The Practice: Creating a Home Meditation Space
Recharging your body and mind, improving your focus, and boosting clarity are all great reasons to meditate — but what if you could improve on what you’re already doing?
What if you could create the perfect meditation space in your home?
Carving out a private enclave for meditation doesn’t have to be tough, whether you’re living in a studio-sized condo or a spacious estate with a dozen spare rooms you’ve never used. With a few simple tips, you can transform any space into a private nook where you can disconnect from daily stresses, internal dialogue, and negative experiences.
What is a meditation space?
A meditation space is a sacred spot where you can release stress, find serenity, and center yourself. Sacred doesn’t necessarily mean religious or spiritual; in this context, it means you only use the area for meditation, yoga, rest, or stillness. It’s your own personal retreat within your home, and you can designate a corner, a partitioned space, or even an entire room to it as long as you feel good about your choice.
Exceptional spots for a meditation space in any home
This is your space, so there isn’t a one-size-fits all spot that works for everyone. Ideally, you’ll be able to walk through each room in your home and narrow down your choices to rooms you absolutely love — those that make you smile, relax you, and give you a sense of peace. As you search for your perfect meditation space, be mindful that:
- Facing a southeast corner will bathe you in early morning light, which may be perfect for dawn meditation.
Facing a northwest corner will let you bask in the sun’s waning rays, which ould be ideal if you’re an evening meditator.
- Facing due east emulates Buddha, who sat beneath the Bodhi tree and meditated directly toward the early morning sun.
Where to meditate in a small home
If you don’t have much room to spare, a terrace, patio or corner of a room in a condo or townhouse might be the perfect spot to set up your meditation space. Add a privacy screen or hang billowing curtains from a single point on the ceiling to shut out the world while you connect with your inner self, or clear out a closet for instant (and expense-free) privacy.
- Although it’s tough to find spare square footage in a condo, apartment or studio, you can make extra room by:
- Swapping out your sofa for comfy chairs
- Installing a loft bed in a room with high enough ceilings
- Storing non-essential accessories and furnishings rather than trying to cram them all into your space
- Using wall cabinets rather than freestanding bookshelves in your decor
Where to meditate in a more spacious home
Create your private paradise in a quiet corner, in an enclosed room or the garden to find your inner peace. One of the keys to successful meditation is carving out a distraction-free environment where you can get comfortable.
Spots to avoid
Steer clear of high-traffic areas or those where distractions are likely to pull you off the path to Nirvana. Try to avoid the kitchen, the living room, or anywhere too close to the lavatory, the front door, or a space that faces the street. Your home office may drag your mind toward work, and a place that makes you want to nap rather than meditate, like your bedroom, might be a little too relaxing.
Meditation room ideas
The more peaceful, relaxing, and beautiful your meditation room is, the more time you’ll want to spend there. you’ll feel it pulling you in before you start your day, each time you need a break, and when you wind down for the night.
The perfect room decor in a meditation space
Designing your Zen meditation space for self-help and personal development requires you to stick to a few principles:
- Keep your space clean and clutter-free.
- Only include items you love and that contribute to your happiness and peace.
- Add natural elements where possible, such as living plants and stones.
The bare essentials
You don’t have to dedicate an entire room and a month’s salary to creating your meditation space. The simplest — and sometimes most effective — meditation spaces feature only bare essentials, such as:
- Meditation cushions or a soft spot to sit
- Natural light
- Something with personal significance, like bells, crystals, or affirmation stones
- Fresh air
If you can, spring for a serene color palette in the room. Neutrals, which are the most popular (think earth tones and off-whites), are what you’ll find in monasteries and professionally designed meditation spaces, but here’s where you can make it interesting. Dark colors make a room feel smaller, which is ideal if you want to feel enveloped in your space, and pastels lend an airy, open feeling to any room, which could be perfect if you prefer a sense of freedom while you meditate. Bright, glossy white that produces glare is generally off-limits, though, because it’s too harsh for the serene environment you’re trying to create.
Pro tip: If natural sunlight hits the wall and makes you squint, the paint color is wrong for your meditation space.
Your meditation room can be as simple or elaborate as you want it to be. A few carefully chosen elements can turn any space into a soul-nourishing haven. Consider adding decor such as:
- Attractive incense burners
- A fountain for the sight and sound combination
- Singing bowls
- Decorative cushions
- A Zen sand table
- Aromatherapy diffusers
- Adjustable lighting
- An altar
Bare wood floors can add a sense of authenticity to your meditation room, and they can make the room appear (and feel) larger – but they’re not necessary as long as you have the proper posture. A plush area rug or tatami mat on top of carpet can carve out a private space where you can meditate, practice yoga or rest without costing you a fortune.
The best plants for meditation spaces
Most people find that having at least one living plant makes a huge difference in the quality of a meditation space. They’re essential for pulling volatile organic chemicals out of the air and allowing you to commune with natural, earthy elements. Plants that thrive in low light and contribute to Zen include:
- Monstera Deliciosa
What not to put in your meditation space
Few things are more distracting than clutter, so your meditation room needs to be light on things that can counteract your Zen. Avoid electronics (the TV has to go!) except for music players or electronic aromatherapy diffusers, and banish toys, paperwork or other distractors that will prevent you from connecting with yourself.
Bonus tips for the perfect meditation room
- Buy plug protectors in case you’re tempted to bring in electronics (other than that music player). They serve as a gentle reminder that technology is unwelcome in your space.
- If your window has a bad view, use Japanese rice paper or privacy glass decals to shut out the world without compromising your natural light.
- This room is your escape, so nothing that pulls you back into your everyday existence belongs there.
What’s your dream meditation space like?
With a little planning and a dash of inspiration, anyone can create a spectacular meditation space — and we’d love to hear about what you’ve already done. Share your story in the comments below!
by Alejandra Roca. This article first appeared on Redfin.com
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Exploring Wisdom: Sri Sri on the Eight Limbs of Yoga
In 2015, Art of Living founder and guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar spoke with Philip Goldberg on the importance of the eight limbs of yoga. As relevant as ever, Sri Sri’s wisdom encourages us to consider all aspects of a Yoga practice as a path to greater fulfillment, health, and happiness.
Q: What would you like people to know about Yoga?
Sri Sri: Yoga is like a vast ocean. You can just go for a breeze, or you can go with an oil rig and drill for oil … Yoga offers many things to different people at many different levels–whatever they aspire for: union with the cosmic consciousness, or physical health, mental clarity, emotional stability, spiritual ecstasy — all this is part of yoga.
Q: Does it concern you that people think of Yoga only as asana [the familiar physical postures]?
Sri Sri: Not really, because at that moment that’s what they understand. But once they start doing asana they start seeing there is something beyond that. If interest for meditation gets kindled, then they are on the right track. But if it stops at exercise … it’s not bad, but they will not reach the goal.
Q: When people think of the classic eight limbs of Yoga…
Sri Sri: I knew you would ask about that. Unfortunately, people think the eight limbs are eight steps, one after another. You know, when a baby is born it’s not that one limb develops after another. All the limbs develop simultaneously. The eight limbs of Yoga are so interconnected, if you pull one all the others will come along with it.
Q: Some people think you have to master the yamas and niyamas before you can do the others. [The yamas and niyamas — five behaviors to avoid and five to engage — constitute the first two limbs.]
Sri Sri: The limbs are not sequential, they are all together. The practice of the others contributes to the ability to observe the yamas and niyamas. When we teach meditation in prisons, we see that the moment they have a taste of meditation, their whole thought process and behavior pattern changes. They start on the path of non-violence. They become very truthful, and the tendencies to cheat disappear. So the yamas and niyamas start happening in people’s life just when they begin meditation.
Q: How do your Art of Living programs fit into the eight limbs of classical Yoga?
Sri Sri: Yoga would be incomplete if even one limb is absent from it. All the eight limbs coexist. Our program is the same way. We do some asana, and some pranayama-breathing exercises-and meditation that leads to samadhi [the 8th limb; not a practice but a state of consciousness transcending thought].
This interview first appeared on Huffington Post, and is presented in excerpt.
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
The Practice: What are the Eight Limbs of Yoga?
Increasingly, the practice of Asana, or the physical poses we understand as yoga, is being alienated from the very source of its conception; its moral, ethical, and philosophial raison d’être and foundation. Perhaps this is because the modern practice has separated the metaphorical wrapping paper from the gift itself, interchanging the two and taking the wrapping paper instead of the gift.
Most practitioners of Yoga have heard of the eight limbs of yoga: Yamas, Niyamas, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. These eight limbs are integral to one another: they are neither dispensable nor separable. Why, then, does Asana remain the centerpiece of the modern experience of yoga? Why are they understood as a progression on the path of yoga, when in fact they are a composite and part of an organic whole?
The five Yamas are as follows: Ahimsa, or non-violence, Satya, or truth, Asteya, or non-stealing, Brahmacharya, or moving in Brahman (infinity), and Aparigraha, or non-accumulation. These five principles are universal in nature, without exception. An intrinsic part of human values and an ethical code of conduct. The understanding of, and more importantly, incorporation of them, changes the entire texture of our physical practice.
Niyamas can be understood as the cultivation of the self. There are five Niyamas: Shaucha, or physical purity, Santosha, or contentment, Tapas, or endurace, Swaadhyaaya, or self-study, and Ishwara Pranidhaana, or devotion to the Divine.
Asana is widely understood as the totality of yoga. The Yoga Sutras define Asana as that which is steady and comfortable. Again, in the words of Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “Feeling the body, letting go of the effort, and experiencing the infinity is Asana.”
In Pranayama, we understand the dimension of the breath. Various Pranayama techniques are outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. At a fundamental level, the inhalations and exhalations are controlled in a certain rhythm or pattern. A good example of this is the Sudarshan Kriya breathing technique taught by Art of Living that has helped bring a greater mental clarity and physical well-being to millions around the world. Patanjali has stressed that Pranayam should be explored with proper guidance, as they thin down the curtain around the light – prakash avanaram.
Pratyahara is the inner canvas, the reference of the inner world and the coaxing of the senses to withdraw inward. It is fundamental to cultivating a practice that is not thrown off by the external fluctuations of the body, the senses, and the circumstances. Various guided meditations are helpful to invite the mind to dive inwards.
Dharana and Dhyana
Dharana and Dhyana are sometimes thought of as interchangeable. While meditation has become popular even outside the realm of yoga, the concept of Dharana, which is the singular pointed attention of meditation, was prescribed by a teacher in accordance with the needs of the individual and his or her progress on the path of yoga. Dharana and Dhyana are intimately tied to Pranayama, a good example of why no limb of yoga is separate from the other.
Samadhi, or the state of ultimate bliss, as long been considered too lofty a goal for the common man. This eliminates the opportunity for us to blossom on the path of yoga. Every moment that we feel one with the infinite self is one of Samhadi.
What is truly profound is astoundingly simple. When our experience is clouded, our understand is blurry as well. If your only experience of yoga is sweating in a hot room, then the opportunity for a deeper experience and understanding diminishes. The gift of yoga is the opportunity to experience the whole being, not just the body. Why settle for less?
According to Yogi Krishan Verma, director of Sri Sri Yoga Trainings at the Art of Living Retreat Center, “You are more than just the body.”
While this may sound like a lofty goal, in experience, it is simple, and brings a seismic shift to the way we practice. At the basic level, when the emotions are clouded or the mind is scattered, the body reflects that as well. The body and the physical practice is just one limb of yoga. Why would we take the part as the whole?
When we move through the eight limbs of yoga as a dynamic whole, the practice parts to reveal our true self. All conflict and duality shifts to illuminate the light that we are. As explained by Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “When a body develops, the whole body develops together. Simultaneously all the aspects, all the limbs of the body develop.” The eight limbs of yoga are just that – limbs in the body of yoga. This realization is a gift that we unwrap with a sense of awe and wonder!
by Shalini Parekh
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
The Practice: Why Become a Yoga Teacher?
Considering becoming a yoga teacher?
A desire to become a yoga teacher, in itself, is a blessing. By becoming a yoga teacher, you learn to take proper care of yourself and teach others to take proper care of themselves. It’s a great way to rapidly progress on a spiritual path. You get a better understanding of yourself. Teaching yoga, in its true spirit, is a great service to humanity. It’s also a way to earn some income and support yourself.
Where do you go for yoga teacher training?
There are thousands of yoga training programs available worldwide. The Yoga Scriptures say to “Learn yoga under a master”.
You must ask yourself a few questions: Why do you want to become a yoga teacher? What is it about yoga that interests you the most? Are you interested in just teaching, or also in your own spiritual growth?
If your interest lies only in the physical aspects of yoga, then with a little research, you could choose almost any school of yoga in the world. However, if, in addition to learning the Asanas properly, you also want to understand and experience the true meaning of yoga, be able to impart that experience to your students, and develop a meaningful discipline of yoga for your personal spiritual growth, then you need to be very precise in your selection. The most important question then becomes this: who is the guiding light in that school of yoga?
Drinking from the source
Your mind and spirit are both unknown and unseen. To understand and experience them, you need the guidance of a spiritual master. Just as a dedicated scientist discovers the hidden secrets of the physical realm of our existence, a devout spiritual seeker uncovers many mysteries hidden in the unseen field of our existence. Such enlightened masters are very rare.
Learning yoga from a school in which the guiding source is a living enlightened master is like drinking water from the river at the origin, where it is pure and fresh. The knowledge and practices that come directly from the master are free from polluted interpretations and distortions.
The Sri Sri School of Yoga
At the Sri Sri School of Yoga, you will learn:
- authentic yoga in its purest form
- sequences of Asanas with variations and modifications that are suitable for all levels of yoga students
- principles of creating your own sequences
- anatomy of Asanas
- Asanas for many different physical conditions
- proper practice of Asanas that benefit the mind, body, and spirit
- deep relaxation techniques
- an exploration of the different layers of your existence
- how to make your mind more flexible and strong so it can pass through the seasons of life with skill and a smile
- proper practice of many different pranayamas, and how they influence the different chakras and different dimensions of your mind
- the science of prana, chakras, and bandhas and their relationship with Asanas
- the Sanskrit names and proper pronunciations of Asanas, pranayamas, and badhas
- Yogic kriyas for cleansing the body and calming the mind
- proper meditation practices
- a clear understanding of the wisdom of yoga contained in the yoga scriptures – Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Bhavad Gita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and more
- how to use yogic wisdom in daily life and how to take yoga beyond the mat
- a basic understanding of Ayurveda and proper nutrition
- the different paths of yoga and their significance
The list goes on – not only will you learn this, but you will experience it all first-hand too. At the Sri Sri School of Yoga, a team of certified, dedicated, and experienced teachers are there to train you to become a certified, knowledgeable, and confident yoga teacher, and to guide and inspire you to discover the yogi in you.
We look forward to welcoming you!
The Practice: Sri Sri on the Nature of the Yogi
Yoga is so much more than exercise — it’s a way of being. Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar shares his thoughts on the far-reaching impact of yoga on the body, mind, and spirit, and the true nature of the Yogi.
A disease-free body, a violence-free society, a confusion-free mind, a inhibition-free intellect, a trauma-free memory, a sorrow-free soul and a quiver-free breath is the impact that Yoga can make on your life.
More than the body
If you claim that you are a Yogi, then you should have an undying smile on your face. I would say, that is the sign of a Yogi. Yoga makes your emotions softer and more peaceful, and you blossom in your emotions. It brings freedom in your expression and your thought patterns. These are the real signs of Yoga. It is not just to do with the flexibility of the body. Of course, that too is a part of Yoga. The body becomes flexible, and the mind grows in faith and conviction. If all this happens, know that it is the gift of Yoga, and consider yourself as a Yogi.
The path of the Yogi
Many people think of the eight limbs of Yoga as a step-wise process to go level by level. They think that one has to strive to become proficient in one level before ascending to the next. This is not really so. I would say that all these eight limbs or aspects of Yoga are woven together and happen simultaneously.
When a child is conceived in the womb, then all its organs are formed together. It is not that first the feet are formed and then the arms take shape. No, it is not so. All the limbs and organs develop together. This is why we must take all these eight aspects or limbs of Yoga together at every step. Only then can we experience the fullness and totality of Yoga, and can bring about an extraordinary transformation and experience in our life.
Join one of our upcoming yoga retreats and feel for yourself the power and light of the eight-limbed path.
This article first appeared on srisriravishankar.org.
The Practice: Sarajean Rudman on the Power of Yoga and Ayurveda
Yoga and Ayurveda, to the new practitioner, might seem complicated, but although both practices are deeply rooted in the traditional spiritual wisdom and practices of India, you don’t have to overhaul your entire life to make room for them. Incorporating even the smallest concepts from yoga and Ayurveda into your routine can have far-reaching effects both your health and your happiness.
We sat down Sarajean Rudman, accomplished yogini and AoLRC host, to discuss how to begin to integrate yoga and Ayurveda into your routine for your healthiest, most vibrant life.
Yoga and Ayurveda: The Sister Sciences
Yoga and Ayurveda are all about self-care and self-love. So much else in life takes us out of ourselves, but yoga and Ayurveda take us back into ourselves. Blending the two practices has given me permission to be kind, to love, to nourish, to rest, to refuel and to listen.
At the very seat of the practices of yoga and Ayurveda, there is an element of taking back authority over yourself and listening to the innate, intuitive knowledge you already possess – when you wake up in the morning and feel that something is weird or off in your body, yoga and Ayurveda empower you to know that it’s okay to feel those things, to explore them, and to try to understand why.
I like to think of Ayurveda as the science that heals the vessel physically, and yoga as the science that heals the vessel spiritually and emotionally. It might seem like an intimidating system, but at the end of the day, it’s the simple things that have the most profound effect on your life. Even one single element of the practice, something as simple as drinking warm water, can propel propel you into a new world of self-care.
So much of our lives are lived as cerebral beings – we can think ourselves into and out of any situation. Yoga connects the body and breath back to the mind, and we stop conceiving of ourselves as a ‘severed head’. We begin to notice things that are out of balance in the way we feel, and Ayurveda is a medicinal practice that we can turn to when we do notice these things.
The Basics of Ayurveda
Ayurveda focuses on the five elements and the three doshas, or bodily humors. These are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each of these doshas describes everything on earth, and everything on earth has a certain balance of these energies within it. The doshas, each of which encompass different qualities, rule the hours of the day, the seasons of a year, and the different phases of life we go through.
For example, the Kapha time of day is around 6AM – 10AM. Qualities associated with Kapha are heaviness, coldness, denseness, so it’s recommended that your practice is mobile and energetic in the morning to balance out that energy.
In the Vata time of day, which is anywhere from 2AM – 6AM, you might want to do a more contemplative practice, because Vata is immobile, erratic, rough, expansive, and ethereal. Timing the different elements of your practice to the appropriate hours can really work to balance the different dosha energies within yourself.
A First Step into Ayurveda
One of the most powerful ways to start balancing your own internal dosha energies is to go to bed before 10PM, because after 10PM, those fiery Pitta energies kick back in. The Pitta time of night is when you hit your second wind. It’s easy to work and work and work, when what your body really needs is rest.
For most people, this resets your circadian rhythms and balances your hormones, and you begin to feel more energized in the morning. You will experience less lethargy in the middle of the morning, your skin and hair will benefit, and your digestion will improve.
All of the cells in our body have been demonstrated to follow our circadian rhythms, even our digestive tract. There are certain times of the day when we should be eating, sleeping, moving, etc, and acting against those rhythms can be detrimental to your health.
Of course, technology and culture have a huge part to play in why we find it difficult to intuit these rhythms. My 94-year-old grandmother wasn’t up at 11PM scrolling through Facebook in 1945! Ayurveda is a great tool to help you get back to the natural cycles of the earth and your body.
Get Started Today!
Yoga and Ayurveda are accessible for everybody. You don’t have to twist yourself into a pretzel or chant – yoga can be a walk in the woods. Yoga can by lying on your back and breathing. Ayurveda is the same! You don’t have to eat exclusively Indian food or completely give up things that you love to benefit from the principles and practices we teach. You can pick and choose what works best for you and your body.
The Art of Living Retreat Center is a great place to begin your journey. The Center has the most beautiful view, and there’s this undeniable spiritual potency here. When I arrived, I immediately wanted to slow down, which was pretty cool for me, because that rarely happens in a physical space.
There’s this settled energy here. It’s outrageously beautiful, and I find communing with nature to be epically healing for myself and others. The core of like-minded people at the Center has also been really healing and reaffirming.
Ayurveda has taught me to take care of myself. I’m a Vata-Pitta person, who gets very stuck in accomplishments and doing and moving and acheiving, and Ayurveda has really taught me to slow down, check in with myself, and never sacrifice my own well-being at the altar of success.
The Practice: 7 Reasons to Go to a Yoga Festival
At the Art of Living Retreat Center, we know the power of immersion. Setting aside a time to actively focus on loving and nurturing yourself, whether it’s through rest, silence, meditation, an Ayurvedic cleanse, or yoga, is an intensely healing and empowering practice. Yoga festivals are one of many ways to make time for yourself and your practice.
With two outstanding yoga festivals coming up in close proximity to the Retreat Center, the Asheville Yoga Festival (July 25-27), and the Floyd Yoga Jam over Labour Day weekend, we asked yoga teacher and writer Sarah Dittmore to share her thoughts on why these festivals are so fabulous.
The Practice: 5 Yoga Poses to Calm Your Mind
In today’s world, where people are prone to stress, anxiety, and depression, it’s more important than ever to search for ways to relax your mind. Relationships, work, school, and/or financial worries all take a toll on our bodies and minds, and yoga can be a welcome break from the pressures of everyday life. According to one study, a regular yoga practice may help you fight stress, anxiety, and depression. While yoga overall is very useful for calming the mind, we’ve selected five poses, which, when practiced mindfully, can make a big difference in your overall stress levels.
This pose stretches your lower back and hips, which can be very relaxing and help decrease fatigue. To try out this pose, first sit on your heels, leaving a gap between your thighs. Then, extend your upper body on the floor, your midsection resting between your thighs, and your arms fully extended on the floor. Take several long, deep breaths in this position. This position can be held for up to five minutes, or longer if you wish.
This pose is challenging, but it’s very effective at the same time. It enhances your energy level and mood, and strengthens your back. For the cobra pose, lie face down, position your palms on the floor shoulder width apart. Keep your lower body and pelvis grounded at all times, then inhale and lift your chest off the floor, while your lower body stays in place. Keep your attention on lifting from your core, rather than simply resting on your arms. You can hold the pose for a number of long, deep breaths, then let your body rest on the floor as you exhale.
There are three warrior poses. Warrior II Pose is a simple yoga pose, which can help release stress and tension. When doing this pose, let yourself be reminded of your inner strength and ability to stand strong against the challenges of life.
This is a cool yoga pose, and it’s not only for dancers. Anyone can implement this pose into their yoga routine. It’s a beautiful pose that symbolizes grace and elegance. You can do this pose with a light and happy feeling, as though you were a dancer. Not only can it release stress, but it also opens up the chest.
This is a very effective pose, but it’s not an easy pose to try. Although it takes some time to master the crow pose, you will be proud of yourself when you finally get the hang of it. This pose can enhance your focus, strength, and concentration. When doing this pose, let the mind be happy and calm. In Sanskrit, this state of mind is called prasanna chetana, a pleasant, relaxed awareness. Having a strong mind can also help you overcome the symptoms of depression.
Mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health. When ignored, stress can affect our physical well-being, as well as our mental peace. Making yoga a regular part of your life can help you manage stress and lower the risk of stress-related health problems.
Sophie Addison is a blogger and skincare expert, and is passionate about sharing her knowledge. She has written about everything from wrinkles to joint pain treatment, weight loss, and fitness news. She loves to garden and listen to music. Contact Sophie on Facebook or Pinterest.
Interested in learning more about the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
The Practice: The Fishman Method – Yoga for Osteoporosis
Loren Fishman, MD, B. Phil., is one of the few physicians practicing medicine who incorporates yoga into his regular treatment protocols and offers patients individual yoga therapy. This spring, he joins us at the Art of Living Retreat Center to share his unique and effective program with yoga practitioners, yoga teachers and therapists, physical therapists, nurses, physicians and health insurance leaders. Loren shares his journey to developing his unique method.
Yoga and Osteoporosis
I’d heard from my friends and colleagues that it was extremely dangerous to teach yoga to osteoporotic or even osteopenic people. However, I wanted to explore whether that was accurate or not. So I did DEXA scans (the definitive test of bone mineral density) on a number of patients with osteoporosis and osteopenia, and invited half of them to come to classes I taught in my office after patient hours, and kept the other half as controls. I did this for two years, up to 2008.
When we got DEXA scans again, the yoga group had gained quite a bit of bone mineral density. The controls lost a little, and there were no significant injuries of any kind. Not even repetitive stress injuries – if you’re practicing yoga properly, stress injuries are quite uncommon.
It worked well, but I didn’t think these results were publishable yet. My son happened to pass by my desk and said, “Dad, give me the data.” In 5 minutes, he showed me that these results were statistically significant. A few months later, we published “Yoga for Osteoporosis – A pilot study.” Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation 25, No. 3, 2009 pp. 244-250.
Creating the Program
At this point, I really became enthusiastic. It seemed to me that there might be a way that any person could use yoga to improve bone strength, so I hired a camera man from Harvard, a director from Columbia, and a friend who is sometimes a Broadway actor, took two friends and myself as models, and created a DVD of yoga for osteoporosis.
We made a thousand copies of the DVD, and gave them away to people willing to do blood tests, a urine test, and give a current DEXA, as well as another one after two years of practice. The tests ruled out nutritional, hormonal, and metabolic reasons for weak bones.
I chose poses that I thought would strengthen the most frequent fracture sites; the spine, the hip, and the femur. Happily, those are also the three sites measured by most DEXA scans. We made the DVD with three versions of each pose; a beginner’s version, an intermediate version, and the classical version of each pose.
The difficult part was that we needed an older DEXA scan too, in order to make this into a before-after study. We needed to compare what happened to people in the two years before they started doing this yoga (although many had done some yoga before), with how their bones fared after they did this yoga daily for two years.
This was an Internet-recruited study, and the 1000 people that received the DVD were from all over the world. Eight years later, over 240 of the recipients complied, and sent in previous DEXA scans, and many sent before-and-after X-rays, too. All the information went to Bernard Rosner, Professor of Biostatistics at Harvard.
The Results Are In: Yoga Improves Bone Density
It took more than a month to get anything back from him. In the meantime, I was ruminating as to whether I’d just wasted ten years of my life.
Eventually, we got the statistical results: .001 significant improvement in the spine and femur, with improvement in the hip as well.
We published this study soon after as Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Regimen Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss.” Lu, Yi-Hsueh; Rosner, Bernard; Chang, Gregory; Fishman, Loren M. Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation: April/June 2016 – Volume 32 – Issue 2 – p 81–87.
Over 80% of the people in the study reversed their bone loss and began to gain bone. No fractures or serious injuries of any kind were seen or reported in over 100,000 hours of people doing this yoga daily. Over 80% of them had osteoporosis or osteopenia when we started. Fewer had these conditions when we finished.
The Future of Yoga and Osteoporosis
We are now working on another study which we call a dose-response study,. In these, we have participants see a teacher who is trained in our yoga every two weeks to see what “dose” of yoga the participants are giving themselves. Then we’ll see what happens to their DEXA scans in two years.
We’ve also developed alternative sets to ward off the inevitable ennui of doing the same poses day in and day out. New alternatives also strengthen the bones in the wrist, the fourth most probable fracture site. We have put the first group, the group we’ve already proven to work, online for free on Youtube, offer DVDs on sciatica.org.
We also give workshops such as the one at the Art of Living Retreat center in North Carolina. Additionally, we offer online training to teach yoga teachers to train people to do these poses at their proper level. This is an effective, innocuous, and quite valuable skill for yoga teachers to acquire.
Join Loren Fishman at Yoga vs. Osteoporosis from May 31st to June 4th at the Art of Living Retreat Center!
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!