulling on parts of you, making you susceptible to greater imbalance, and pain, in the future.
And then there's strength. Do you have the strength to either resist a fall, or the upper body strength to hold yourself from crashing to the ground? Yoga postures involve a mindful way to set your posture and equal weight among the pelvis and spine when standing, and core strength is increased when we take to the ground on all fours such as a modified plank, or "push up" posture. Add correct breathing when moving slowly between postures, and you have a recipe for a well balanced mind and body!
Another benefit to a yoga practice is mindfulness. Moving impulsively without awareness of our surroundings, or sure footing, results in injury. Yoga brings awareness, strength, and balance into our soles, the foundation of our moving body. Keep your feet strong, your mind supple, and your heart at peace.
Here's some postures you can do at home. See a local certified yoga teacher for specific guidance.
!. Palm tree pose: Center yourself by standing with your arms by your sides taking a few relaxed breaths. Then inhale as you raise your arms over your head and raise up off your heels. Exhale to lower your arms back to your sides. Repeat up to 6 times.
2. Chair pose: Stand with your back near a wall. Inhale to bring your arms overhead. Exhale as you bend your knees (not to extend beyond your toes) and bring your backside to touch the wall for support, such as sitting in an invisibe chair. Inhale to stand back up with arms overhead. Exhale and rest your arms and shoulders at your sides.
3. Cat-Dog pose: Come to your hands and knees. Use a cushion or blanket to pad the knees if necessary. Inhale as your bring your face forward and lightly arch your back. Exhale as you sit back toward your heels and bring your forehead on or near the floor. Move between these two positions up to 6 times. Once you master matching your breath with the movement, you can try extending a leg behind you on the inhale and bring your knee back to the floor when you exhale. Alternate legs. Sit in a chair or lay down to rest for two minutes before getting on with your day.
About the writer:
Kristen Fewel, Yoga Educator, Reiki Master
Full Circle Yoga & Healing Arts
Kristen Fewel is a yoga teacher and the owner of Full Circle Yoga & Healing Arts Studio in Yorba Linda where she meets with people for private and group sessions in yoga, breathing, meditation, and energywork. www.fullcircleyogaoc.com 714-404-2576.