What Are the Benefits of Yoga for Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a bone condition that causes the deterioration of bone tissue. Over time, this condition causes bones to become thinner, more brittle, and more likely to fracture.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent and help manage osteoporosis. In addition to nutrition strategies and medication, experts recommend regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises to help build and maintain bone mass.

Yoga is one such physical practice that has been shown to improve agility, strength, posture, and balance, which can help reduce the risk of falls and fractures. The weight-bearing poses are also helpful in maintaining or improving bone strength. One study found that yoga can even reverse osteoporotic bone loss.

This article will review the benefits of yoga for osteoporosis and the best ways to get started.

A senior woman sits on a yoga mat on the floor holding the soles of her feet together and closing her eyes.

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What Is Osteoporosis?

The word "osteoporosis" means "porous bone." Bones naturally have a sponge-like structure that allows them to absorb the pressure of everyday movement. When osteoporosis develops, the "holes" of the sponge become larger and greater in number, reducing overall bone mass.

This loss of bone mass weakens the bone. The loss of strength can go unnoticed until a fracture occurs. Fractures as a result of osteoporosis are usually in the hip, wrist, or spine.

An estimated 10.2 million older adults in the United States have osteoporosis, and an additional 43 million have low bone mass and are at risk of developing osteoporosis. People born with uteruses are four times more likely to be affected by this condition than people assigned male at birth.

Osteoporosis can be managed with measures such as medications, increased intake of bone-strengthening nutrients like calcium and vitamin D, and exercises that help build and maintain bone mass, like yoga.

Benefits of Yoga for Osteoporosis 

Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines physical postures, breathwork, and meditation. The physical movement has been shown to have a variety of benefits for everyone, not just those with osteoporosis, such as:

  • Better posture
  • Improved balance and flexibility
  • Enhanced coordination
  • Greater range of motion
  • Increased muscle strength
  • More even gait
  • Increased bone density

These physical benefits are especially helpful for people with osteoporosis because improved coordination and balance can help prevent falling, which is the main cause of fractures in people with osteoporosis.

Yoga also uses weight-bearing movement—that is, moves that make your body work against gravity—which has been shown to encourage bone formation and increase bone strength. This can help keep osteoporosis from progressing.

A 2016 study examined the effectiveness of 12 specific yoga postures in raising bone mineral density (an indicator of bone mass). It showed that participants who did yoga every other day (or an average of three times a week) significantly improved bone mineral density in their spine, hips, and thigh bones.

While this study had limitations and drawbacks, the results are promising. Further research is needed to explore the effects of yoga on the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis in a more diverse group of participants.

Benefits for Postmenopausal Bone Loss 

Before age 30, your body typically builds more bone than it loses. After age 35, bone breaks down faster than it builds up, which causes the body to gradually lose bone mass.

People born with uteruses are more likely to develop osteoporosis as they get older because the rate of bone breakdown increases after menopause. This is because estrogen is generally protective of bones, but menopause causes levels of this hormone to drop.

Yoga seems to be particularly effective at helping postmenopausal people improve and maintain bone density. In a small 2016 study, 30 women, ages 45 to 62, with postmenopausal osteoporosis did a one-hour yoga session four days a week for six months. At the end of the study, the participants' average T-scores (a measure of bone density) had significantly improved.

Additional studies have confirmed these results, but more research is needed to determine how yoga stimulates bone formation and how often the practice must be done to see improvements.

12 Yoga Poses for Bone Health 

Any yoga flow will help encourage bone formation. Aim to do at least two 30-minute sessions per week.

To get started, you may want to try the yoga routine created specifically for bone health for the 2016 study. Each of the 12 poses is to be held for 30 seconds, followed by a 30-second pause.

This 12-minute routine, developed by Loren Fishman, MD, is meant to be performed daily. Dr. Fishman has provided an instructional video. This video shows how to do the poses with modifications for experience level and safety concerns, such as those who have osteoporosis.

The poses described below are the classical pose format. When you begin yoga for the first time, make sure you do so under the guidance of a qualified instructor. Also, make any modifications as needed, such as those in Dr. Fishman's video.

For Hips and Legs

Vrksasana — Tree

Full length portrait of young fitness model in white sportswear doing yoga or pilates training, Vrikshasana, Tree Pose, hands in Namaste.


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  1. Standing with feet hip-width apart, shift your weight into your right foot and lift your left foot off the floor.
  2. Slowly bend your left knee and bring the sole of your left foot to rest inside your ankle, lower leg, or thigh. Avoid pressing your foot into your knee.
  3. Raise your arms above your head or in front of your chest, palms together.
  4. Focus your gaze on a fixed object to help you keep your balance.
  5. Take 5 to 10 breaths, then lower your left foot and repeat on the other side.

Trikonasana — Triangle

Two women stand on yoga mats doing the Trikonasana yoga pose.

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  1. Stand with legs spread wide. Keep your right foot facing forward and turn your left foot out about 45 degrees.
  2. Bend at the hip toward your left foot and slide your left palm down to your left shin, the floor, or a block.
  3. Extend your right arm up.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat on the other side.

Virabhadrasana II — Warrior II

A fitness model practices yoga or pilates, doing lunge exercise, standing in Warrior II posture, Virabhadrasana II.


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  1. Stand in a wide stance on your mat with feet parallel, facing the left side of the room.
  2. Keeping your torso aligned with your hips, turn your right foot toward the front of the mat and bend your right knee, aiming for 90 degrees.
  3. Raise both arms to shoulder level, actively reaching out to the sides.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat on the other side.

Parsvakonasana — Side-Angle Pose 

Woman does the Parsvakonasana pose on field against sky.


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  1. Stand with your legs spread wide facing the left side of the room and turn your right foot toward the front of the mat.
  2. Bend your right knee into a lunge.
  3. Lower your right forearm to rest on your right thigh and extend your left arm up over your left ear. 
  4. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat on the other side.

Parivrtta Trikonasana — Twisted Triangle

Woman doing Parivrtta Trikonasana pose on grass.

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  1. From a wide stance facing the left, turn your right foot toward the front of the mat.
  2. Put your hands on your hips. Keeping your spine straight, turn your torso toward your front leg and hinge forward.
  3. Place your left hand directly under your left shoulder, inside or outside of your right foot (whichever is most comfortable). You can use a block for extra support.
  4. Lift your right hand toward the ceiling and look up.
  5. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side, starting with the left foot forward.

Setu Bandhasana — Bridge

A woman does the bridge position in a yoga studio.

urbancow / Getty Images

  1. Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor close to your butt.
  2. Press into your feet as you lift your hips and torso to create a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
  3. Hold for up to 30 seconds, then lower your hips to the floor.

Supta Padangusthasana II — Supine Hand-to-Foot II

A woman lies on the grass woman in the Supta Padangustasana II position.

Jomkwan / Getty Images

  1. Lie on your back with legs outstretched.
  2. Bend your right knee, bringing your leg into your chest.
  3. Hook a yoga strap or belt around the ball of your right foot.
  4. Hold an end of the strap in each hand. Straighten your right leg, drawing it up toward the ceiling with foot flexed. Keep both sides of buttocks equally on the floor.
  5. Shift both ends of the strap into your right hand. Holding both ends in your right hand, keep the left side of your body level with the ground.
  6. Extend your right leg out to the right side and lower it toward the floor.
  7. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with left leg.

Safety First

Not all yoga poses are appropriate for everyone with osteoporosis. Always check with your healthcare provider before beginning any new exercise, including a yoga program. Look for modifications to poses that are outside of your skill, experience, comfort, or safety levels. Any pose or movement that causes abnormal discomfort or pain should be discontinued immediately.

For Back

Supta Padangusthasana I — Supine Hand-to-Foot I

A woman in using a yoga belt to do the Supta Padangushthasana position.

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  1. Lie on your back with legs outstretched.
  2. Bend your left knee, bringing your leg into your chest.
  3. Hook a yoga strap or belt around the ball of your left foot.
  4. Holding an end of the strap in each hand, straighten your left leg, drawing it up toward the ceiling with foot flexed. Keep both sides of buttocks equally on the floor.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with right leg.

Salabhasana — Locust

A woman practicing yoga at home indoors, doing Salabhasana or Locust pose.


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  1. Lie down on your stomach with your forehead or chin to the mat. You can place a blanket under your hips for padding if you find this more comfortable.
  2. Extend arms long by your side with palms facing the floor and stretch your legs out behind you.
  3. Roll your shoulders back and inhale as you lift your head, chest, and arms up off the floor.
  4. Firming your buttocks, lift your legs such that your feet and knees are off the floor. Your weight will be resting on your lower ribs, belly, and front pelvis.
  5. Make sure your neck stays in a neutral position by keeping your gaze on the floor just in front of you, not cranking up.
  6. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths. Exhaling, lower down to the floor, turning your head to one side and resting on your cheek. Repeat 1 to 2 times.

Marichyasana III — Straight-Legged Twist

Woman doing straight leg twist

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  1. Sit on the floor with legs extended out in front of you.
  2. Bend your left knee and cross your left leg across the right. Place the sole of your left foot on the floor against the right leg, as close to the groin as possible.
  3. Rotate your torso to the left. Hook your right arm on the outside of your left thigh, and rest your left hand behind you.
  4. As you exhale, use your right arm to twist further (only twisting as far as is comfortable), looking over your left shoulder.
  5. Hold for several breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Matsyendrasana — Bent-Knee Twist

Woman in seated spinal twist

The Good Project / Getty Images

  1. Sit on the floor and bend your left leg in, letting the foot rest near the groin.
  2. Bend your right knee and cross your right foot over your left thigh, stepping your right foot on the floor to the outside of your left leg.
  3. As you exhale, turn toward the right and hook your left elbow to the outside of your right knee.
  4. Rest your right hand behind you. Use your right arm to deepen the twist, if desired.
  5. Hold for 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Savasana — Corpse Pose

A woman lies in the corpse yoga pose.

Koldunova_Anna / Getty Images

  1. Lie down on your back with your arms and legs splayed open. Turn palms upward.
  2. Once you are in position, relax your whole body, including your face. Don't try to hold your position; just let your body feel heavy.
  3. Breathe naturally.
  4. Stay in this position for as long as you are comfortable, 2 to 5 minutes.
  5. To come out of this pose, begin by deepening your breath, then start to wiggle your fingers and toes to slowly reawaken your body.
  6. Do a full-body stretch from hands to feet.
  7. With your eyes closed, bring your knees into your chest and roll over to one side. Rest in the fetal position for a few breaths.
  8. Return to a sitting position, using your hands for support.

Yoga Poses to Avoid 

There are some cautions for people with osteoporosis when it comes to yoga.

  • Avoid extremes in range of movement.
  • Don’t do crunches or sit-ups.
  • Avoid poses that require spinal flexion (rounded-back poses).
  • Use gentle backbends instead of big backbends.
  • Use mild side bends instead of extreme twists and side bends.
  • Avoid inversions or practice milder ones.
  • Take alignment-focused classes instead of fast-paced, competitive classes.

Some poses should be avoided or done with caution, including:

  • Any deep spinal twists
  • Rounding poses or rounded-spine movements
  • Corkscrew or bicycle
  • Deep hip stretches (like pigeon pose)

Some poses are recommended by some experts and cautioned against by others. Before doing any yoga poses, speak with your healthcare provider about what is and is not safe for you.

Where to Practice Yoga for Osteoporosis 

Before looking for a yoga class or an instructor, book an appointment with your healthcare provider to find out what exercises you can safely do and what you should avoid. Write down this information, and show it to your yoga instructor.

Instructional videos are available online, such as Dr. Fishman's, but they don't allow for individualization, feedback, and interaction.

If possible, it's best to start practicing yoga under the guidance of an in-person instructor who is knowledgeable about osteoporosis. The participants in Dr. Fishman's study were advised to find an instructor of Iyengar yoga. This type of yoga focuses on body alignment and breath control.

Some tips for finding a class or an instructor include:

  • Ask about a yoga teacher's qualifications.
  • Choose beginner classes if you are new to yoga.
  • Get recommendations from friends.
  • Find a good fit (even if it means trying out several different instructors or styles of classes).
  • Ask your healthcare provider for recommendations.
  • Check resources for osteoporosis, particularly local ones, to see if they have recommendations.
  • Check for yoga course offerings at your local community center or senior center.

Summary

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to weaken and increases the risk of fractures. Yoga includes weight-bearing movements that can help promote bone strengthening, plus improve balance and coordination, which can protect against falls. This makes it a promising practice for preventing and helping treat osteoporosis.

A Word From Verywell

Weight-bearing, resistance, and balance exercises can help prevent and treat osteoporosis. Yoga may be one way to engage in these exercises, and may even improve bone mineral density.

For some, exercises such as yoga may be done in place of or in addition to taking medication for osteoporosis.

If you want to try doing yoga for bone health, book an appointment with your healthcare provider first. They can discuss what exercises you can do safely before you begin a yoga program.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does yoga reverse osteopenia symptoms?

    A 2016 study indicated that yoga can improve bone mineral density in the spine, hips, and thigh bones in participants with weakened or weakening bones. More research is needed to confirm this finding

  • Can you find yoga instructors for osteoporosis?

    Some suggestions for finding a yoga instructor include:

    • Ask about their qualifications.
    • Choose beginner classes if you are new to yoga.
    • Get recommendations from friends.
    • Find a good fit (even if it means switching instructors).
    • Ask your healthcare provider for recommendations.
    • Check resources for osteoporosis, particularly local ones, to see if they have recommendations.

    For more information about osteoporosis resources, see organizations such as the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation.


  • How often should you do yoga for osteoporosis?

    The participants in one study on yoga's effects on osteoporosis were instructed to hold each of the 12 poses for 30 seconds, daily. Other studies indicate practicing a one-hour flow two to three times per week.

  • Which yoga poses should you avoid with osteoporosis?

    Which poses someone with osteoporosis should or should not do depends largely on the person, their experience level, their level of bone loss, and their general health. Anyone with osteoporosis should see their healthcare provider before beginning a program.


    Some poses that should be avoided generally by people with osteoporosis include:

    • Deep spinal twists
    • Rounding poses or rounded-spine movements
    • Corkscrew or bicycle
    • Deep hip stretches (like the pigeon pose)




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11 Sources
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