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The Practice: The Fishman Method – Yoga for Osteoporosis

By Paige Reist
May 5, 2017

Loren Fishman - 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

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!


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , Fishman method , healing , loren fishman , osteoporosis , yoga , yoga practice , yoga retreat
feldenkrais workshop north carolina

In House: Lavinia Plonka on Your Sixth Sense

By Lavinia Plonka
March 5, 2017

feldenkrais workshop north carolina


Imagine being so aware that even as you reach for a cup of coffee, you sense the muscles in your back supporting your hand. The quality of each finger’s touch as it wraps around the cup. The momentary intake of breath as you carefully lift it to your lips. The fluttering of your eyelids as you sip.


Constant Movement, Constant Awareness

The human organism has the potential to experience this peak awareness, not just during moments of heightened danger or demand, but every moment. By developing this ability, you move more effectively and listen more carefully. You make fewer mistakes, injure yourself less, and enrich your life as well as the lives of those around you. Whether you have limitations due to an injury, or if you’re at the peak of your performance, you can improve, grow, and enjoy your life more fully.
We are always in movement. Even sitting at the computer involves a complex series of signals throughout the nervous system that keep the mouse moving, the toes tapping, the forehead wrinkling. These habitual movements help get the job done – the foot knowing when to step on the brakes, the hand knowing how to hold the toothbrush. But many of these habits also cause pain and limitation. Hunched shoulders, grinding teeth, and a tense lower back are just a few examples of what Moshe Feldenkrais called parasitic habits – they help you through a portion of recovery, and then they create greater problems.


Anti-Yoga: The Feldenkrais Method

Research has proven that the nervous system can learn to create new patterns, new ‘neural pathways’, for a more rewarding life. It does this most effectively through movement – the language of the body. The Feldenkrais Method® uses subtle, sophisticated movements to teach people how to literally reorganize themselves – improve range of motion, reduce pain, and live a fuller life. Yet, it is gentle, effortless, and safe for everyone. Houstonia Magazine recently called it the ‘anti-yoga’. 

It’s not flexible bodies I’m after, it’s flexible brains.
– Moshe Feldenkrais, founder of the Feldenkrais Method

If you’d like to experience the joy of enhanced awareness and effortless movement, you owe it to yourself to join us for Your Sixth Sense 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.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , Feldenkrais , flexibility , Lavinia Plonka , pain management , yoga , yoga practice , yoga retreat
Art of Silence Retreats

Art of Silence: Philip Fraser on Stillness and Alignment

By Dr. Elizabeth Herman, PhD
February 24, 2017

Art of Silence Retreats
We recently caught up with Philip Fraser, who has been teaching the Art of Silence since the early 1990s, to talk about the power of stillness and alignment. Philip offers his insights on letting go of distractions, becoming more present and aligned, and channeling balance and energy through the practice of stillness.


Being in Alignment

If someone is out of alignment with themselves, and therefore harming their own system, chances are they’re going to be insensitive to others around them and to the environment as well. But when we’re in alignment, we are sensitive to our own nature and to the world around us. Alignment starts at an individual level – so how do we get back into it?

Children are completely in alignment with themselves. They know when they’re tired or hungry; when they’re upset, they cry, when they’re happy, they laugh. There is no filter, no interruption between the emotion and the action. This is our natural state.

To re-align yourself with your experience, you need to allow yourself to experience your feelings and process your situations like a child would. In this way, you give yourself an outlet, which in turn gives you a degree of separation after the fact. You have already experienced a reaction, so these problems don’t have the chance to take over your mind later on.

Of course, we need to have the ability to perform socially in order to exist in the world, and that means we can’t cry whenever we feel like it – but this often leads to a complete disconnection with ourselves, and we can’t seem to reconnect.

There is no filter, no interruption between emotion and action. This is our natural state.


A very simple way to process these feelings, to come back into alignment with yourself, is just to practice stillness. Not just physical stillness, but mental as well. You’re giving yourself a break.

The average person never stops. We are inundated with external stimuli, and are trained to be constantly multitasking. Not many people will feel comfortable sitting quietly or focusing on one task anymore – you see it in airports, for instance. Nobody is content to just sit there. We are constantly involved in some form of activity.



One of the many results of this constant activity is the inability to comfortably fall asleep. We don’t feel like our minds are capable of settling down at night.

Nature works in cycles – you have day and night, light and dark, winter and spring, and at the root of all of these, dormancy and activity. Your mind and body need that stillness, that silence, to properly rest.

I illustrate this with an analogy of a bow and arrow. If you want the arrow to fly far one way, you pull it back in the opposite direction and let go. Instictively, we know this, but nowadays it’s hard to find the time and place to slow down, turn off our cell phones, and spend time with nature and with ourselves. The silence course gives us an opportunity to do this.


Releasing Thoughts and Emotions

Stillness rejuvenates us, it allows us to release our thoughts and feelings by experiencing them. We tend to deal with emotions by experiencing them briefly, then putting them away and claiming we’re fine. But these emotions don’t go away – they become dormant, stored inside of you. And so many of us just leave them there, or dwell on them, neither of which are helpful strategies.

The silence retreat helps us to realign ourselves in a formal way, through meditation and focused attention to the breath and body. During meditation, we often, without even trying, work through those old dormant emotions.

This doesn’t mean that you need to re-live traumatic events, or have a breakdown – it’s just, very simply, a time of letting go. There is definitely a degree of separation when you are observant of your feelings – “This is how I’m feeling right now”, or “This is what’s happening in my thoughts”. This awareness is enough to release those emotions, to send them on their way. It is a bit of a challenge, because we are not used to being alone with ourselves, facing ourselves like that. But it’s transformative.


Pure Energy

Another way of realigning ourselves is to realize that we are, quite simply, pure energy. For example, kids have so much great energy, and they spring back so easily from every emotion. That fluidity, that flexibility, is our nature. Our nature is to be diverse; our nature is to have a lot of varied emotions going on at any given moment.

We enjoy, live, and thrive on the full experience of life, the dark and light. It is what makes us whole.

At some point, we start to deny any negative thoughts or emotions within ourselves. We strive to only feel happiness. But can you imagine going to a movie and watching people being happy for two yours? It would be torture! We enjoy, live, and thrive on the full experience of life, the dark and light. It is what makes us whole.

To learn more about Silent Retreats, click here. 

Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: alignment , emotion , lifestyle , meditation , nature , silence , wisdom

Philip Fraser on Art of Silence: Activities and Benefits

By Dr. Elizabeth Herman, PhD
June 13, 2016

Art of Silence Retreats

We sat down with Philip Fraser to talk about the Art of Silence course, which he started teaching in the early 1990s. He currently teaches it every few months. Here, he describes in detail the process of this course and its many benefits.


Silence and Consciousness

The subject matter of this course, and the purpose of silence, is consciousness. That’s why it’s a unique course. You can do participate over and over; you can come back to this course many times. The material doesn’t become old.


We generally wake up fairly early; there’s a lot of energy in that part of the day, so that alone is rejuvenating. Then we have a yoga practice and a breathing techniques session, followed by breakfast and some little tasks and jobs that people perform in a group (seva). It gives participants a wonderful sense of belonging.


Guided meditations are also a big part of being in silence. We’re not in silence the whole time, of course, but the combined hours of silence add up to two full days.


More Energy, More Discipline

The first benefit of this course that people notice is the energy – participants feel lighter, clearer, more awake.


Sometimes people take the Happiness course, which is the first part of the series, but find it hard to be regular with that, to create the routine needed and be disciplined about it. But what you find after the Silence course is that your motivation and discipline transforms. You become almost addicted to the process of taking care of yourself.


Watching Your Own Mind

The second benefit is felt on an even deeper level – you become aware of your own mind. What you’ll notice is it’s either in this happy or neutral state, or a little bit unhappy. This sequence happens throughout any day of our lives. Some moments in the day we feel everything is good; and some moments it’s just kind of boring, and some moments something wrong has happened.


On this course, you get to watch your mind and its cycles. There’s no distraction. There’s nothing to blame your moods on, but you’ll still watch your moods fluctuate. It’s not an intellectual process, but just by experience, just by noticing your moods, you get a little bit of distance from it. That realization comes: “I’m not just my mind; I’m not just my thoughts.” That is the point at which you experience true happiness.


For example, when you watch a movie, you enjoy every element of the plot, even the parts that make you sad, anxious, or angry. Life is like that as well. Silence helps us realize that our plot is not everything that we are – this gives you have the ability to be in your emotions 100% when they arise. We temper ourselves so much, repress our anger, explain away our sadness, so this is a revolutionary thing for many people.


Kids are great at this. They go 100% into their emotions, and they release them just as easily.

They’ll fight with their friend and say, “You’re not my friend anymore; I hate you.” They’re really fully feeling it, they mean what they say – but five minutes later, everything is fine.


Later in life when you fight, you’re so much trying to control everything, you don’t have that resilience anymore in your own mind, energy and consciousness. So you fight with your friend, and possibly it could be for many years! “You’re not my friend anymore!” If that comes up as an adult, you’re in a lawsuit; you’re in some crazy thing that’s absorbing so much of your life force. So that ability to be in an emotion, let it go, and accept it: this unique skill is what we teach.


Happiness in the Moment

We think happiness comes from control. We think, “If I have enough money, I can just go anywhere. When I want to be in Paris for lunch, I can at any moment, and that’s when I’m gonna be happy.” Because that’s control; we can do whatever we want. If that were the case then everyone who had that degree of financial freedom would be so happy. But they may not be.

That realization comes: “I’m not just my mind; I’m not just my thoughts.” That is the point at which you experience true happiness.


You ask someone, “What do you need to be happy and when will you be happy?” They’ll always say, “It’s not based on anything.” Instinctively, we know that. But this is the way to achieve it: this course and these practices. You can have that. It’s something that you culture in your system.


Many people think, “If I just read a book about the present moment that’s enough.” Reading does help; it’s a definite eye-opener. But that’s only part of it. Really, by direct experience and by systematically going through that and finding yourself there again and again, you’ll start to say, “Yeah, it’s like this. I am more than just the thoughts. I am more than this mood or event or these labels they put in front of me.” Then you’ll find it.

To learn more about our Silent Retreats, click here. 


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: happiness , healthy lifestyle , Sleep , yoga retreat