Want Strong Bones? Do Yoga

A Pose Series Proven to Increase Bone Density

Feeling great is reason enough to do yoga, but happily this activity also comes with myriad health benefits.1 One of these is bone health. How does yoga strengthen your bones? Yoga poses strengthen muscles. This puts stress on bones which stimulates extra calcium deposits, and enhances the action of bone-forming cells. The result is stronger denser bones.

Maintaining bone health is important for every stage of life, however the older you are the more important it is to take part in activities that keep bones strong. Both men and women experience lower bone density as they age. After 50, over 55% of people have low bone density.2 Women have the added impact of lowering estrogen levels which impact on bone density.

Standing yoga poses like Warrior One and Two strengthen the legs and hips. Upper body weight bearing poses like Downward Dog and others impact on the muscles and bones of the wrists, arms and shoulders. Back bends like Cobra and Locust pose are accessible to most and impact on the bones of the spine. An additional benefit of yoga is the balance and co-ordination that it develops. This helps prevent falls that may be the cause of fractures, especially in older adults.

Ideally we do yoga to prevent bone loss but what if you have already experienced bone density loss? Can yoga help you regain it? Yes! Studies indicate that a daily yoga practice can help regain lost bone density. One such study found that 12 minutes of yoga daily can reverse bone loss, specifically in the spine and femurs.3 Another study demonstrated that yoga can effectively build bone mineral density after menopause.4 These benefits did not require rigorous training. Both studies had participants hold ten to twelve common yoga poses for about 30 seconds each daily. This means that you can maintain or improve the health of your bones with less than 15 minutes of yoga daily.

I have personally had students with bone loss connect with me after visiting their doctors and learning their bone density had increased after starting our yoga sessions. Here is one such letter I received from a student in my mixed level hatha yoga class.

Hi Bobby, My tests have shown that my bone density has increased at an amazing rate since I started yoga. I don’t know if it is coincidence as there are other factors to consider but my results have moved from osteopenia to normal in my hip, and from osteoporosis to ‎osteopenic in my spine. I have had 4 bone density scans in my life and this recent improvement was considered drastic!  My doctor described my results as stark improvement! Carol T, St. John’s Yoga Practitioner

Follow the pose order of the images in this post if you would like to try the poses from the case study above. Simply hold each pose for 30 seconds as you continue to take deep breaths. Pause for a few seconds after each pose before moving on to the next pose. Use blocks if needed to ensure poses are comfortable as you hold. This is a great start for a home practice. If you would like to be sure you are aligning correctly in the poses, or would enjoy the support of a yoga community, join me in one my upcoming beginner or mixed level hatha yoga classes on Monday or Tuesday evenings. Class info at www.ShaktiYoga.ca or contact me at Bobby@ShaktiYoga.ca.

Sources:

1. www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/9-benefits-of-yoga

2. Osteoporosis: epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment. South Med J. 2000;93(1):2–18.

3.Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Regimen Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss, Yi-Hsueh Lu, PhD, Bernard Rosner, PhD, Gregory Chang, MD, PhD, and Loren M. Fishman, MD, B Phil (oxon.)

4. Fishman, Loren M. MD, BPhil(Oxon) Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation: July 2009 – Volume 25 – Issue 3 – p 244-250 doi: 10.1097/TGR.0b013e3181b02dd6

Healing and Appreciating… With a Little Help From the Ancestors

Musings Inspired by Pitru Paksha (The Hindu Period of Ancestor Worship)

The view from my late cousin’s place of rest.

My mom called me today with a camping update. She was excited to have spent the night sleeping next to the grave of an ancestor. It was a whimsical act born of a passing comment from a local that her cousin had been buried in that area a number of generations ago. Upon learning this, my mom immediately rounded up an elderly resident who had been shown the burial area by his grandfather years ago. Together they approximated the burial spot to an overgrown bramble. She felt compelled to camp as close as possible for no obvious reason.

As I thought about what might have drawn her to spend the night with a cousin who had long passed I remembered that it is now the period of Pitru Paksha (fortnight of the ancestors). A Hindu practice where ancestors are remembered, prayed to and for, consulted, and appeased. In 2020 this takes place between September 1st and 17th. This is a time to contemplate the contributions and sacrifices of those who came before us, to cultivate gratitude, and receive insight that will help us live a better life. We pray for their peace and ask for their help as we invoke their presence.

Given that I am not Hindu I suggest that you consult Hindu texts, or seek clarification from someone who is of this faith, if you are interested in learning more about this sacred time of worship. My understanding would be of a surface depth at best. I am grateful however for Pitru Paksha, and similar ancestor practices from a number of traditions, that remind me to pause and create space for those who have paved the way for my own time on this earth.

Many philosophies teach that imbalance in our internal and external worlds may be the result of an unresolved relationship with an ancestor. In the book It Didn’t Start With You,Mark Wolynn explores the many ways that family trauma may be passed on and expressed in unhealthy cycles of emotion and action. Wolynn explores genetic studies showing physiological and emotional PTSD characteristics passed on to children who were not conceived when traumatic events occurred. In addition to genetic changes, social interactions and family culture can also unwittingly pass on unresolved emotions from one generation to another.

Wolynn suggests reflecting on repeated language habits and expressions in our core language during challenging times. To look into the places in our lives where intentions are at odds with actions. Maybe our behaviours are sometimes irrational because they didn’t start with us.

Holidays such as Pitru Paksha inspire me to contemplate the lives of family members such as my late grandmother. Her first husband, at a young age, died suddenly from a massive heart attack as he was walking down the street. This left her in complete poverty with a house full of young children. Various receptive families “adopted” her children and she moved to a neighboring town to be a servant girl to “earn her keep”. No roads meant that regular (if any) contact with her young children was impossible. As a mother I feel sick and breathless when I think of what she must have endured. The unimaginable and heart piercing sorrow of dropping off sobbing children one by one to households that would probably be extending lukewarm welcomes at best given that they were all struggling with the subsistence existence that was the norm at the time. My Nan eventually met another man (my grandfather) and started a new family. I never heard her speak of this part of her first family experience.

Nan with an later child of the family.

I now sometimes wonder if Nan’s trauma may impact on my own way of interacting with my family. Whether the occasionally powerful resentfulness I felt when my husband slept through diaper changes, or missed a parenting cue was connected to Nan’s feelings of anger at being abandoned (or course in this case it could just be because sleeping through diaper changes is totally uncool in partners, am I right mommas?). OK, obviously me and Nan still have work to do on that bit. Maybe that is why I have once again chosen to spend this September meditating with my Nan and sending her love and healing. When I do, I feel as though she is sending me back love and appreciation. I sense that she is grateful and soothed by my acknowledgement of her pain. As if we have become partners in our healing experiences.

I am wondering if my mother was called by my late cousin to sleep in close proximity of her grave for such a healing session. Maybe this cousin from our past had a message to share, a gift to give, or a request to make.

With a couple more days of Pitru Paksha remaining I invite you to spend some time with your ancestors. We are at the end of a long line of genes, experiences, loves, hurts, and accumulated wisdom. In whatever setting or ritual that works for you I implore you to listen to their whispers, send them love, and ask them for direction.

It might be helpful to draw a family tree and note anything you know about each person’s life that stands out. Then close your eyes, focus on your breath, and create space for flow. This is not an intellectual process. Resist choosing a specific person. Wait for your body and heart to be touched by an ancestor, maybe someone from the family tree you drew, or possibly someone else who simply sensed that now is a time for valuable connection. Journaling your experience afterwards can help to reinforce insights and explore meaning.

I am tempted to end by saying something like “Happy Pitru Paksha” but I have no idea if people actually say things like that on Pitru Paksha so I will instead wish you a powerful and fulfilling visit with whomever answers the prayer of your soul.

Coconut Green Tea Ice Cream

Matcha is known to be packed with anti-oxidants, and coconut milk is often touted for it’s MCT oil benefits so I guess you could call this Coconut Matcha Ice Cream a healthy dessert. It is so yummy that I didn’t require that designation, but I will admit that it makes me feel less guilty about having a second bowl.

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Fantastical Fiddleheads

Finally! After years of missing the short two week window that fiddleheads remain curled in the lovely (and tasty) shape that they are named for I finally caught them tentatively rising above the earth!

I have loved these deep green coils since I first tasted them in vegetable soba noodle dishes served in the Japanese mountains in springtime. Despite growing up frolicking in fern patches as a child, I had no idea that people ever ate them. My small town ancestors were suspicious of their safety. Which it turns out has some validity since they do need to be a specific kind of fern (the ostrich fern), and even then have to be boiled for 15 minutes, or steamed for 10-12 minutes before they are safe to eat. Having no internet to consult I guess Nana wisely chose to err on the side of caution.

If you plan to go foraging remember that only fiddleheads from the ostrich fern is edible. Do your research or consult an experienced forager before picking your own. Fortunately you can also find them in season in your local supermarket.

According to Health Canada ostrich fern fiddleheads contain vitamin C, omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids, making them a great way to boost your nutrition in the Spring with a locally sourced ingredient.

Ensure you clean as much of the brown scales off them as you can, and rinse in cool water a number of times before following the cooking guidelines above. Wash your hands after handling them as well. Cool them under running water after boiling/steaming. You can freeze them once they are cooked properly for up to a year.

Once they have been cooked add them to anything that works with veggies. Some compare their flavour to asparagus. I have so far added them to quiche, omlettes, sansai soba noodle soup, and the spicy Korean veggie dish known as bi bim bap (mixed veggies and rice). I have not done so yet but plan to add them to pasta sauce. You can also saute them as you would any other vegetable, and eat as a side dish.

The mid to late Spring opening time of the ostrich fern varies a little depending on your climate. I am writing this at the end of May in far eastern Canada. Keep your eye out at your local supermarket as they may source ostrich fern fiddleheads locally when in season.

Enjoy!

Hatha Yoga 101

Dates and times are: Jan 6-Mar 23 (12 weeks), Mondays, 7:00-8:15pm

A yoga FUNdamentals class. This series is a pre-requisite for every yogi! Apropriate for absolute beginners, and those who would like to revisit the foundations of Yoga.

Each week specific poses, and teaching points, will be demonstrated and broken down.  There will be time for questions and personal guidance, and lots of information on how to modify postures to suit your needs.

Whether you are an absolute beginner, already a yogi but need a refresher, or have always wondered, “Am I doing this right”, this is the class for you!

Click this link to the Shakti Yoga 101 page for more information or to register and hold your space!

Tokyo Zen Yoga Retreat Spring 2021

Tokyo Japan Zen Yoga Retreat Tour

Join Bobby late Spring 2021 for two exciting weeks in Japan. Contact Bobby@ShaktiYoga.ca for more details. This life changing exploration of exotic Nippon uses Tokyo as a base to explore the highlights of the city, with day trips to the great Buddha in Kamakura, Tanabata star festival in the region of the elusive Mt. Fuji, as well as an overnight stay in a Buddhist temple.

Tea ceremonies, shrines, temples, zen parks, festivals, sumo wrestlers, hot spring baths, culinary delights, and more will be littered throughout your two weeks of Japanese immersion.

Bobby lived and worked in Japan for a number of years and is so excited to give you an authentic experience in her favourite city in the world. Forget jumping out of a bus to click photos before moving on to another tourist site. That will not be our jam! We will ride the trains like a local, check out neat neighbourhoods, daytrip to exciting cultural spots, with lots of flexibility for individual tastes. Click this link to the Shakti Tokyo Retreat page for more info on dates, activities, price and how you can book this space limited tour.

Weather Cancellation Policy

ice websiteAny class cancellations will be posted on this news feed two hours prior to the start of any scheduled class. If the weather seems questionable please check this website before making your way to class.