Yoga Builds Bones: Easy Gentle Stretches That Prevent Osteoporosis by Jan Maddern
Osteoporosis affects some 22 million (mostly postmenopausal) American women. Those diagnosed with the condition must choose among a variety of dietary, lifestyle, and therapeutic options if they are to prevent further loss of bone and thereby avoid serious injury and other consequences of this "silent disease." Conventional medical wisdom leads many women afflicted with osteoporosis to begin hormone replacement therapy, which carries an increased risk of developing certain cancers. In Yoga Builds Bones, Jan Maddern, a yoga teacher who specializes in working with postmenopausal women, argues that weight-bearing asanas (and other yogic techniques such as breathing exercises and meditation) provide the best hope of minimizing the deleterious effects of the disease or even avoiding it altogether; not to put too fine a point on it, she calls hatha yoga a "miracle cure for many ailments." Maddern discovered the connection between yoga and bone strength when her mother was diagnosed with osteoporosis a decade ago, and here she offers a series of routines (including numerous standing poses, spinal twists, stretches, bends, lunges, inversions, and more) designed to improve muscle strength, build bone density, and improve glandular function. (She caps the program off with a chapter devoted to "Special Yoga Techniques for Menopausal Symptom Relief.") Each routine focuses on the endocrine system's function in a particular part of the body. "Yoga creates a balanced harmony between the ovaries, adrenals, parathyroids, pituitary and pineal gland," she says, "ensuring that the body receives a steady supply of the right hormones for maintaining bone strength and maximum health and well being. The regular practice of weight bearing hatha yoga postures offers women everywhere a safe, scientifically proven way to build bone strength and avoid this debilitating disease." Here she may be going out on a limb, but she makes a bold case, presenting startling evidence from yoga teachers throughout the world to support the hypothesis that the regular practice of hatha yoga prevents osteoporosis. Therefore, this observational evidence must stand, until the scientific community recognizes the high correlation between the two, and begins to conduct controlled studies. This bit of polemicizing may not earn Maddern many friends among research scientists, but her book will certainly be received enthusiastically by women who are faced with this diseaseor who plan not to fall victim to it.