Can Yoga Prevent Osteoporosis? 72 Seconds Is the Magic Number

Jill Miller by Jill Miller | March 25th, 2009 | 11 Comments
topic: Health & Wellness, Healthy Aging, Yoga

Jill Miller yoga stretch to build bone density

I remember getting the call from my mom a few years ago; at age 58, she had been diagnosed with osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis. “And your aunt has it too … you better watch out,” she warned. There are many factors that contribute to the weakening of our bones as we age: poor nutrition, genetics, smoking and lack of exercise, to name a few. But a new study tells us that a yoga practice can not only help prevent these crippling conditions — it actually builds the bones back up! Here’s how to use the 72-second rule plus photo and video how-to’s for two yoga moves to help you build bone density.

In early March, I attended a Yoga Therapy conference in Los Angeles, www.sytar.org. Dr. Loren Fishman and his study partner Ellen Saltonsall presented the most compelling information about this killer disease. They emphasized that bones need STRESS (no, not the anxiety building kind) to maintain strength. Yoga poses act on the bones by “applying forces of opposing muscle groups to them that greatly exceed gravity, stimulating bone cells (osteocytes) to create more bone.” They also suggest that yoga greatly improves arthritic joints by circulating synovial fluid, and stimulating all of the connective tissues around the joints, helping to mobilize these stagnant tissues.

The 72 Second Rule

Fishman then said that there is a magic number to initiate this process of new bone growth. 72 seconds. Yes, you must hold your pose for 1 minute and 12 seconds to reap the benefits. This should be approached gradually, as building up the strength to maintain a pose for 72 seconds may take months — but it will be well worth it. Plus, you will be rewarded with less stress (the anxiety-producing kind) and improved breathing, sleep and coordination. You have nothing to lose … and you can gain bone density!

Before she began studying Yoga Tune Up® with me at Equinox in Santa Monica, 57-year-old Judy came to me with doctors’ orders to begin practicing yoga because of her newly diagnosed condition: osteopoenia. In a year, she made significant changes in her posture and health. Although Judy’s progress came to a screeching halt in February when she suffered a terrible skiing accident and fractured her pelvis and collar bone, her improved bone condition has helped her heal quickly from what could have been tragic

A Great Pose for Osteoporosis, and Arthritis

A leg stretch using the wall ... a great pose for osteoporosis and arthritis

“My recovery from the multiple pelvic fractures has been remarkable,” Judy says. “I attribute this to my ‘core strength’ that has improved a lot from taking your classes. I was able to get in and out of bed on my own four days after I fell, and was able to drive after two weeks. Each day I had so much more strength and mobility than the day before, and I was dancing after four weeks! I also think that I am much more aware of my body and how to isolate and work different parts of it which has helped in my physical therapy.”

Judy’s progress has been off the charts in part because she has “banked” a lot of new bone in her body over the course of the past year, priming her tissue to quickly and easily repair the damage caused by the accident. In this picture, she is performing a supported version of “Leg Stretch #2″ at the wall, where she can push her strong legs into the wall for 72 seconds without placing too much undo stress on other parts of her body. Voila!

Hey Mom, this Stretch Is for You! Safe Spinal Therapy

Try this gentle seated side bend from my new Yoga for Weight Loss DVD. It has all of the components of a healthy stretch for the spine. This will lubricate your vertebrae and tone the finer muscles of your spine, as well as open the ribs and abdominal obliques. This is a perfect stretch to begin a safe therapeutic exercise practice that can help you keep your bones healthy for a lifetime, and it can also be included as one alternative therapy for arthritis sufferers.


When beginning any type of physical practice, please always consult your personal physician. For more info on Dr. Loren Fishman see Sciatica.org. And for superior care of any related injuries or conditions that need some extra attention, please visit my favorite Physical Therapists: in Los Angeles, Sean Hampton of ADI Rehab, and in NYC, Shmuel Tatz, creator of Bodytuning.

Comments

  1. Hi Jill,
    Thanks for these great and informative tips. You are such an inspiration.

    Keep em’ coming!

    Heidi

    Heidi | March 26th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  2. Great info. Thanks for the posting Jill. Very confirming information

    shelley | March 27th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  3. I think yes, agree with you.

    Agriculture Guide | March 30th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  4. I am very interested in practicing the 72 second rule! Is there a video that talks you into poses that hold for 72 seconds?

    Mary | April 1st, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  5. Yes, I second Mary’s request. I would love to have further information on which specific yoga poses would be the best for the 72 second rule.

    Lynne | April 1st, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  6. Check out Dr. Fishman’s site for more specifics about the poses that they were testing. My Yoga Link: Hip Helpers DVD by Pranamaya.com has several poses timed at 90 second intervals. They are called the “Pelvic Primer” and “Leg Stretch Series.” Not only do they qualify as bone builders, but this series helps to rebalance asymmetries in the hips!

    Jill Miller | April 1st, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  7. I was interested in the information above and I can not find it. Thanks

    Cindy Makinson | April 5th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  8. Hi Cindy, the website for my “Yoga Link: Hip Helpers” video with the timed hip poses is pranamaya.com and Dr. Fishman’s website is sciatica.org.
    Was there any other info your were unable to find?

    Jill Miller | April 6th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  9. Thank you for bringing to our attention this exciting new research about the 72 second rule for bone building. In addition, I think your readers would benefit from being reminded that, with osteopenia and osteoporosis, all forward flexion of the spine should be avoided, because of the highly increased compression to the spine (which is not the good kind of stress to the bone). This is key for a yoga practice which so often includes forward bending, as well as for daily life.

    Sincerely,
    Rachael R. Resch, PT
    Ashland, Oregon

  10. Great point Rachael. As teachers we must safely instruct our students to bend forwards from the hip socket, and NOT from hunching and rounding the spine! A very important distinction. This action is very clearly illustrated in my Yoga Link Hip Helpers video as mentioned above. Also, more video on my website offers further instruction, (We do not allow links in comments)

    Best!
    Jill

    Jill Miller | April 29th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  11. Dear Jill,

    Delighted you listened during our talk, and have put it to good use!

    We have a study to prove how well yoga works, which includes a DVD which we distribute without cost to anyone.

    If you or your vfiewers are interested, it’s on the left of the home page at Sciatica.org.

    Kind regards,

    Loren

    Loren Fishman | August 22nd, 2009 | Comment Permalink

Post a Comment

If you want to show your picture with your comment, go get a gravatar!