Bone Health and Kaiut Yoga
As we age, many of us will lose degrees of flexibility, strength and balance. There is however, one other key health factor critical to longevity that tends to diminish as we age- bone density.
Currently, it has been estimated that more than 200 million people are suffering from osteoporosis. According to recent statistics from the International Osteoporosis Foundation, worldwide, 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 years and 1 in 5 men will experience osteoporotic fractures in their lifetime.
In an article published by NCBI1 (National Center for Biotechnology Information), the authors go on to say:
Osteoporosis has no clinical manifestations until there is a fracture. Fractures cause important morbidity; in men, in particular, they can cause mortality. Moreover, osteoporosis results in a decreased quality of life, increased disability-adjusted life span, and a big financial burden to health insurance systems of countries that are responsible for the care of such patients.
Proper bone formation involves a cascade of biochemical and physiologic events. Bone, like all tissues inside the human body, is a living tissue. Bone is not a solid, static structure.
Yes, we do need to have certain nutritional elements in our diet to be able to build healthy bone structure. We also need proper movement stimulation, digestion and circulation, as well as, hormonal support to be able to build bone as we age.
Let’s take a look at how Kaiut Yoga supports these areas to facilitate bone growth and proper density.
Proper movement stimulation: Let’s take a look at Wolff’s law. Wolff’s law, developed by the German anatomist and surgeon Julius Wolff in the 19th century, states that bone in a healthy animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed. If loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel itself over time to become stronger to resist that sort of loading2.
In other words, bone needs proper pressure and stimulus to grow. From Wolf’s law, we’ve come to understand that weight bearing exercise is a vital aspect of bone growth. We often consider running and hiking as weight bearing, yet rarely do we think of yoga as a weight bearing activity. Yoga qualifies as a weight bearing activity as we use the body against and with gravity to stimulate a cleansing effect and repair for the body.
Consider this fact: most western weight bearing exercises (hiking and running) stimulate the large bones of the feet and legs. [Note: Some question this idea though as feet are highly padded in cushioned athletic shoes.] In yoga, all bones of the feet, spine, hands, jaw and cranium are stimulated as we extend time in poses.
[To learn more about the number 1 question we are asked about osteopenia/osteoporosis read the addendum after this post.]
Digestion and Circulation:
Even if we’re eating the perfect bone building diet, those nutrients still need to be digested and circulated throughout the body to be effective. The organs involved In bone production have to be able to express their full range of motion to be effective players in bone synthesis. In Kaiut Yoga, we stimulate this ability every time we flex forward and/or rotate. Functional forward folds and spirals are key to properly stimulate organ function and digestion.
Circulation is a key concept to Kaiut Yoga in two very important ways.
First: In the KY practice, we stimulate circulatory pathways by decreasing blood flow to a limb/area. Then, as we release out of the pose we allow the blood to flood the area that was constricted. This process creates a vacuum type effect that is very productive in stimulating circulation and creating new pathways for the blood to flow.
Second: By dissolving restrictions/blockages in the joint itself, we soften the tissue to allow the blood to flow. Think of it as an active dam. The blockage or dam inhibits the flow of blood, or in this example the water, from going downstream. As we soften the dam, the water is more apt to go where it needs to go.
Bone growth often decreases in women after menopause because of the necessary hormonal input involved with bone formation. This happens for men as well, however the process is not as widely recognized or studied. The Kaiut practice supports hormonal function in a variety of ways. Blood flows to glands allowing the glands to function at a higher capacity, and the hormonal system as a whole has the opportunity to reset as we spend time in a parasympathetic mode. Culturally, we lean towards adrenal burnout and exhaustion. This aptitude has to be addressed and reversed in order to support healthy bone growth. From our perspective, KY is the perfect antidote.
Kaiut Yoga could be your missing link in an integrated approach to reversing osteoporosis. Combined with bone building nutritional factors, KY has the potential to stimulate other metabolic factors (beyond nutrition) to build bone.
What’s the number 1 question we are asked regarding osteoporosis?
Often, students will ask us after an osteoporosis diagnosis, “can I safely do forward folds?”
While we will never supercede a doctors advise, we would ask you to consider the following:
- Do you drive a car?
- Do you sit at a table for meals?
- Do you still put your pants on?
If your answer is yes to any of the questions above, then yes, forward folds are an important part of your everyday living.
That said, there is an approach that needs to be taken whereby we stimulate the system in a forward fold without overriding any restriction or blockage. In this case, forward folds need to be approached in a sustainable way (with feedback, but without flooding/confusing our perceptions). If you fall into this category and have concern around forward folds- please reach out to your teacher. We’re here to help you gain confidence and achieve the best results possible so that you can enhance your quality of life.