Yoga and Bone Health

I wrote this blogpost for my friend and colleague Dr. Susan Brady of Nurtured Bones. She is part of our Wellness Inspired Network where we learn from each other so we can best support our patients and clients. 

Yoga provides a framework for healthy living. Western yoga studios and gyms often focus solely on the asana, the physical practice. Yet the tools of yoga provide so much more. Tools like pranayama (breathwork) and meditation.
Our current addiction to computers and handheld devices promote repetitive flexion of the spine and internal rotation of the shoulders, forcing the head forward, adding extra strain to the spine. This is called kyphosis.

His 12-pound head becomes a 32# weight due to the gravitational pull when it protrudes over his body. This stretches out his back muscles, shortens and weakens his chest muscles, and inhibits his breathing and digestive system. Opposites heal.  A yoga practice to strengthen the back and neck muscles and stretch his chest muscles will improve breathing, digestion, cellular energy and renewal.  Low intensity, back-strengthening exercises are associated with improved quality of life for people with osteoporosis.  Didn’t Mother always tell us to stand up straight?
Becoming mindful of daily repetitive movements gives you the opportunity to form new habits. Yoga is all about finding that healthy balance. This is a key concept found in the sutras. Sthira and sukha, translated to (finding the balance between) effort and ease.
No two bodies are alike. I often talk about bio-individuality in my coaching and functional medicine practice and the importance of a personalized plan to uncover the root cause of discomfort for your unique body.  This is also true for a yoga practice. Unfortunately, some gyms and studios only offer hard-core physical practices that are rapid, and repetitive. This is not only challenging and difficult for those with osteoporosis, but may be dangerous.
The “no pain, no gain” mentality is counterproductive. The body (and bone growth) responds to gentle light force.  Too rapid and too forceful the body will fight back with an inflammatory response. Worse yet, could fracture brittle bones. Yoga is a very individualized practice; one that begs to be experienced. It is important to listen to what your body needs in the present moment. What feels good and what doesn’t? This not only keeps you grounded, it helps you to cultivate discernment, focus, and a healthy relationship with yourself. By being present with yourself helps to let go of stress, release emotions and even pain. A healthy yoga practice is safe, produces feel good hormones and endorphins, and builds healthy bones.
Our bodies are self-healing and self-repairing. The body miraculously responds to messages given. The body needs movement and the appropriate amount of force to mechanicallymessage building new bone. Inactivity causes bone loss.
Case in point, without gravity, astronauts lose bone density and strength.
Here’s the science. “The microarchitecture of the trabecular bone (inner bone where growth occurs) is constantly remodeling based on the demands placed upon it. This remodeling enables bone to optimally withstand loads associated with habitual use.” (1)
In other words, “ Use it or lose it!”
Muscle strength is also protective against fractures, which is the most common and serious side affect of osteoporosis. Inactivity and limited spinal movements weaken the internal trabecular structure of the vertebrae and result in greater risk of vertebral fractures.
The discs between the vertebrae are avascular. Like the lymphatic system, they require movement. It is the change in pressure that pushes needed nutrients in and expel waste products. Without movement the nucleus, the center of the disc, lose valuable proteins. We need protein to build all tissue.
Many people dangerously take extra calcium supplements, unaware that you need other vital nutrients (like vitamin D, K, magnesium) and weight-bearing exercise to move calcium into the bones. Without exercise, the body will deposit the calcium in unwanted places, like the kidney and arteries.
Everything in the body is interconnected. The health of our lymphatic system is also important to bone health. Our lymphocytes, white blood cells and red blood cells are made inside the bone marrow.  This is important to know if you have lymphoma or a blood disorder. Without vital movement, it is impossible to move essential nutrients inside the bone and remove toxic waste.  Can you see why this might be important to all new cell growth?
Without blood cells we cannot deliver oxygen to tissues. Cancer cells grow in an anaerobic environment, i.e. without oxygen. Which explains a most essential tool of yoga, breathwork. Pranayama means life force. Breathwork is vital for cellular energy and bone growth.
I love getting scientific reinforcement for why my yoga and yoga dance are so essential to my wellbeing J Can you sing, “Everybody Dance Now!”  This helps to build new bone! How exciting is that?
Falling is the highest risk factor for fractures. Balancing postures help keep balance as we age.
Weight bearing and strength building exercises can help prevent and stop the progression of osteoporosis.
Meditation is also a powerful tool of yoga. This practice messages the body that you are safe to relax and repair, (or rest and digest, or mate and ovulate, depending on your goals!)
We need to message the body to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) for the growth of healthy bones and tissues. This puts the body in an anabolic (growth) state versus a catabolic (breaking down) state.  Most of us live in a constant state of fight or flight, sympathetic nervous system overdrive.
You cannot build bone, digest food, lose weight, or heal and repair, when your body thinks you are running for our life. See the picture from my book below:

Fortunately, we can flip this switch from SNS overdrive to PNS with simple tools like deep belly breathing and meditation. This is why I coach my clients to do a simple breath exercise before each meal. I’ve coached clients to overcome anxiety and dis-ease via breathwork, meditation, and by addressing gastrointestinal issues that interfere with hormone and neurotransmitter production.
The Pancha Maya Kosha Model integrates all of our layers: physical, energetic (breath), mental-emotional, intuitive, and spiritual body for healing the whole being.
Need further proof? See my idol, the world’s oldest yoga teacher, Tao Porchon-Lynch. She is 99 years young, doesn’t take medicine, and has no dis-ease. She practices yoga every day.

People have always asked me what’s my secret. “Yoga and Carpe Diem Dance are two important arsenals that could be your secret weapon too!
Contact me if you are interested in exploring yoga or Carpe Diem Dance at a deeper level. 
Better yet, join us a week from Monday, the first day of school!  Let me know if you are interested in a 6am class, 7:30am class or 9am class.  Please RSVP
PS Stay tuned for a future blogpost from Dr. Susan Brady of Nurtured Bones 
About Lisa Jackson, RN, CHC, RYT-500, FDN-P, AFMC
Lisa is an author, inspirational speaker and functional medicine coach and yoga teacher with a mission to inspire, educate and empower clients towards optimal wellbeing.
Lisa’s book, Savvy Secrets: Eat Think and Thrive outlines her seven-step process towards optimal health that is fun and transformational.
Lisa is Founder of Carpe Diem Wellness and the Wellness Inspired Network, and part of the New Self Health Movement, Functional Forum and Evolution of Medicine.  When she is not coaching, speaking or writing, you can find her practicing yoga and joyfully sharing Carpe Diem Dance.
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Water is Good for You, Right?

Yes! and unfortunately no; not all water is good for you. I was shocked, yet not too surprised, at this article in this week’s paper:14 Pollutants Found In Virginia Drinking Water, Study Shows What’s legal isn’t necessarily safe. See what Virginia…

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80/20 Rule

I am in Norway, the land of beautiful people and beautiful vistas. I’m struck with how progressive Norway is in terms of technology, social programs, the environment, and food.  Those who know me, know that I love food, especially when it is fresh, local and organically grown. Norway has an abundance of all three.
 Baked Cod, Grand Hotel Cafe
Roasted Cauliflower with Watercress Sprouts

Lofoten, Norway
Our friends whom we are staying with, used to be our neighbors in Virginia. They (along with their friends who came to visit the U.S.) all suffered from digestive dis-ease while living in the United States.

Fortunately for Bjorn, he took my advice to purchase some supplements on his last visit with us, and I’m happy to report that his digestion is now back to normal in Norway.

This reinforces my concern about how we have adulterated our food. We are the only country that allowed Genetically Modified Food (GMO’s, inserting the DNA of bacteria into the DNA of plants) as well as thousands of chemicals and pesticides into our food supply. Our wheat is also hybridized to include 50% gluten versus 4% gluten of previous generations. Plus, our flours are bromated. Bromine is a halide chemical that competes with iodine, essential for a healthy thyroid and regulation of metabolism.

I see very little obesity here and I think it is more than just clean food. Norwegians typically take 4 weeks of vacation in the summers and many have been able to afford homes in the country where families go often to hike or cross country ski. The cities are also surrounded by forests, with strict rules about preserving them for present and future generation recreational use.

Public transportation is robust and bike shares and electric cars are encouraged to keep pollution at a minimum.

There is also zero tolerance for drinking and driving and our Norwegian friends do not drink alcohol during the week.

Our daily choices are so important for both longevity and quality of life. Our bodies are designed to heal, repair and protect us from our abuses. As I pointed out in my book, Savvy Secrets: Eat, Think and Thrive, the body is designed to eliminate even mercury, the most toxic element through the digestive tract, if it is intact. Unfortunately, intestinal permeability is becoming epidemic in the United States leading to everything from food sensitivities, psoriasis, depression, anxiety, autoimmune dis-ease and cancers.

Major causes of intestinal permeability include external stress and internal hidden stressors such as nutritional insufficiency, GMO’s, chemical laden processed foods devoid of nutrients, antibiotics, steroids, over the counter drugs like aspirin, Motrin and other NSAIDs, and even birth control pills.

The good news is that if we make good choices 80-90% of the time, we can afford to indulge 10-20% without sacrificing health. The problem is that just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Just because we can drink wine every night and have dessert with every meal, doesn’t mean we should. Not if we want to live a long healthy and happy life.

Instead, we develop these rituals, these daily habits that will determine whether we experience ease or dis-ease in the body. We live into our habits. Habits easily become addictive.

What we resist persists. It’s taken me a long time to get this. I’ve noticed the one thing that we most love may be the very thing that keeps us stuck. Remember that diversity in the diet is the number one anti-aging as well as cancer prevention strategy.

Our body is designed to be self-healing and self-repairing. It is designed to protect us and will do so up to a point. You may not notice the subtle changes occurring that warn you, like creeping levels of glucose in the blood or slow steady weight gain. Personally, I remember the shock I felt looking at myself in the mirror of a dressing room several years ago when my scale tipped to 160, 35 pounds above my current weight.
What daily choices do I now make 80% of the time? Here are some essential to my wellbeing:
  1.  I drink a glass of clean water upon wakening, followed by my yoga practice and Dinacharya, my self-care routine that includes a shower with coconut or olive oil.
  2. I’ve replaced daily coffee with green tea and herbal teas; essential to heal adrenal fatigue. 
  3. I’ve added more fish, green leafy, cruciferous, and sea vegetables to my diet and reduced intake of caffeine and alcohol. 
  4. I do my own functional diagnostic testing like measuring micro-nutrient status every 6-12 months and supplement as necessary.
  5. I practice taking frequent breaks between work to be focused and fully present.
  6. I go to sleep by 10pm and end my day reading, writing and take note of all that I am grateful for.
  7. I practice creating self compassion, self-love and forgiveness by deleting the need to beat myself up and the ANTs, automatic negative thoughts that arise.
What kind of daily choices do you make to create wellbeing? What habits no longer serve you?

With Love & Gratitude,
Carpe Diem!


About Lisa Jackson, RN, CHC, RYT-500, FDN-P

Lisa is an author, inspirational speaker and a coach with a mission to inspire, educate, and empower, clients towards optimal wellbeing.  

She is the former Executive Director of the Integrative Wellness Program for the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

Lisa’s book, Savvy Secrets: Eat, Think and Thrive outlines her seven-step process towards optimal health that is fun and transformational.

Lisa is part of the New Self Health Movement and the Wellness Inspired Network. When she is not coaching, speaking or writing, you can find her practicing yoga and joyfully sharing Carpe Diem Dance.

Read more
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