3 Tips for Healthy Aging
By Ellen Saltonstall
A recent scientific paper, Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Routine Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss, came as a surprise. Many women had been told that only common weight-bearing exercises such as walking, running, jumping, and lifting will provide enough stress on your bones to ensure their strength as you age and increase their density. Yoga now provides another option to build bone as we age.
Here are three tips for increasing bone strength and healthy aging using yoga:
1. Bending from the Hips
Daily life demands that we bend forward to put on socks, pick up dropped items, or pet the dog. How do we do that safely? Any forward bend carries the risk of spinal fracture, especially when it is fast and forceful. We need to become familiar with bending from the hips and not from the spine. This is a skill that is well suited to a yoga practice, especially using props such as a chair or a wall. The spine gains strength, which is also good for posture.
2. Improving Balance
Low bone density is not the main risk in itself. What is most dangerous is falling. Balance is a very important skill to practice as we get older. Our awareness of the body may decline, and our reaction time is slower. We can improve our balance by strengthening core muscles with yoga, becoming more aware of our feet, our pelvic muscles, and our core strength.
3. Holding Yoga Poses for 12 Seconds
Many yoga classes move students quickly from one pose to another. People often assume that this is the only way to do yoga but that is definitely not true! A fast practice is good for younger students, but dangerous for those over 50 who may not be physically fit when they decide to try yoga.
A fast-moving practice doesn’t allow time for refinement of alignment and action, which are two essentials for a sustainable and safe practice. We want to build a home practice that is tailored to our individual body type and fitness level, as well as our age. This practice can be vigorous but done very methodically.
To build bone strength we need to hold a yoga pose for at least 12 seconds for the stimulus to the bones to take effect. Most students find that it is possible to hold the poses for up to 30 seconds.
Ellen Saltonstall, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, is a New York-based yoga instructor and certified yoga therapist with over 35 years of experience.