Yin yoga is a style of yoga that claims to target the connective tissue – specifically the ligaments and tendons in the joints and spine. The poses involve static holds lasting up to three minutes or longer. According to its followers it has many benefits including the elimination of energy blockages and enhancement of circulation.
I decided I would give Yin yoga a try and see if it is safe for someone with low bone density, osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Yin Yoga Poses Can Cause Flexion of Spine
Many of the Yin yoga poses encourage flexion – something that should be avoided by someone with low bone density, osteopenia or osteoporosis. I recommend that you make sure that your teacher understands how to modify the poses so that flexion comes from the hip and not the spine. Or, to be completely safe, I suggest you avoid this type of yoga altogether and find an alternative.
Yoga Spinal Flexion Poses
A recent case study report by Dr Sinaki at the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation identifies many of the problems associated with yoga spinal flexion positions and their affect on people with osteopenia or osteoporosis.
In the report, three patients had osteopenia (low bone mass), were in good health and pain free. They embarked on a yoga exercise program to improve their musculoskeletal health. Unfortunately, the yoga flexion exercises the patients followed brought on pain and fractures. The author concludes that while exercise has been proven to be beneficial to bone health, “some yoga positions can contribute to extreme strain on spines with bone loss.” The concern is even greater among individuals with osteoporosis.
Yoga for Better Bones
Many of these concerns were raised in my book, Yoga for Better Bones. The book recommends modifications to popular yoga poses and identifies a number of poses that should be avoided altogether by people with osteoporosis, osteopenia or low bone density.
As I have mentioned in earlier articles, yoga has many benefits and when practiced safely it can bring great joy.
I find that most people do not have the body awareness required to make sure that they avoid getting into a flexed position. As a result, I always encourage my clients with osteoporosis to search out a teacher who knows how to modify poses to make them safe and pain free.