Yoga for Osteoporosis, Part 3

In my last two posts, I described best practices to avoid intervertebral disk compression and then offered a short practice that incorporates axial extension. Today, I’d like to present some ideas about balance.

Although spontaneous fractures can occur, our bones can be osteoporotic without our necessarily experiencing any obvious issues – as long as we manage to stay erect! So balance becomes more important. Paradoxically, balance often becomes more difficult as we age, due to weakening muscles, increasing misalignment of the bones, and wandering attention. Therefore, we need to strengthen core muscles, pay attention to postural alignment, and FOCUS.

We can practice these things simply by taking a walk, mindfully. When you walk, be hyperaware of what’s in front of you. Notice obstacles – cracks in the sidewalk, steps, debris in your path. Notice your own footsteps – feel each foot lifting off the ground and then stepping forward; feel your weight shifting from one side to the other. These are things we normally relegate to the “back” of the mind, but now start bringing them to the front.

Also as you walk, be aware of your spine. Try to make the spine as straight and tall as possible. As I described in my first osteoporosis entry, try to flatten the spinal curves (pulling the abdominal muscles in to flatten the low back, pulling the shoulder blades inward to flatten the upper back, dropping the chin and translating the head backwards to flatten the back of the neck).

You can also improve balance with yoga poses that require balancing on one foot or on the balls of the feet, and also what we call “contralateral” poses. Contralateral poses use opposition – one arm goes in one direction, the opposite leg goes in another, perhaps the head turns. By doing these kinds of poses, we practice bringing attention to what the different parts of our bodies are doing. As we practice and get better at balancing and moving contralaterally, we can even challenge ourselves further with some balancing contralateral poses.

In my next post, I’ll offer a short practice incorporating some of these balancing ideas.