Yoga Science: Bone Density

Yoga Science: Bone Density

The value of Sun Salutations for your bones…

 

I have been thinking more and more about how to communicate the benefits of yoga. There’s really not much point telling people they will get flexible… that’s obvious! But there are so many more interesting and surprising health benefits.

So this week I delved into a scientific research paper on bone health for women. This may be super relevant for you, or maybe not! Either way, I think you’ll be interested in what I have to say about it…

 

Why is exercise important for bone health?

We all build up our store of bone density (the hardness of our bones) in our childhood and teenage years. After this, I am afraid our bone density will slowly decrease….

Unless! We keep reminding our body that we actually NEED these bones. We do this by staying active and applying load and impact to our bones.

In the field of Sports Science it is widely accepted that high impact and load-bearing sports, such as running and even weight lifting, will help maintain bone density. However, the science on yoga is a new and emerging field!

Cue: this interesting study on Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga! (Kim et al., 2015)

 

What did this study do?

Thirty-four women, aged 35-50, were randomly assigned to an Ashtanga Yoga programme or encouraged to go about their normal lives, but to be mindful of maintaining the same body weight.

The Ashtanga group did a yoga session twice a week for 8 months. This is quite impressive!

To start with they only did a few sun-salutations and ‘vinyasas’ (the sun half salutation in-between poses). As the programme progressed, more and more sun-salutations and vinyasas were added. To add bone-building impact, the leaders also encouraged the jump to standing (from Downward dog), and jump back to Chataranga Dandasana (the low plank).

If you’re familiar with my style of teaching, this will sound pretty similar!

 

Winter is bad for our bones…

It is known that the rate of bone turn-over is higher in the winter vs. the summer (Woitge et al., 1998). Meaning that it is more likely that we will loose bone density in winter, and less likely over the summer months.

Bone is not a static thing. It is constantly being broken down (resorption) and re-made (formation). So this study tested both these aspects of bone health, as well as Bone Mineral Density pre- and post- the intervention (and a bunch of other measurement too!)

An important detail is that this study measured the bone health of participants first in October and after the programme in June. So, by all accounts, there was an expectation for bone health to decrease (at least in the control group).

 

So, what happened after the Yoga experiment?

Are you waiting with bated breath for the results?? 😉

Well they were interesting! The Ashtanga yoga group had an INCREASE in bone formation marker, while the control group had a decrease in it.

This means that the Ashtanga Yoga programme managed to halt the usual winter-induced decrease in bone formation, and even helped increase it a little bit.

I find this remarkable, as the program only contain yoga 2 times a week. And in all likelihood the participants did not attend ALL their sessions!

(I’ve worked as a researcher on an intervention like this and, TRUST me, it’s difficult to keep your participants motivated!)

So just imagine the possible effect on bone health if Ashtanga yoga was done 3-4 times a week, and for longer than 8 months!

#JustSayin’

 

Is twice a week enough?

While the increase in bone formation is SUPER exciting, the other bone health markers showed no difference between the yoga and control groups (bone resorption and Bone Mineral Density).

My personal hunch is that twice a week may not be enough of a physical stimulus to have a big impact on bone strength…

And in their discussion, the authors cited a different study (Phoosuwan et al. 2009) in which women aged 50-60 years did weight-baring yoga 3 times a week for 3 months. This study DID find a significant decrease in bone re-sorption, which did not happen in their control group.

Personally, I like to practice 4-5 times a week. And my personal motto is that it doesn’t have to be a full 1 hour session! I wonder what the impact would be on the bones by doing 4-5 times a 15min-30min session.

So…. More research is needed! (As always) 😉

 

How is this relevant for you?

Bone strength is revenant for us all. Strong and healthy bones allow us to live life to the fullest for as long as possible!

However, it’s especially relevant if you’re a women over age 30. As we (I say ‘we’ because I am in that category!) approach the menopause it’s SO important to work on building up and/or maintaining strong and healthy bones.

This is because when we get beyond the menopause, bone health naturally starts to fall due to the lower female hormones in our body. But the stronger our bones are to start with, the less you will notice this effect. And eventually it will delay the onset of osteoporosis (brittle bones).

If this isn’t a motivational push to do Sun Salutations (or other weight-baring/high-impact activity) – then I don’t know what is!

 

Let’s practice!

I invite you to give Ashtanga a go.

I have lots of Ashtanga yoga videos that are super easy to follow.

Anything from 10 minutes to 1 hour!

I challenge you to do at least ONE class in the coming week.

Start today!

And your 80-year old self will thank you.

Learn more!

I hope you enjoyed this mini blog. 🤓

Please share your views in comments below!

Jolanthe x

Strength, Posture & Mindfulness

I’ll help you gain body confidence and contentment

with short, easy-to-follow yoga classes from your LIVING ROOM!

On-demand and LIVE

Check out what I offer!

I’m a Small Business

Give yourself the gift of self-care for a super affordable price, while supporting an independent, small business!

I enjoy getting to know each and every new yoga student – so can’t wait to meet you!

Love, Jolanthe x


References

Kim, S., Bemben, M. G., Knehans, A. W., & Bemben, D. A. (2015). Effects of an 8-month ashtanga-based yoga intervention on bone metabolism in middle-aged premenopausal women: A randomized controlled study. Journal of sports science & medicine, 14(4), 756.

Phoosuwan, M., Kritpet,T. and Yuktanandana, P. (2009) The effects of weight bearing yoga training on the bone resorption markers of the postmenopausal women. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand 92, 102-108.

Woitge, H.W., Scheidt-Nave, C., Kissling, C., Leidig-Bruckner, G., Meyer, K., Grauer, A., Scharla, S.H., Ziegler, R. and Seibel, M.J. (1998) Seasonal variation of biochemical indexes of bone turnover: results of a population-based study. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 83, 68-75.


5 Health Benefits of Yoga

5 Health Benefits of Yoga

Yoga gives you more than flexibility…

 

We all see yoga as a healthy thing to do… but why?

Apart from stretching the hamstrings, what ACTUALLY does it do for us?

You may know that I looove a bit of science about exercise and health, so I enjoyed reading this literature review by Ross and Thomas (1).

In this mini blog I will summarise the complicated scientific findings collected by these authors. This is by no means a thorough review, so if you’re interested, find this study on Google Scholar, and get your nerd-glasses on!

(You’ll find all the study reference down below).

For those of us with only a few spare minutes (and mind-space)… here is a whistle-stop tour!

 

1. Relaxing the nervous system

It’s highly likely that you’ve heard of the ‘fight or flight’ state, and of the ‘rest and digest’ state. These to states of our nervous system are called Sympathetic (the fighting one) and para-sympathetic (the resting one).

Studies show that yoga quiets down the Sympathetic nervous system (the fighting one). This seems apparent both immediately after a yoga session, and after an 8-week yoga course.

I mean…. Have YOU ever wanted to fight someone right after a yoga class???

I didn’t think so. 😉

Not only does yoga reduce your urge to ‘fight’ immediately after a class, but this more chilled-out state seems to persist a little longer as well.

For the physiology nerds out there, yoga lowers salivary cortisol (2,3), blood glucose (4,5), blood rennin, and blood norepinephrine and epinephrine levels (two forms of adrenaline) (6). Basically, yoga lowered the indicators of stress.

All these changes show that the body is in a lower state of physiological stress. And a less stressed body is related with a whole host of other health benefits, described in points 2-5 below!

 

2. Heart rate & blood pressure

We all know that it’s good for our health to have healthy blood pressure and resting heart rate. In fact, high blood pressure is one of the leading causes of damage to the hearts blood vessels, which can lead to a heart attack!

So, we basically want to do EVERYTHING we can to keep our blood pressure in a healthy range.

Aaaaaaaaaand you guessed it! Yoga helps you do that. Studies show that heart rate and blood pressure are lower after a yoga intervention (7-8).

This was true for both the diastolic and systolic blood pressure. These are the lower and higher number you see when you have a blood pressure reading. (E.g. 120/80).

 

3. Immune system benefits

After the Covid pandemic we are all VERY aware that it’s nice to have a good immune system. Personally, I also LOVE my immune system for getting me through the first few months when our toddler went to nursery and brought home every cold ever created!

Well….. guess what yoga does for the immune system?

It helps it! Studies find that yoga reverses the negative effect of stress on the immune system by increasing levels of Immunoglobin A (9) as well as Natural Killer cells (10).

Immunoglobulin A plays an important role in maintaining a healthy lining of our gut, our urinary tract and lungs! These places make contact with the outside world and need a good defence system for viruses and other unhealthy particles.

Natural killer cells are white blood cells that destroy infected and diseased cells, like cancer cells. They are crucial in preventing viruses and cancer cells from spreading.

Yoga helps with all that??? And there’s more…

 

4. Decreasing inflammation

You know that bloated feeling you get after eating something that doesn’t agree with you? Or that skin rash you get after a weekend of drinking? That’s inflammation.

Inflammation increases when there is damage somewhere in the body (e.g. in the gut, on your skin, or a twisted ankle). Inflammation ITSELF isn’t the bad guy. It actually helps to fix the damage! It’s what’s CAUSING the damage in the first place that needs to be avoided.

Studies find that yoga decreases markers of inflammation such as high sensitivity C-reactive protein as well as inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-6 (11) and lymphocyte-1B (12).

These are a collection of proteins and white blood cells that increase in the blood because they are working to repair damaged tissues.

So yoga helps to reduce inflammation, which means that it is helping to avoid some of that initial damage to the tissues of the body in the first place.

 

5. Mental health

Here is a concept that doesn’t include complicated scientific terms. Mental health! And it’s relevant to ALLLLLL of us.

If you’ve attended a yoga class (or done one online) you’ll be the first to testify that yoga is calming for anxiety. This is a major reason why I practice it. When I am feeling stressed, I turn to yoga and it really helps me. And luckily enough the science seems to agree!

A range of studies show that yoga has immediate psychological effects: decreasing anxiety (2,3,13,14) and increasing feelings of emotional, social, and spiritual well-being (15).

 

Is it JUST exercise?

Ross and Thomas (1) posed an important question. Are the health benefits of yoga just because of the EXERCISE that people get from it? Exercise itself (be it walking, running, swimming, Zumba or cross-fit) will help improve almost EVERY aspect of physical and mental health as well.

Or is there a special something in yoga?

To answer this question Ross and Thomas performed a comprehensive search of all intervention studies comparing the effect of yoga vs. exercise on health, and selected 81 that were of high enough quality. After reviewing these studies they concluded that…

“Overall, the studies comparing the effects of yoga and exercise seem to indicate that, in both healthy and diseased populations, yoga may be as effective or better than exercise at improving a variety of health-related outcome measures including [Heart-Rate Variability] HRV, (16) blood glucose, (17, 18) blood lipids, (18, 19) salivary cortisol (3), and oxidative stress (18, 20).

“Furthermore, yoga appears to improve subjective measures of fatigue (21,22), pain and sleep in healthy and ill populations (23).

Ross and Thomas finish with a call for more research to better understand how exercise and yoga differ. But regardless of whether it’s the exercise benefit, or a special something from the mindful and spiritual aspects…

…it is clear that yoga is good for you!

 

Did this surprise you?

With our social media influences these days, it’s normal to associate yoga only with impossibly bendy poses, hand-stands and skinny bodies.

While these sorts of outcomes may appear for many, I hope you now have a wider appreciation of what yoga can do for you.

Let’s practice!

I invite you to start a SUPER SHORT regular yoga practice.

Just 10 minutes a day is enough to get started!

My online library has LOTS of short recorded classes to help you.

Start today!

Your 80-year old self will thank you.

Learn more!

I hope you enjoyed this mini blog. 🤓

Please share your views in comments below!

Jolanthe x

Strength, Posture & Mindfulness

I’ll help you gain body confidence and contentment

with short, easy-to-follow yoga classes from your LIVING ROOM!

On-demand and LIVE

Check out what I offer!

I’m a Small Business

Give yourself the gift of self-care for a super affordable price, while supporting an independent, small business!

I enjoy getting to know each and every new yoga student – so can’t wait to meet you!

Love, Jolanthe x


References

  1. Ross A, Thomas S. The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine. 2010 Jan 1;16(1):3-12.
  2. West J, Otte C, Geher K, Johnson J, et al. Effects of Hatha yoga and African dance on perceived stress, affect, and salivary cortisol. Ann Behav Med 2004;28:114–118.
  3. Michalsen A, Grossman P, Acil A, et al. Rapid stress re- duction and anxiolysis among distressed women as a con- sequence of a three month intensive yoga program. Med Sci Monit 2005;11:555–561.
  4. Khatri D, Mathur KC, Gahlot S, et al. Effects of yoga and meditation on clinical and biochemical parameters of meta- bolic syndrome. Diabetes Res Clin Pract 2007;78:e9–e10.
  5. Gokal R, Shillito L. Positive impact of yoga and pranayam on obesity, hypertension, blood sugar, and cholesterol: A pilot assessment. J Altern Complement Med 2007;13:1056–1057.
  6. Selvamurthy W, Sridharan K, Ray US, et al. A new physi- ological approach to control essential hypertension. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 1998;42:205–213.
  7. Damodaran A, Malathi A, Patil N, et al. Therapeutic po- tential of yoga practices in modifying cardiovascular risk profile in middle aged men and women. J Assoc Physicians India 2002;50:633–639.
  8. McCaffrey R, Ruknui P, Hatthakit U, Kasetsomboon P. The effects of yoga on hypertensive persons in Thailand. Holist Nurs Pract 2005;19:173–180.
  9. Stuck M, Meyer K, Rigotti T, et al. Evaluation of a yoga- based stress management training for teachers: Effects on immunoglobulin A secretion and subjective relaxation. J Medit Medit Res 2003;1–8.
  10. Rao RM, Telles S, Nagendra HR, et al. Effects of yoga on natural killer cell counts in early breast cancer patients un- dergoing conventional treatment. Comment to: recreational music-making modulates natural killer cell activity, cyto- kines, and mood states in corporate employees Masatada Wachi, Masahiro Koyama, Masanori Utsuyama, Barry B. Bittman, Masanobu Kitagawa, Katsuiku Hirokawa. Med Sci Monit 2007;13:CR57–CR70. Med Sci Mon 2008;14:3–4.
  11. Pullen PR, Nagamia SH, Mehta PJ, et al. Effects of yoga on inflammation and exercise capacity in patients with chronic heart failure. J Card Fail 2008;14:407–413.
  12. Schultz PE, Haberman M, Karatha K, et al. Iyengar Yoga Can Promote Well-Being in Women Breast Cancer Survi- vors. Spokane, WA: Washington State University, 2007.
  13. Gupta N, Shveta K, Vempati R, et al. Effect of yoga based lifestyle intervention on state and trail anxiety. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 2006;50:41–47.
  14. Telles S, Naveen K, Dash M, et al. Effect of yoga on self-rated visual discomfort in computer users. Head Face Med 2006; 2:46.
  15. Moadel AB, Shaw C, Wylie-Rossett J, et al. Randomized controlled trial of yoga among a multiethnic sample of breast cancer patients: Effects on quality of life. J Clin Oncol 2007;25:1–9.
  16. Bowman AJ, Clayton RH, Murray A, et al. Effects if aerobic exercise training and yoga on the baroreflex in healthy el- derly persons. Eur J Clin Invest 1997;27:443–449.
  17. Gordon LA, Morrison EY, McGrowder DA, et al. Effect of exercise therapy on lipid profile and oxidative stress indi- cators in patients with type 2 diabetes. BMC Complement Altern Med 2008;8:article21.
  18. Sinha S, Singh SN, Monga YP, Ray US. Improvement of glutathione and total antioxidant status with yoga. J Alternat Complement Med 2007;13:1085–1090.
  19. Yurtkuran M, Alp A, Yurtkuran M, Dilek K. A modified yoga-based exercise program in hemodialysis patients: A randomized, controlled study. Complement Ther Med 2007;15:164–171.
  20. Hagins M, Moore W, Rundle A. Does practicing hatha yoga
    satisfy recommendations for intensity of physical activity which improves and maintains health and cardiovascular fitness? BMC Complement Altern Med 2007;7:1–9.
  21. Oken BS, Kishiyama S, Zajdel D, et al. Randomized con- trolled trial of yoga and exercise in multiple sclerosis. Neu- rology 2004;62:2058–2064.
  22. Oken BS, Zajdel D, Kishiyama S, et al. Randomized, con- trolled, six-month trial of yoga in healthy seniors: Effects on cognition and quality of life. Altern Ther Health Med 2006; 12:40–47.
  23. Yurkuran M, Alp A, Yurtkuran M, Dilek K. A modified yoga-based exercise program in hemodialysis patients: A randomized controlled study. Complement Ther Med 2007; 15:164–171.


Your Personal Truth

Your Personal Truth

How to be a decent human being…

 

Yoga is not all about the poses we make. I’m sure you know this by now!

One of the key aspects of practicing a ‘yogic life’ is to adhere to some yogic principles called the Yamas and Niyamas. These are essentially a type of 10 commandments guiding you in how to be a decent human being.

 

And we all want to be decent, right?

Today I’ll talk about the second Yama (there are 5 Yamas and 5 Niyamas), which is called Satya: meaning truthfulness.

Satya is about being truthful to everyone around you, and to yourself, in thought and deed. Seems pretty simple, right? Well, there’s a catch…

 

Living your Truth

“How does yoga help me live my truth?”

A physical yoga practice allows you to slow down your thoughts about the world around you. Then you can focus, maybe for a blissful 30 minutes (or 10 minutes!) on your breath, your body and your mind.

This may seem obvious, but in our busy, busy, busy world, many of us NEVER stand back and take a moment to connect with ourselves. It is quite normal to forget about ourselves for months on end. Only to realise when you crash with an illness or mental breakdown that you didn’t connect with yourself and your needs.

 

Clearing the Fog

Eventually, a regular mindful yoga practice starts to clear the fog of ‘busy-ness’ in the mind. In time, it allows you to see a little more clearly who YOU are, what makes you tick, your strengths and your challenges. Without judgement.

This is also one of the aspects of a yogic life, named Svadhyaya: A deep and on-going self-enquiry.

When you regularly re-connect with your body, breath and mind, then it becomes easier to ‘live your truth’.

 

Choose to be Kind…

However, there is a twist!

One caveat in the application of Satya is that truthfulness must come second to non-harm. Non-harm is the first, and arguably the most important, of the Yamas and Niyamas: called Ahimsa.

For a deeper discussion of Ahimsa, read my previous blog about it here.

Here are a few examples when kindness may need to trump truthfulness:

  • When a very self-conscious person asks for an opinion about their appearance. It would be kind to exaggerate how amazing they are looking! (Even it that’s not 100% truthful).
  • When someone made a mistake, but the moment has now passed. RESISTING saying “I told you so” is the kinder, yet less truthful path.
  • If someone has a strong faith in something, yet you disagree. The kindest thing is not to argue with them about it, despite your personal truth being different.

Can you think of examples in your own life?

 

Let’s practice this!

I invite you to take just 10-15 minutes each day to reflect on you, your body and your mind.

You DON’T need to ask yourself ‘What is my truth?”. Instead, try to become aware of what is already going on in your body and mind.

Just observe for now.

Try not to judge.

How to do this

This can take the form of sitting quietly, doing your own yoga movements OR…

You could join my 28-day Happy Hips Challenge!

This involves just 15 minutes a day.

It will give you a perfect opportunity to reconnect with your body and mind each day.

Your hips will thank you!

Join the Challenge!

I hope you enjoyed this mini blog. 🤓

Please share your views in comments below!

Jolanthe x

Strength, Posture & Mindfulness

I’ll help you gain body confidence and contentment

with short, easy-to-follow yoga classes from your LIVING ROOM!

On-demand and LIVE

Check out what I offer!

I’m a Small Business

Give yourself the gift of self-care for a super affordable price, while supporting an independent, small business!

I enjoy getting to know each and every new yoga student – so can’t wait to meet you!

Love, Jolanthe x


4 Reasons to Stretch the Hips

4 Reasons to Stretch the Hips

It’s not to do fancy yoga poses…

 

The image of a yogi with their leg behind their head is a famous one…

Well, achieving this pose is NOT the reason to stretch your hips!

Most yoga classes you attend will include some hip-opening poses. I really enjoy these because they always give me a big sense of release.

My yoga students frequently tell me that they feel stiff in their hips. And after a class containing hip-openers I often hear from them that they ‘really needed’ those poses.

So, why are these beneficial?

By now it’s probably clear that it is NOT the point of yoga to look great in fancy yoga poses… But what actually IS the point of opening the hips?

Here’s my take on it.

 

1. Open hips make sitting more comfortable

There’s no denying it… our daily lives involve a lot of sitting.

But sitting on an office chair for a long time can make your back ache! (Hands up if you have personal experience with this…)

Well, the original yogis wanted to sit for a very long time to meditate, but they ran into the same problem! It was uncomfortable!

So the original point of yoga poses was to open the hips so that sitting cross-legged on the floor could be done comfortably for hoooooours of mediation.

Well, even if you’re not so keen on the mediation part, opening YOUR hips will help you sit comfortably, with your back straight, too.

(After opening your hips, you’ll most likely find yourself sitting cross-legged on your office chair, as I do – my favourite position to work!)

 

2. Open hips help you pick-up things

If I had a penny for every time I’ve picked-up our toddler or his toys/food/drinks off the ground, then I’d be veeeeery rich.

One thing that has saved my back is that I squat right down with a straight back almost every time. This requires open hips and strong legs. THANKFULLY my yoga practice has given me these.

This is not only relevant to parents, but to us all. We need to pick things up while tidying the house, gardening, picking up litter, collecting sea-shells, picking up a pet, weight-lifting at the gym… etc. etc. etc.

You get the picture. We ALL pick up things!

 

3. Open hips reduce lower back/knee pain

This is a little technical…

The muscles around the hip joint can get stiff and a little ‘stuck’. Where the muscles attach to bones (via tendons) can then start to pull a bit.

Our hips have lots of muscles crossing them and attached to them. Some of these muscles attach to the lumbar (lower) spine. One example is the pair of Psoas muscles. When these get tight with a lot sitting, they pull on the lumbar spine.

Other muscles originate from the hips (pelvic girdle) and go down towards the legs. One example is the group of muscles that form your Quadriceps. These attach to your knee-cap, so if they are tight, they can pull your knee cap in one direction (depending on which of the Quadriceps is tightest).

I’ll stop there before your eyes glaze over! Suffice to say, your spine and knees will be happiest with supple muscles around the hip-to-thigh and hip-to-back junctions!

 

4. Emotional release

This last reason is perhaps a little ‘woo-woo’.

In the yoga-world, it is said that we hold pent-up emotions and stress in our hips. So stretching the hips maaaaaaay be helpful for our mental wellbeing as well.

While my science-brain finds it difficult to put words to this phenomenon, I do FEEL this personally in my yoga practice.

I always end my own yoga practice with a long hold in half-pigeon pose, and this gives me a lovely feeling of mental and physical release.

You may have experienced that after a tough day in the office you feel physically tense, and perhaps especially in the hips?

Even if you’re skeptical about this point, it’s worth keeping an open mind about it. After all, who knows?

Happy Hips in 28 days!

I invite you to join my 28-day Happy Hips Challenge! 💪

This involves just 15 minutes of guided yoga a day.

Starting easy and then slowly getting deeper.

I’ve designed it to get RESULTS!

Your hips will thank you!

Join the Challenge!

I hope you enjoyed this mini blog. 🤓

Please share your views in comments below!

Jolanthe x

Strength, Posture & Mindfulness

I’ll help you gain body confidence and contentment

with short, easy-to-follow yoga classes from your LIVING ROOM!

On-demand and LIVE

Check out what I offer!

I’m a Small Business

Give yourself the gift of self-care for a super affordable price, while supporting an independent, small business!

I enjoy getting to know each and every new yoga student – so can’t wait to meet you!

Love, Jolanthe x