Yoga to Support Bones & Joints in the Middle Years

Yoga for middle age, middle aged yoga, yoga for bone & joint health, yoga benefits in the middle years, yoga as we age, yoga for aging bodies
Yoga to Support Bones & Joints in the Middle Years

Knee bone’s connected to your thigh bone.……so the song goes.  As we age, we can anticipate the structure of our bones and joints changing but there are ways, through the practice of yoga, that we can support our bodies through these changes and a little self care now can go a long way later.


The adult human body is comprised of 206 bones – there’s a useful fact to log for your next game of Trivial Pursuit – and these bones are cleverly hinged and connected across a range of joints to form the human skeleton.

As we age, we can anticipate the structure of our bones and joints changing but there are ways, through the practice of yoga, that we can support our bodies through these changes and a little self care now can go a long way later.

Osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are three of the more common skeletal conditions all of which feature in the list of chronic conditions we may come to experience in older age.

  • osteoporosis – is the most common chronic condition of the joints and ccording to the National Osteoporosis Foundation 54 million Americans are suffering from osteoporosis.  As our bones get older so the living tissue inside them loses density causing them to weaken.  The closely packed honeycomb look of a young, healthy bone gradually changes creating a more loosely packed honeycomb that is far more brittle and prone to breaking.  Most of us reach our peak bone mass between the ages of 25 & 30 but by the time we’re celebrating our 40th birthdays we have already begun to lose that bone mass.
  • osteoarthritis – is a form of arthritis that can be genetic but can also be caused by previous injury, overuse or misuse of a joint and excess weight.  Osteoarthritis occurs as the smooth cartilage lining where bones meet one another at a joint, begins to break down losing its smoothly gliding properties which ultimately compromises the range of movement within the joint.  Research conducted by the Arthritis Foundation found that those with osteoarthritis can be more at risk of having balance issues simply because of the decreased function, physical weakness and pain they experience in arthritic joints.
  • rheumatoid arthritis – is another common form of arthritis which is an autoimmune disease caused by the individual’s own body mistakenly attacking the joints causing bone and cartilage damage.

This little trio of conditions makes for grim reading but the physical and meditational aspects of yoga alongside other healthy life choices can help reduce, limit and, in some cases, improve symptoms.

How Yoga Can Help

Firstly, we can help ourselves stay healthy by regular exercise.  Something you’ve read many times before, I’m sure.  The affects of osteoporosis can be improved through a regular yoga practice.  Often described as ‘weight bearing’, the standing yoga poses such as the Warrior poses and chair pose are great ones to practice as they create movement in the joints as well as being excellent muscle strengtheners.

Strong muscles support and protect the joints as we move.  By keeping joints fluid and open by working through their full range of motion we help to prevent joint stiffness and discomfort.  In a yoga class we may recline and use a strap looped over the foot in hand to foot pose to help maintain hip joint flexibility, for example.

A recent study by yoga loving physician Dr Loren Fishman MD, a life long practitioner and teacher, showed interesting results suggesting that the daily practice of a twelve minute yoga routine could help with osteoporotic bone loss.  He started a similar study again this Fall.  Go to sciatica.org to learn more.

With osteoarthritis & rheumatoid arthritis, regular exercise is also recommended.  In both cases keeping the body moving to preserve flexibility and maintaining a healthy physical weight are key.

Another great benefit of yoga, which can’t be overlooked, is the relaxation and mental focus of the practice.  Whether in the form of a regular meditation practice, mindfulness techniques or simply enjoying an extended savasana at the end of class, the benefits are enormous.

These are two common conditions which many of us may be confronted with further down the line, but research shows that exercise can help minimize and help with symptoms.

Yoga poses often practiced in a class include cat/cow, to warm up the spine, and triangle to strengthen the lower back and stretch the hip joints.  Reclining poses are helpful too.  Poses such as bridge work to strengthen the back body and gentle twists open the shoulders, mobilize the spine and work abdominal muscles.  Furthermore, a regular yoga practice is particularly helpful for stability and improving our sense of balance which, in turn, makes us less prone to falling.

Another great benefit of yoga, which can’t be overlooked, is the relaxation and mental focus of the practice.  Whether in the form of a regular meditation practice, mindfulness techniques or simply enjoying an extended savasana at the end of class, the benefits are enormous.

Relaxation can reduce the stress and anxieties we may experience and, in turn, make our physical challenges easier to embrace and live with. 

These aspects of yoga assist with dealing with physical pain and offer support in coming to terms with a diagnosis.  Additionally, the community element of joining a class cannot be underestimated.  Practicing with others who may have conditions in common provides the perfect social environment to help with low mood or depression that sometimes occurs as our physical bodies change with age.  Relaxation can reduce the stress and anxieties we may experience and, in turn, make our physical challenges easier to embrace and live with.

So, make yoga part of your self care routine.  Go join a class and your joints will thank you!

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How yoga can help with perimenopause symptoms

 

yoga for perimenopause, yoga for menopause, yoga for perimenopause symptoms, yoga support for menopause
How Yoga Can Support in Perimenopause

The time leading up to the menopause, known as the perimenopause, can be challenging and full of physical and mental changes but news flash – or should I say hot flash – yoga can help!


There is a long list of symptoms that may be associated with the perimenopause –  ‘yippee!’ I hear you cry.  Three of the most common are hot flashes, mood swings and sleep disruption but don’t lose heart as yoga can help.

Starting with the whole heating issue.  Some research estimates that almost 80% or women are affected by hot flashes.  Thought to be caused by the combination of unbalanced over and under active hormones bouncing about there are a number of yoga poses that can support you and inversions can be particularly helpful.

A great reference book with detailed yoga sequences for perimenopausal symptoms is ‘The Woman’s Book of Yoga & Health’ by Linda Sparrowe & Patricia Walden.  Patricia, an experienced and respected Iyengar yoga teacher, recommends inversions as they can ‘jump start a sluggish system or calm an overly excited one by allowing fresh, oxygenated blood to flow into the head and neck’.

There is a long list of symptoms that may be associated with the perimenopause –  ‘yippee!’ I hear you cry.  Three of the most common are hot flashes, mood swings and sleep disruption but don’t lose heart as yoga can help.

Whether in the full form of the pose i.e. headstand or shoulderstand, or in supported versions using props and the wall, inverted poses will help as they are calming and soothing for the nervous system.  You may already have a strong inversion practice but if you haven’t or if you are completely new to yoga or have neck and back issues that prevent you doing inversions safely there are many alternative supported inversion poses to try.  (Although be mindful, it is not recommended that you do inverted poses when menstruating).

Mood swings are another aspect of the whole perimenopause journey. Seated forward bends can be good for mood as they are soothing in anxious moments but as they are ‘enclosed’ poses with the forward folding torso they will not be suitable if you suffer with depression.

Supported restorative poses are good alternatives as a restorative practice lying over bolsters and blankets offers the opportunity to quieten the mind and body at stressful, moody moments.  A great resource for restorative yoga is Judith Hanson Lasater’s book ‘Relax and Renew’.

Finally, sleep disruption, which can be impacted by the effects of the previous two symptoms.  Hot flashes become the night sweats and the root of insomnia can be the stress and irritation that comes from mood swings.

With a little time spent quietening the chatter of the mind and negative self talk the perimenopause can become an opportunity to embrace change.

There are various lifestyle changes that can be made in terms of eating and avoiding stimulants such as smoking, alcohol and caffeine.  Exercise is still important but if you are dealing with sleep issues then consider a more energizing and active yoga practice at the beginning of the day to avoid being too ‘wired’ closer to bedtime.

Besides the physical practice, mindfulness and the meditative practices of yoga are a great asset when dealing with perimenopause symptoms.

Being able to embrace physical changes with a more positive mindset will make these inevitable changes more manageable.  As Christiane Northrup, MD author of ‘The Wisdom of Menopause’ says ‘when all is said and done it is your attitude, your beliefs and your daily thought patterns that have the most profound effect on your health’.

With a little time spent quietening the chatter of the mind and negative self talk the perimenopause can become an opportunity to embrace change and benefit from a healthy and positive transition to the next life chapter.

As with all health related issues researched on the internet be sure to seek medical advice for any symptoms you experience.

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Thrive Global – ‘More than Living. Thriving.’

 

Thrive Global Logo

According to recent research 81% of us now use a smartphone and time spent interacting with media on a phone, laptop, tablet or other digital device increases year on year.


We all know what a time drain anything to do with the internet can be and we’re all guilty of getting caught up wandering aimlessly online.  Even the most disciplined of us can get distracted by a well targeted article or advertisement.

Ironically, despite the digital help that is meant to simplify our lives, more and more of us a succumbing to a life of stress, anxiety and burnout.   There are not enough hours in the day.

Last week, Arianna Huffington (of the Huffington Post success) and author of bestselling books Thrive and The Sleep Revolution, launched her latest digital project, Thrive Global.  A digital resource to support you in living a balanced, healthy and inspired life.  The website tagline says it all – ‘More than living. Thriving.’

So, if we’re going to spend so much time online then we may as well be filling that time with quality content and learning how to make positive use out of all of the reams of information coming our way all day, every day.

‘when we prioritize our wellbeing, our decision making, our creativity, our productivity and our performance dramatically improve across the board’.

Focusing on health, well-being and performance, Thrive Global is packed with articles about thriving in life as well as apps, podcasts and e-courses all around the theme of self care both physically and mentally.

Take a look through the digital pages and you’ll find…..

  • journal.  Packed full of positive articles embracing a range of topics and filed under categories such as well-being, wisdom and working smarter.  Thrive Global nurtures the idea of creating balance in our lives by prioritizing our well-being and not living to a point of burnout.  Another great feature of the journal is the indicator at the top of each article describing how long a read it is.  You can make the decision to invest in 3 minutes of reading time or 20.
  • shop.  An opportunity to browse the latest health and well-being products, services and technology available to us.  The products here are selected specifically to support us in our quest for a healthy life.
  • apps&podcasts.  Digital aids and e-courses to help you live a more productive and, therefore,  less stressed life.

Arianna believes that ‘when we prioritize our wellbeing, our decision making, our creativity, our productivity and our performance dramatically improve across the board’.

Dip in and take a look and you will find something to inspire.  If you’re going to spend time online, which we all inevitably will continue to do,  this inspiring website is one well worth getting lost in.

Thrive Global – More than Living. Thriving.