Regular yoga practice of specific asanas can improve your bone health and even potentially increase bone density.
If you are looking to build bone strength, you need to do more than increase your calcium intake. Exercise is just as important. As you work your body, test its balance, leverage your core, and use your own body weight or external weights to add load to your bones, you also make them stronger. And yoga can be a great way to achieve that increase in density and improve bone strength. It helps that it is fun and can be a wonderful social experience too! Here’s a look at how exactly yoga helps your bone health.
- Can be a great all-around workout that enhances your flexibility and builds strength and balance, reducing the chances of falls and fractures
- Helps enhance bone mineral density by making muscles work in opposition to each other. This, in turn, causes greater force to be exerted on the bones and strengthens them. Yoga has been seen to help boost bone density most significantly in the spine. It also helps fortify the hip bone though not as much.1
- Can aid calcium retention by your bones if there is adequate intake via diet. The weight bearing in yoga helps your spine, legs, arms, shoulders, and elbows.2
- Has the potential to prevent conditions like osteoporosis that are related to bone weakening
- Can be especially helpful to perimenopausal or postmenopausal women as well as men at risk of osteoporosis3
- Is a good preventive measure to build bone strength before a problem actually presents itself4 5
Now that you can see yoga could hold the key to better bone health, here are some asanas to get you started.
1. Vriksasana Or Tree Pose
The vriksasana or tree pose is one of the asanas found to be beneficial for anyone working on their bone strength. It may help build bone density and reduce the risk of both osteopenia or osteoporosis.6 The tree pose stretches the legs, arms as well as back, strengthening them. It also opens up your hips and helps you improve your balance.7
- Stand with your feet together near the front of your mat, hands at the hips. Move your weight to your right foot and slowly pick your left heel off the floor, letting your left knee open to the left side of your mat. Your toes must stay planted in the ground.
- Bring your left sole slowly to rest on the inner right lower leg with toes pointing down.
- Steady yourself as you balance only on your right leg. Your pelvis should be centered over the right foot.
- Try and bring your palms in front of your chest, making them meet or alternatively stretch your arms overhead so your wrists align with the shoulders.
- Hold the pose for 3 to 5 breath cycles before bringing your left foot down to the mat. Repeat on the other side.
2. Trikonasana Or Triangle Pose
The triangle pose helps to strengthen your ankles, knees, and legs as well as chest and arms. In addition, it helps open up your hip region and spine.8 According to one study, this asana alongside others was able to help not just older participants with osteoporosis but also younger women who had healthy skeletons. The bone density in their spine and femurs improved with this routine.9 10
- Stand with your feet 3.5 to 4 feet apart.
- Turn the left foot in around 15 degrees and move your right foot out at a 90-degree angle. The center of your left foot arch must be aligned with your right heel. Plant your feet firmly on the ground, balancing the weight between your feet equally.
- Exhale as you stretch your torso to your right, bending at the hip and keeping the waist straight. Bring your left arm up in the air and move your right hand to the ground so they make a straight line.
- Let your right hand rest on either the floor, outside the right foot, or if you can’t manage it, place it on your ankle or shin – the important thing is to maintain the waist alignment. Bring your left arm up, pointing at the ceiling and aligning this arm with the top of both shoulders. Allow your head to be in a neutral position or turn it a bit to the left side, even as your gaze lingers on your left palm.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, breathing deeply as you do so. Inhale as you release the pose, rising up with arms back on either side of your body and feet straightened. Repeat on the other side.
3. Virabhadrasana II Or Warrior II
Virabhadrasana II or warrior II can also help improve bone density, balance, and coordination.11 It also strengthens your legs, buttocks, back, and chest.
- Stand with your feet together close to the front end of the mat.
- Exhale, stepping back with your left foot (around 3 to 4 feet), making the left foot turn outward at a little under 90 degrees. Your left torso and left toes should now face the left edge of your mat. Your right toes should point forward to the front of your mat. Your right heel should align with the arch of your left.
- Now bend from the right knee, so that it aligns with the second toe of the right foot, your thigh moving parallel to the ground.
- Keep your feet firmly rooted as you stretch your arms outward in opposite directions, reaching for the front and back ends of the mat, palms face down.
- Line your shoulders over your hips and gently turn your head to the front of your mat. Let your gaze linger on your right fingertips.
- Hold for 3 to 5 inhale–exhale cycles before returning to the start position and repeating, interchanging sides this time.
4. Setubandhasana Or Bridge Pose
- Lie on your back with knees bent so that your feet are firmly flat on the floor about hip-distance apart.
- Reach toward your heels with your fingers, lengthening your arms. Your palms must face down.
- Let your gaze drop down to your knees.
- Breathe in as you roll your body up through the spine beginning with your hips. Go as high as you can.
- Hold this pose for 3 to 5 breaths before exhaling and lowering your body slowly (feel one vertebra lower at a time).
5. Utkatasana Or Chair Pose
Utkatasana or chair pose helps heal those with osteoporosis and comes recommended by the over 100-year-old Yoga Institute.14 It can help you work out your hips, spine, lower back, and torso, strengthening these parts of the body. If you have chronic knee pain, you may want to avoid doing this pose, though.
- Stand upright with feet a little apart. Reach out your arms in front of you – elbows straight, palms of the hands facing down.
- Now bend at your knees a bit and push your pelvis down, making a movement as if you were to sit on a chair (except in this instance, the chair is an imaginary one!).
- Your hands must stay parallel to the floor. Lengthen the spine, sit upright. Relax your mind and body. Keep breathing. You could even watch the news or read as if you were sitting on a real chair as you hold this position.
- Allow yourself to sink even deeper/lower into that chair. Just take care not to let your knees extend beyond the toes.
- Lower your body further until you are seated cross-legged. You may even like to move to a supine position, lying flat on your back to end this asana.
6. Parivrtta Trikonasana Or Twisted Triangle Pose
Parivrtta trikonasana or twisted triangle pose is another asana that has shown great potential for improving bone strength and possibly reducing osteoporosis risk.15 This is a spinal twist that helps ground your body and tests your balance and core strength. The spinal joints are rotated and the movement helps squeeze the discs of the spine, making them better able to absorb nutrients and stay moist and lubricated.16
- Begin in tadasana and exhale, moving your feet about 3.5 to 4 feet apart (you could lightly jump). Raise your arms up so they are parallel to the ground and reaching to the sides, palms facing down. Turn the left foot to the right about 45 to 60 degrees. Turn your right foot 90 degrees out to the right. Both heels should be aligned and thighs firm.
- Now turn the right thigh outward to bring the center of your right knee in line with your right ankle.
- Exhale turning your torso to your right. As your left hip comes to the right, press firmly into the ground with your left heel.
- Exhale again, turning your torso even further to your right and lean down (over your front leg) with your left hand so that it touches the floor. Let your left hip drop a little to the ground, pressing your outer right thigh to the left actively. Your other hand will be extended to the ceiling, tips reaching up.
- Keep your gaze forward and your head neutral or look down at the floor. If you are a more experienced yoga student, you could turn your head and look at your top thumb. Your front hand and back heel should carry much of the weight.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds before exhaling to release the twist. Rise up to the upright position as you inhale. Repeat on the other side.
7. Salabhasana Or Locust Pose
Salabhasana or locust pose requires you to raise your trunk, arms, and legs. This pose strengthens the backbone and stimulates it, helping retain calcium. If you have a tendency to walk with stooped shoulders, this pose can help correct that as well.17
- Lie down on your stomach, arms straight alongside your torso with the palms facing up. Allow your forehead to rest on the floor. Your thighs should rotate inward and big toes can turn to each other.
- Exhale as you raise your head, upper torso, and then your arms and legs away from the ground to rest your weight on your front pelvis, belly, and lower ribs.
- Stretch the legs strongly, feeling the back of your legs lengthen. Ensure the big toes remain facing each other. Your buttocks should be firm.
- Lift your arms up so they are parallel to the ground. Picture pressing your arms up to the ceiling against some resistance like a weight on your upper arms.
- Look slightly up or ahead without jutting your chin out or squashing the back of your neck. Your neck should remain long at the back. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds before exhaling. Breathe in and out a couple of times before returning to your original position.
8. Supta Padangusthasana Or Supine Hand To Foot I Pose
The supta padangusthasana or supine hand to foot I pose can help with bone health by stretching the muscles on both legs and hips at the same time (quadriceps and hip flexor on one leg and hamstring and hip extensor on the other), helping with pelvic alignment. The pose also helps reduce the risk of injury to the lumbar spine or lower back.18 If you already have back pain, it can ease the pain. It also strengthens the knees.19
- Lie down on a comfortable mat on the floor, your feet extended fully. Use the support of a folded blanket for your head if required. Breathe out as you bring your thigh of the left leg into your torso as you bend it at the knee. Hug it closer. Now press your other thigh and heel into the floor.
- Use a strap looped around the arch of your left foot and hold the other end firmly with both your hands. Breathe in as you straighten the knee, pushing your left heel up to the ceiling.
- Walk both hands up the straps so your elbows are now extended fully. Press your shoulder blades gently into the floor, broadening them and widening your collarbones.
- Extend your leg up to the heel so the back of your leg is completely lengthened and then lift all the way to the ball of the big toe. Your leg should be perpendicular to the floor. Heighten the stretch by releasing your thigh bone so it goes more deeply into your pelvis and the foot comes a little closer to your head.
- Stay in this position for a minute or two or as much as three minutes once you get stronger. Release the strap and keep the leg in the same raised position for a further 30 seconds. Then slowly release this leg and bring it down, exhaling as you do so.
- Repeat the movement on the other side.
9. Tadasana Or Mountain Pose
The mountain pose is a standing pose that helps you improve your posture and strengthens the bones in your spine (your vertebral column). It also makes the back muscles that support the bones stronger.20Here’s how you do it:21
- Stand with your feet together, arms by the sides, your fingers pointing down to the ground.
- Keep your abdomen engaged but your pelvis neutral.
- Broaden your collarbone and roll your shoulders back.
- Keep your chin parallel to the ground, the top of your head spiraling up to the ceiling as you feel your spine lengthen.
- Breathe in and out with a gentle “ha” sound as you exhale.
Most of these asanas should be comfortable for you to do – unless you’re at risk of fractures or have one or more fractures already.22 Nevertheless, here are some precautions to follow to be safe:
- Always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise, including yoga.
- Train under a yoga practitioner first or sign up for a yoga class.
- Don’t push your body too hard. If something hurts, stop.
- Avoid asanas that cause weight bearing on the spine – so inversions like the headstand and shoulder stand are best avoided if you have osteoporosis or fragile bones.
- Don’t rush. Slow and steady should be your mantra. The more controlled your movement and the longer you can hold a pose, the stronger you will get, and the more your bones will benefit.23
Keep these simple pointers in mind, master these asanas, and you should feel stronger soon!
|↑1, ↑3, ↑9||Lu, Yi-Hsueh, Bernard Rosner, Gregory Chang, and Loren M. Fishman. “Twelve-minute daily yoga regimen reverses osteoporotic bone loss.” Topics in geriatric rehabilitation 32, no. 2 (2016): 81.|
|↑2||Motorwala, Zainab S., Sona Kolke, Priyanka Y. Panchal, Nilima S. Bedekar, Parag K. Sancheti, and Ashok Shyam. “Effects of Yogasanas on osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.” International journal of yoga 9, no. 1 (2016): 44.|
|↑4, ↑6, ↑11, ↑15||Yoga: Another way to prevent osteoporosis?. Harvard Health Publishing.|
|↑5, ↑17, ↑18, ↑22||You can have healthy bones. Yoga Journal, Mar 1988.|
|↑7||Tree Pose – Vrikshasana. The Art of Living.|
|↑8||Trikonasana – Triangle Pose. The Art of Living.|
|↑10, ↑23||This 12-Minute Yoga Sequence Is Backed by Science to Strengthen Your Bones. Yoga Journal.|
|↑12, ↑14||Yoga healing for Osteoporosis. The Yoga Institute.|
|↑13||The Most Versatile Backbend: Bridge Pose. Yoga Journal.|
|↑16||Asana. Yoga Journal Sep-Oct 2001.|
|↑19||Yoga to Relieve Body Cramps. The Art of Living.|
|↑20||Keeping Your Bones Strong with Yoga. Yoga Journal.|
|↑21||Mueller, Donna. “Yoga Therapy.” ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal 6, no. 1 (2002): 18-hyhen.|