Yoga can help to build bone strength at any stage in your life. Here Vicky Fox shares five poses that she regularly teaches to help build back strength in muscles and bones in her Yoga for Cancer classes.
Starting with the feet they can make us feel more grounded and able to stand up for ourselves which is important in this fast and challenging world.
Standing calf raise on block
Tight calves can restrict the feet so I like this pose as it is both strengthening and lengthening.
The calf muscle acts like a heart in your lower leg and as it contracts and releases it helps to pump fluid from the lower leg back towards the heart. This is a key pose in the yoga for cancer classes as it helps to move lymph fluid from the periphery back to the heart.
Stand on the blocks on the balls of your feet and have some support from either the wall or a chair for balance. As you inhale, lift the heels so you rise up. Hug your heels towards each other so that your weight is even across the ball of the foot and you don’t roll to the outer edges of the feet.
As you exhale, lower the heels down so that you feel a stretch at the back of the legs.
Repeat 5- 8 more times moving with your breath so that the pose is dynamic.
Chair pose (with chair behind for stability)
Another staple pose in a yoga for cancer class to help rebuild strength in the lower legs. A main side effect of treatment for cancer is fatigue and some of that fatigue is due to muscle loss. It sounds counterintuitive to exercise when you are fatigued but strengthening large muscles will help us move through our daily lives, get out of bed and on with our day.
Find a position of the feet around hip distance that feels comfortable and stable.
As you inhale, bend your knees and sit back as if into an imaginary chair. Notice as you sit back if it feels like the weight is equal in both feet or if you are heavier in one foot? If you are, try pressing with your heavier foot to get weight into your lighter foot. Notice if your knees are tracking your toes or if they roll inwards. If they do then you can try placing a yoga block in between the knees to keep them in line with your toes.
Exhale, press and rise and come up to stand.
Again you can make this dynamic by moving in and out of the pose with your breath. Or stay and hold the pose for a few breaths.
The chair can be placed behind you so that if you tire you can always sit down into the chair and take a few breaths to rest before repeating.
Sunbird with bricks under forearms
A great bone strengthening pose as you are balancing while placing weight on your arms and shins. By elevating the back leg away from the floor, and the resistance of gravity, the osteoblasts (bone building cells) are stimulated and we build bone strength.
Come onto all fours. Press down with your hands so that you elevate your chest away from the floor or place your forearms onto bricks. Take a hand to your tummy and gently lift the tummy away from the floor. Your spine should feel flat even though you have your natural curve of the spine.
Extend your right leg back without changing the shape of your spine.
As you exhale, firm the belly and lift the right leg from the inner thigh (so you are lifting close to the bottom rather than from the foot)
Keep the natural curves of your spine.
Option to lower the toes to the floor and repeat 4-5 more times on the right side before changing legs or stay in the pose and hold for 5 breaths.
Warrior III using a chair
Facing your chair, bend your knees as if you were coming into chair pose (pose 2). Take your hands to the chair keeping your spine long and neutral.
Keeping your knees bent, walk your feet back, keeping the spine long and neutral.
As you did with pose 3, firm the belly and start to slide the right leg back. Option to keep it on the floor or start to lift the leg away from the floor. Lifting from the inner thigh (close to the trunk of the body) rather than the foot.
Take 5 breaths here or option to move dynamically. Inhaling, lower the foot and exhale lifting the left leg away from the floor, inhaling lowering left leg and repeat the dynamic movement.
Figure 4 of with twist
Start by lying on your back with knees bent. Bring your left knee into the chest and cross your right ankle over your left thigh, flexing the right foot. Slide your right foot along so that your ankle is just off your thigh. Your legs will look like a figure 4. Then slowly lower your figure 4 over to the left so that the sole of your right foot comes down to a block or to the floor. Your left hand can hold the right foot to stop it from sliding or you can use your hand to help guide the right knee away from your face.
Your right arm can slide out to the side and toward the right corner of your room. Lengthen your right hip away from your face to create length in the right side of the body.
If you feel it in your lower back try drawing your tailbone in towards the body or use more props under the legs to elevate the floor.