Join Yoga U Online (IAYB sponsor) for an in-depth online course with Dr. Loren Fishman and yoga therapist Ellen Saltonstall, authors of Yoga for Osteoporosis and pioneers in the field of osteoporosis prevention. Osteoporosis a progressive bone disease that is characterized by a decrease in bone mass and density. It causes an estimated 1.5 million bone fractures every year and is one of the most widespread chronic conditions in the Western hemisphere, affecting 44 million Americans.
In this groundbreaking eight-part course for yoga teachers and experienced yoga practitioners, Dr. Fishman and Ms. Saltonstall will discuss recent new developments in the field of osteoporosis prevention and treatment, and go deeply into their unique approach to practicing and teaching yoga for osteoporosis. Their work has been featured in the New York Times, CNN.com, and the Huffington Post.
Learn more about their approach in this interview, as they discuss the preliminary results of the study and some of the considerations and precautions for people with osteopenia or osteoporosis considering a yoga practice. Dr. Loren Fishman is an M.D. and an Iyengar-trained yoga teacher, as well as the managing partner of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Ellen Saltonstall is an author, a yoga therapist, a senior certified Anusara yoga teacher and she holds a masters degree in the field of therapeutic movement education.
You have written a book on yoga for osteoporosis and are in the process of conducting a major study on the bone-building benefits of yoga on osteoporosis. What made you interested in this subject in the first place?
Loren Fishman: Osteoporosis is one of the most widespread chronic conditions in the Western hemisphere, and it’s hard to exaggerate its health effects. Osteoporosis affects 44 million Americans. That’s more than half of everyone over the age of 50. It is 50 percent of all women of whatever age and 25 percent of all men. It affects over 200 million people worldwide. So this is big time.
Osteoporosis causes a million fractures each year, most of which are vertebral fractures and about 300,000 are hip fractures. We worry so much about breast cancer in women, however, in actuality, the risk of a hip fracture is equal to the combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer. And it’s not just women who are at risk. For men over 50, even though we hear a lot about prostate cancer, men over 50 are actually more likely to have a hip fracture than prostate cancer.
Fully 25% of the people that have hip fractures die. Another 25 percent enter a nursing home never to leave, so half of people who contract a hip fracture have a very significant life change.
How does yoga help counteract osteoporosis?
Loren Fishman: Well, let me count the ways. Most people have heard of Wolf’s law: The architectonic, the structural support of bone, follows the lines of force to which that bone is exposed. When bone cells 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. What a wonderful feedback system. In osteoporosis, the bones bend more, so pressure is more effective in stimulating the cells to make bone.
In short, like weight training, yoga works by stressing the bone. Yoga stimulates the bone with isometric contraction at almost every conceivable angle for long periods of time.
Ellen Saltonstall: What is often overlooked in modern weight-training exercise and certainly when evaluating the effects of osteoporosis drugs, is that there is a difference between structure and density. Dexa scans will get a measurement of density, but they tell us nothing about the structure of the bone. Dense bone mass on its own doesn’t necessarily provide protection against fractures; unless the bone fibers are laid down in a way to provide greater strength, the bone mass is not going to be very stable It’s like the difference between a pile of steel beams and the George Washington Bridge. A bridge has been planned by engineers, so the beams, when put together, create a well-organized, completely integrated structure, which can sustain huge amounts of weight—because of the strength created by the structural interconnections.
In short, density and structure both matter for bone health. But unfortunately, we don’t have convenient ways to measure the structure of bones as of yet. We do have straightforward ways to measure the density. The osteoporosis drugs do work, they reduce the risk of fracture considerably, but the functional limitations of just building bone mass without proper structure and strength are completely ignored.
Featured image via yogaterry.net