Yoga Therapy for Healthy Bones: DEM BONES #1
I started yoga when I was very young. As is common, it was to deal with chronic health issues. I infused pranayama (breath work) and meditative practices into my life as a college student. Yoga, meditation and breath work were strings in my life that may have loosened up at times, but they were always there. When I lived in the Andes, I looked forward to soaking up prana in my weekly outdoor hatha sessions. I didn’t skip a beat — just a few asanas — during my pre-natal and post-partum days.
At the same time, there were periods in my life that I knew I needed to get back on the mat. Even though some aspects of yoga may have been on auto pilot, I needed some more sparks to get it going. My back creaked loudly before I adopted a serious daily asana practice once I hit the mid-life marker.
My body sensed what it needed. During my pitta years, in addition to hatha, I really needed to balance my brain and body with breath work. As I my vata stage took over, I made drastic changes in my personal and private life to balance the excess vata. Along with that, I knew that I had to up the yoga ante. I participated in several monthlong yoga intensives at ashrams, a retreat in Italy, and a weekend with one of the leading ashtangis. Then, I enrolled in my 200-hour yoga teacher training.
Already working 80-hour weeks (hence the vata overload), my goal was not to teach. I wanted to know to solidify yoga in my life for my own emotional and physical well being. It was a selfish decision. I didn’t want to change humanity, or help others. I wanted to help myself. Of course, you have to start with yourself.
I’d seen the effects of lowered bone density on my mother and grandmother. My doctor had already prescribed “weight bearing exercises.” My idea of sitting in a gym and lifting weights was about as attractive as going skinny dipping in the north pole. However, I knew that planks, downward dogs, dolphins and many other yogasanas were weight bearing exercises. I preferred to use my own body, rather than machines, to keep my bones strong.
It was a personal commitment I made. I had hit the 50 year mark. The time clock was on. I was determined to avoid the health problems I’d seen which ultimately jailed my mother. With the side effects of depression — which is natural for those with debilitating conditions, my mom would say she was under “house arrest.” All because of her bones — and despite the fact that she drank a quart of low fat milk, daily, most of her life*.
With teaching certificate under my belt, I started to teach, for the experience. Soon, I realized just one hour of yoga a day was not enough for me. My body and mind needed much more.
Now, at 57-years-young, I sometimes teach five classes a day. From gentle yoga to hot power. Even Pilates. I do it all. I feel energized and better than I did when I was a teen. I know my muscles are stronger than ever. Plus, all my chronic issues that led me to the multiple limbs of yoga in my youth, are under control.
My preferred personal practice is tailored for my health needs. I shoot for a good 45 minutes of yang (traditional movement based) yoga for weight bearing and muscle building, followed by 75 minutes of Yin Yoga** to nourish my connective tissues and thereby protect my bones.
I continue to learn more about bone health. After I learned basic anatomy at my teacher training, I spent a month in India where I was enrolled in an Ayurvedic workshop at an Ayurvedic center. That gave me a thirst to learn more.
For the last three years, I traveled back and forth to Florida to complete my 700-hour yoga therapy requirements, in accordance with the IAYT, and IAYT member school The Wisdom Method.
It’s a never ending process. I keep on trucking, reading more about bone health, and attending as many workshops with experts as possible.
That’s why I’m launching Yoga Therapy for Healthy Bones workshops. My Dem Bones series is based on the learnings from many yoga therapists, some of which are MDs, and hopes to prevent Dem Dry Bones, the song mentions. My first session will take place at Cuatro Vientos in Todos Santos, BCS, Mexico, Oct. 4.
I will have future Dem Bones workshops, and posts, including information from the prominent yoga therapists and/or physicians who have influenced my approach.
In closing, I want to quote Dilip Sarkar, MD, FACS, CAP, one of the foremost experts in Yoga Therapy. “What Yoga Therapy is, is anti-aging.” So who doesn’t want to take dem pills?