Yogasana and Bones
During yoga the weight of the body is held up against gravity, therefore it is considered to be a weight bearing exercise. There is a force created on the bones due to the body’s resistance to gravity and this healthy amount of stress on the bones encourages them to generate new growth. This is assisted by the surrounding muscles that support the bone to remain in the same place, whilst also promoting tension for increasing bone density. So, the contraction of the muscle over the bone whilst in a static position helps to make the bones stronger and thicker. If the postures are performed with the correct alignment and precaution, then this process allows the joints and cartilage to remain intact due to yoga being a low impact form of exercise.
Apparently, holding a yoga pose for 10 seconds or more is sufficient enough to kick start the growth of fresh bone. According to Loren Fishman MD, a standing series of yogasana is particularly beneficial to increase bone health for those who want to prevent bone loss or rewind current bone loss for osteoporosis in its premature stages. Those with osteoporosis should practice forward bends and twists (supine twists are recommended) with great caution to avoid spinal fractures. Although it is debatable whether twists contribute to fractures.
Yogasana and Blood
Yogasana, when combined with pranayama and meditation, has the capacity to switch the body’s activity from the Sympathetic to the Parasympathetic Nervous System. The complete practice is effective in reducing stress levels. Therefore reducing the heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and stopping the production of stress hormones (in preparation for fight or flight) and allowing the blood to flow evenly to all of the organs to supply nourishment: digest, rest and recover. The body’s immunity, digestion and endocrine glands can return to normal functioning. The Thyroid controls the osteoclasts (bone breakdown) with the hormone Calcitonin, and the Parathyroid releases the Parathyroid hormone to control the osteoblasts (bone modelling).
This switch to the PSNS also stimulates a shift in the proportion of old bone breakdown and new bone formation to be more balanced. ‘When bone cells [osteoblasts, osteocytes and osteoclasts] get stimulated through being compressed or twisted or elongated, they produce more bone mass until that bone gets strong enough, to resist the pressure. At that point the pressure no longer distorts the bone, and the bone-making cells stop making more’. So in the Parasympathetic state, the blood is able to deliver any ingested minerals (namely calcium and phosphate) to the bone for bone cell regeneration.
Yogasana and Movement
Yoga and physical therapist, Matthew J Taylor states, ‘[yoga] practices increase balance, reduce the fear of falling, and elevate mood, which research demonstrates are key for maintaining bone health’. Balancing postures are particularly effective in reducing the risk of falls, as you are constantly training the muscles, bones and nervous system to be alert, strong and steady. This denotes an increase in coordination of movement. Balancing postures are also weight-bearing and allow the muscles to lengthen and assist the bones.
Yogasana and Joints
We’ve already discussed yogasana contributing to greater balance and muscular strength; and it being a static, low impact exercise therefore protecting the joints and cartilage. In addition, yogasana increases the range of motion of joints by increasing the strength and flexibility of the connected muscles.
By Alyssa McLeod