The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1043: How to Strengthen Bones and Fix Your Body with Yoga

A study with more than 700 volunteers shows that yoga practice can combat osteoporosis and build back bone if you do the poses daily.
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How to Strengthen Bones and Fix Your Body with Yoga

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Do you think of yoga as exercise? Many people don’t. Yoga doesn’t seem like exercise that can combat osteoporosis. Yet physiatrist Loren Fishman, MD, has shown that certain yoga poses can improve bone mineral density and reduce fractures. People do need to practice these poses conscientiously. When they do, they experience virtually no side effects-except they stand up straighter and feel better.

Will Yoga Combat Osteoporosis?

Gentle stress on the bones stimulates osteocytes, which then build more bone and make them stronger. A ten-year study with more than 700 volunteers demonstrated the power of yoga to increase bone density.

Find out whether Dr. Fishman’s yoga exercises could help strengthen your bones, counteract osteopenia or combat osteoporosis. His DVD demonstrating the poses is sold at his website, sciatica.org.

Dr. Fishman also describes how he treats scoliosis, sciatica and rotator cuff injuries with specific yoga poses.

This Week’s Guest:

Loren Fishman, MD, is medical director of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in New York City. He is the author of ten books, including Healing Yoga and Yoga for Osteoporosis. He is associate editor of Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation and on staff at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons.  His website is sciatica.org. He published his report, “Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Regimen Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss,”  in Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation in April, 2016.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Thank you for such an informative show. I’ve been practicing yoga for several years, rehabilitated my lower back as well as reversed my Osteopenia. I was so delighted with how it helped me I became a certified yoga instructor and now teach others who are experiencing back pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and other conditions.

One point at the end of the show that Dr. Fisherman makes is finding a qualified yoga instructor. This is so important. Don’t risk doing the poses incorrectly and possibly injuring yourself. Yoga is beneficial on so many levels and for so many different reasons, if the teacher does not resonate for you find one that does. Namaste’

That yoga has various physical benefits seems to be well established although its benefits for the heart and stress sometimes may be exaggerated. But Americans who look to yoga solely for its physical benefits are often spiritually naïve. And indeed, Hindus, who see yoga primarily as the spiritual discipline it really is fault us Americans for this naïvete and some even resent our appropriation of it just for the body. The asanas or poses of yoga contribute to the alteration of consciousness that leads to the unitive mystical experience, the sensation of melding with the “All” that arises from mantramic meditation and is enhanced by the yogic poses. And this mystical experience is the basis of the pantheistic view of the divine of Advaita (non-dual) Hinduism of Shankara. Thus, the practice of yoga–for whatever reason–may influence you in the direction of the popular but misleading idea that “All is One.” I say misleading because the Christian revelation makes it clear that “All is two”: the uncreated, eternal and personal Creator and his creation. So if you follow the Creator revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, you may choose to forgo the physical benefits in favor of physical and spiritual disciplines compatible with your faith.

Another excellent podcast. I’m a huge fan of People’s Pharmacy and often send my patients here to learn more about their symptoms or illnesses. I have osteopenia and poor posture. I hope yoga makes a difference for me too. I just went onto Dr Fishman’s site and ordered the dvd. Keep these informative podcasts coming! :)

Did you get your DVD? I ordered and my credit card has been charged but I have not received an acknowledgment of order, expected delivery date, etc., and no one has responded to my phone call!

Hi Joe & Terry,
This was a very interesting interview. I have been practicing yoga on and off since the 1970’s. I thought some of your questions to your guest got at some of the common misconceptions about yoga.

I laughed at out loud when Joe asked Dr. Fishman if yoga was “really exercise.” Believe me, it sure the heck is! Not every yoga session will get your heart rate pumping and no one expects it to be a cardio workout but it is always challenging if you want it to be. After being away from it for years I found that I had lost much of my flexibility but it is slowly coming back.

I am 61 and yoga is helping me combat the onset of arthritis. Another question you asked about was whether or not men can or would want to do yoga — Every yoga class I have ever participated in has included men. This was not brought up explicitly in your interview but I have heard that there are some Christian groups who think yoga is somehow inappropriate for them to practice because of the Hindu basis of it; this needs to be dispelled.

It is very exciting to hear about Dr. Fishman’s research and I hope the medical establishment will support his findings. I also want to let your readers know that there are several excellent online (free or inexpensive) sites for doing yoga for those who want to do it at home. These do not take the place of a live yoga teacher but helps you keep your practice going when one does not have time to get to a class. Almost every town has at least one yoga studio now and even the major health insurance plans promote it (even if they don’t call it yoga, for reasons I mentioned above.)

Lastly, the concept of yoga promoting bone strength is completely consistent with other studies that have been done that show that strength training builds bone. For example, Dr. Miriam Nelson’s 1997 bestseller “Strong Women Stay Young” makes similar claims and many women have benefited from that program of exercise. I have no doubt that yoga also helps with both flexibility as well as bone strength plus yoga has the element of mindfulness that both assists as a stress reliever and aids with mental conditioning. Thank you very much for this excellent interview. I look forward to checking out Dr. Fishman’s books.

Some types of yoga should be addressed to those with inability to kneel or lay on the floor

Agree. Awaiting hip replacement, getting to floor easy, getting up can be painful & create a fall.
Need the exercises. Will use my firm mattress to & do what I can.

It would be nice if you provided a link to where we can tune-in to the podcast and which date/time <3

I’ve been doing yoga for 15+ years. There is yoga and there is yoga, running the gamut from gentle stretches to exacting, demanding forms (such as Iyengar, which I do). It’s important to avoid doing the poses mechanically, mindlessly, but rather focus on the many places in the body engaged in a given pose.

Can castor oil clear up cataracts, or is this too good to be true?

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