Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease that weakens bones and increases risk of bone fractures. Yoga’s emphasis on strength-building, balance and alignment can help people with osteoporosis avoid injury. Low-impact weight-bearing yoga poses stimulate bone growth to build stronger bones. Standing poses can build strength in your hips, an area commonly affected by osteoporosis. Light back-bending back extension poses decompress the vertebrae and build spinal strength. There are, however, some poses that are best avoided if you have osteoporosis. Before starting a yoga program, discuss risks and contraindications with your doctor.
Forward bends, in which you flex your spine forward, place significant pressure on your vertebrae, which are commonly weakened by osteoporosis. Poses in which you lie on your back and pull your legs in toward your chest can damage weakened vertebrae. These poses include single knee-to-chest and apanasana, a pose in which you bring both of your knees to your chest. Forward bends that don’t place pressure on your spine, such as standing forward bends, encourage spinal flexibility and so might benefit some individuals with osteoporosis. Ask your doctor for a clear list of beneficial versus harmful forward bends.
Spinal twists can damage vertebrae that have been weakened by osteoporosis. Seated spinal twists, such as all variations of matsyendrasana, require you to stabilize your hips in a seated posture and rotate your torso, promoting flexibility that can also put excessive strain on your spine. Supine spinal twists are often used in restorative yoga programs and can relieve tension and pain in a person with tight back muscles, but an otherwise healthy back. These twists can place too much tension on damaged vertebrae, however, and should be avoided by people with osteoporosis.
Standing Balancing Poses
Some standing balancing poses can benefit a person with osteoporosis by promoting body awareness and concentration and strengthening the muscles that assist with balance and posture. Weakened hips and compromised balance can present a problem in these poses, however. Props, such as a chair or wall, can aid in balance and create a safe environment to perform these poses.
Abdominal Flexion Poses
A strong abdomen supports your spine and promotes good posture, significantly benefiting people with osteoporosis. Avoid poses in which your neck and spine are unsupported or your vertebrae are compressed. Boat pose, which requires you to balance on your sitting bones and tailbone and to hold your torso and legs off the floor, can put tremendous strain on your suspended neck and compressed lower spine, and so should be avoided.
All neck compression poses are contraindicated for people with osteoporosis. Placing your body’s weight on weakened cervical spine can result in further damage to weakened vertebrae. Headstand and plow -- a pose in which you roll your feet over your head and maintain a foundation of feet, arms and neck -- compresses the vertebrae in your neck and should be avoided.