This article is separated in 4 chapters:

Part 1: How can yoga help to strengthen your bone capacity?

Part 2: Yoga for osteoporosis

Part 3:What kind of asana practise is suitable for people with osteoporosis?

Part 4: Example of asana practise

Today you can read part 1:

How can yoga help to strengthen your bone capacity?

In the first chapter of her book, Merel Martens writes about the function of the skeletal system. Most important to realize, if you want to understand the benefit of a yoga practice on your bones is that bones are actually living entities: until the age of thirty they are constantly being renewed.

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The function of the skeleton: shape, support and protection

First of all, the bones give shape to the body; without bones in the body all our flesh and organs would drop to the floor. Very important, other then shape: our skeleton gives support and protection. The ribs do protect the most important organs in body: the heart and lungs. Also the lower (11th and 12th) ribs, for example, protect the kidneys. Further, bones are making up the cranium that does protect the brain.

The cranium is the upper bony structure of the skull, including everything except for the mandible, or jawbone. The cranium protects the brain and head, and supports facial structures such as the eyes and ears, holding them in the proper place to receive sensory information most efficiently.

The human cranium consists of 21 bones and is subdivided into the neurocranium or brain case, which surrounds and protects the brain, and the splanchnocranium, which supports the structures of the face.

99% of the calcium of the body is stored in the bones

Bones store several minerals (including calcium and phosphorus) and play a role in the production of blood cells. Ninety-nine percent of calcium in the body is stored in the bones.

Only as little as 0,1 % is stored in cells and about 1% is stored in extracellular fluid (that can be blood, but also includes interstitial fluid in between cells). So bones function as reservoirs and release or take up calcium depending on those extracellular fluid calcium concentrations.

Bones are made of what is called organic matrix; mostly collagen (90-95%). The remainder is the so-called ground substance: a kind of jelly substance. The collagen fibers give tensile strength to the bone, whereas the calcium salts provide more compression strengths (weight bearing strength). The strength of this organic matrix is greatly strengthened by the deposition of calcium.

What is the relation between the amount of calcium in the bones and tetany?

Calcium plays a big role in many physiologic processes, such as contraction of muscles, transmitting nerve impulses, and blood cell production. When the level of calcium is too high (aka hypercalcemia) slight changes in the calcium level can cause under stimulation of the nervous system. When the level of calcium is to low (aka hypocalcemia), the nervous system is over stimulated. An example that makes this clear is the disease tetany which is characterised by involuntary muscle spasms due to hypocalcemia.

Until the age of thirty we are constantly remodeling our bones. Merel Martens differentiates three positive aspects of constant bone remodelling:

  1. Bones can adjust their strength to the degree of stress and weight put upon them.
  2. Even the shape of bones can change over time to give proper support to allow for the stress put upon these bones.
  3. Old bone is relatively weak and thus is being replaced by new stronger and healthier bone mass.

BMD: Body Mass Density

When we are young we have more bone formation then absorption. Around the age of thirty we reach a certain point where we have the highest Bone Mass Density (BMD). Two types of special cells come into play here: the osteoblasts and the osteoclasts. Osteoblast produce collagen molecules (that form the collagen fibres) and ground substance, and osteoclast absorb those structures.

At older age, over time the density of the bones decreases.The osteoclast cells start to absorb the osteoblast structures. Result: bone absorption gets higher then bone deposition and the strength of our bones decreases. Occasionally the strength of our bones decreases to a pathological level, and then we talk about the disease osteoporosis.

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Did you know scientific research shows yoga asana practice has similar effect on BMD?

When we are above the age of thirty all of our osteoblasts and osteoclasts, simply said become very lazy, which promotes lower bone mass density, immediately or over time.

Does yoga help prevent bone loss? And just as importantly, can yoga slow or reverse the thinning bones of osteopenia and osteoporosis? These are questions Loren Fishman is setting out  to answer in the largest ongoing study on yoga for osteoporosis. In an interview with Eva Norlyk Smith, Loren Fishman and Ellen Saltanstall[1]  they do present the preliminary results of their studies

A well-designed asana class includes both strengthening exercises where you put pressure on your bone and stretching exercises in which you work on stability and flexibility. For this reason Merel Martens recommends especially people in older age to practice moving and weight bearing exercise, like yoga..

Vitamin D to promote bone mass density

Another important ingredient to promote bone mass density is vitamin D. We need vitamin D to absorb calcium in the intestines from our food. As always there are precursors to vitamin D, and vitamin D itself needs to be transformed into another active product in the liver and kidneys. In the end the final active version of vitamin D is found in the skin and needs ultraviolet rays from the sun to form. That’s why it’s so healthy to spend time outside! And it’s just another reason to go for a walk outside during lunch time. 🙂




Merel Martens

Address: Parimukti Yoga Center, Kanira Homes,
Girkarwaddo, End of Magic Park Road,
Arambol, 403524,
Goa, India
Phone: +919637521278

Yin Yoga Training Goa | 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Goa | Meditation Teacher Training Goa


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