Modification for Sun Salutations with Forward Fold and Osteoporosis Considerations

Modification for Sun Salutations with Forward Fold and Osteoporosis Considerations

What are the precautions for forwarding bending with a Student who has diagnosed Osteoporosis?


I have a woman (in her 60s?) who has been attending my Mixed Level 1/2 class (slow flow) for the past few months, and who was diagnosed with osteoporosis two years ago (she does not look to have severe kyphosis). She took medication to strengthen her bones, and it sounds like her scores have improved (I do not know the scores, however).  I shared with her the cautions of forward folds (to always hinge from the hips) and to avoid both leveraged twists and folding + twisting motions.

In the Mixed Level class that she attends, we practice 2-3 Sun Salutation As and Cs, and I always teach “hinging from the hip creases” to keep the back long. I also use two blocks (at the highest height) when I demonstrate folding forward.  We don’t practice any “extreme” poses like headstand, plow, shoulderstand, upward-facing bow, etc., and I encourage students to bend knees/come up on toes while in Downward Dog (or to practice Child’s Pose).

As long as the spine is kept long in forward folds (by hinging at the hips/bending knees/using blocks), are they safe for individuals with osteoporosis to practice (like in a sun salutation)?  From the wonderful content in the Chair Yoga/Gentle Yoga training, I think the answer is yes…but I want to make sure I am keeping students as safe as possible.

Thank you so much for providing this valuable resource to yoga teachers!

Answer from Sherry

Here is an alternative to using blocks in the forward fold in a Sun Salutation. Blocks have a specific height to them, so you never know where the safest fold angle would be for a particular person. With this option, the knees are bent and thus the forward fold can go deeper while keeping disc compression.

Forward Bend Safety Tips from Justine Shelton and Sherry Zak Morris, Certified Yoga Therapists

Back injuries and back pain can get aggravated by improper alignment when bending forward, and not just in a Yoga class. In every day life, we bend to pick and lift things up, put on our shoes, unplug a wall socket or get the dust bunnies from under the couch. These tips from Yoga Therapists, Justine Shelton and Sherry Zak Morris, will help keep your back safe when bending – whether standing or sitting.

Want to further Explore the techniques for instructing Low Back Care Yoga?

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