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To the Bone (the Wednesday post) October 20, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Fitness, Food, Healing Stories, Health, Life, Music, Pain, Science, Twin Cities, Wisdom, Yoga.
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This is the “missing” post for Wednesday, October 20th. You can request an audio recording of either practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.]

“When the bones are good, the rest don’t matter
Yeah, the paint could peel, the glass could shatter
Let it break ’cause you and I remain the same
When there ain’t a crack in the foundation
Baby, I know any storm we’re facing
Will blow right over while we stay put
The house don’t fall when the bones are good”

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– quoted from the song “The Bones” by Maren Morris

Unless something goes wrong, our bones are something we very rarely talk about. Sure, when I taught Yin Yoga on a regular basis, my quick-and-dirty explanation for the different engagement was that in vinyasa and other weight-bearing exercises, we are typically squeezing our muscle and skin into the bones, while with Yin Yoga (and Restorative) we want the muscle and skin to melt away from the bones. However, that’s not even completely accurate. While we do squeeze the muscle (and the skin) into the bones in order to move the bones, once we are holding a pose, proper alignment can give us an opportunity to relax some of the muscle and skin. Also, I’ve done some special events where I talk about “Dem Bones” – referencing the way our bones are connected and the song (which, by the way, is virtually impossible to add to a playlist) but, even then, I wasn’t talking about bone health. All that changed today; because today (October 20th) was World Osteoporosis Day.

Originally conceived in 1996, by the United Kingdom’s Osteoporosis Society (and supported by the European Commission), World Osteoporosis Day has been organized by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) since 1997, and recognized by the World Health Organization since 1998. It is a day dedicated to “raising global awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease.” This year’s theme is “Serve Up Bone Strength” and there will be a year-long campaign centered around taking care of and protecting the muscles and bones. Of course, the campaign centers around education and awareness about the importance of bone health and what we can do at any age or ability to promote it.

“Those who practice yoga say it is life changing. Those of us who are as flexible as a piece of lumbar are not so sure. I admire yoga’s rich history, more than five thousand years old, but I run into a few mental roadblocks in understanding concepts like grounding and spinal energy. In fact, I was sitting in my slumped-over and crooked version of the lotus position during a special yoga class taught by Bruce’s mentor Matthew Sanford, when Matthew said to a student, ‘Breathe into your spine for God’s sake!’ I had no idea what that meant. The student understood though, and he made proper adjustments. What was remarkable was that both teacher and student were in wheelchairs.

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– quoted from “24. Dis Ease Yoga” in When Know How This Ends: Living while Dying by Bruce H. Kramer with Cathy Wurzer

The word “osteoporosis” comes from Greek words meaning “bone” and “passage” or “pore.” The condition causes bones to weaken form the inside out and become so fragile that the simplest things can can cause the bones to break or fracture. By “the simplest things,” I mean that someone with osteoporosis can suffer a break or a fracture when they sneeze, make a sudden movement, bump up against something, and/or experience a a minor fall or stumble. Sure, we may think about someone breaking a bone when they have a major fall; but, if your bones are brittle, even stubbing your toe on something and then catching yourself before you tumble to the ground can result in a severe injure. Keep in mind, also, that a minor fracture when you have healthy bones may or may not be a big deal. However, osteoporosis-related fractures can be life-threatening and are a major cause of pain and long-term disability.

According to the World Osteoporosis Day website, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men, age 50 years or older, will suffer an osteoporotic fracture. That works out to millions and millions of people many of whom will not seek treatment. Additionally, statistics indicate that only about 20% of people with osteoporotic fractures are actually treated for osteoporosis. That translates into millions of people who may have a fracture or a break treated, but remain at high risk for more fractures and more breaks and that can translate into a major drain on the healthcare system.

The older we get, the more likely we are to fall and there is sometimes a tendency to handle our bones with care. But, sometimes we go to far in our efforts to protect ourselves and actually create more risk. The human body is designed to move and to stay mobile. Consider the fact that even when we are not moving on the outside, there are lots of things inside of us that are in constant motion. For example, the spine reacts to breathing unless something gets in the way. There’s a micro-extension when we inhale and a little bit of flexion when we exhale. This little bit of movement is one of the ways the spine stays healthy and balanced and one of the ways it supports us and our nervous system. Take away that little bit of movement and we’ve got some problems.

“Jo and I discovered that alignment and precision increase mind-body integration regardless of paralysis. The mind is not strictly confined to a neurophysiological connection with the body. If I listen inwardly to my whole experience (both my mind’s and my body’s), my mind can feel my legs.

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This is one of those truths that is easy to pass by, like the existence of dinosaurs. But in fact, it should dumbfound us – that, on some level, something as simple as the more precise distribution of gravity can transcend the limits set by a dysfunctional spinal cord. When I move from a slumped position to a more aligned one, my mind becomes more present in my thighs and feet. This happens despite my paralysis. It is simply a matter of learning to listen to a different level of presence, to realizing that the silence within my paralysis is not loss. In fact, it is both awake and alive.”

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– quoted from “14. Maha Mudra” in Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence by Matthew Sanford

A few years ago, one of my yoga-buddies, Sister Karen, forwarded me an article about studies showing that some asanas and some styles of yoga are good for bone health. Since she and some of the other people in her community are of an age where they are thinking about their bone-density, she wanted to know what I would recommend. As it turned out, the article mentioned poses that we do in almost every vinyasa practice. In fact, a typical vinyasa practice is a weight-bearing practice. Like walking, another great weight-bearing exercise for the bones, it usually includes a little balance even when you don’t realize you’re balancing.

Remember, whenever you take a step, there is a moment when you are balancing on one foot. We may not think very much of it when we are in the prime of our lives; however, being able to stand on one foot (and then hop on one foot) is an important marker in child development. A toddler has to be able to stand on one foot in order to…well, toddle. By age 5 or 6, a neurotypical child should be able to balance on one foot for about 10 seconds; jump up and land with both feet; jump over an object that is 10 inches high; hop on one foot for about 20 feet (or more); and skip. Keep in mind “normal” falls on a spectrum when it comes to child development there’s no hard-and-fast timeline in terms of when a child goes from balancing on one foot for 4 seconds to balancing on one foot for 20 seconds (which is a marker for someone who is 7 years old). Similarly, some kids will walk on their tiptoes long enough for it to be recognized as a balancing marker, while others will not be super invested in that experience.

The body’s ability to balance is based on continuous communication and coordination between the brain, the inner ear, eyes, muscles, and joints. These parts of our overall system, and the communication between them, make up our proprioception and vestibular systems. Proprioception is how the brain uses the muscle and joints to find the body in space. The vestibular system sometimes called the balance center combines that awareness of the body’s position (in reference to the elements around it) with information about speed of motion (acceleration and deceleration) that is transmitted through the inner ear and eyes. This speed of motion information is largely based on the position of the head. Change one element and we wobble, maybe even fall.

“And I’m free, free fallin’
Yeah I’m free, free fallin'”

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– quoted from the song “Free Fallin'” by Tom Petty (b. 10/20/1950)

The IOF recommends the following five tips or steps to healthy bones and a fracture-free future:

  • EXERCISE: Exercise regularly to keep your bones and muscles moving. For bone health, focus on weight-bearing, muscle-strengthening, and balance-training exercises.
  • NUTRITION: Ensure your diet is rich in bone-healthy nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and protein. You can combine these first two elements by talking a walk (or run) outside in order to absorb a little vitamin D through safe exposure to the sun.
  • LIFESTYLE: Avoid negative lifestyle habits by maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking and excessive amounts of alcohol.
  • RISK FACTORS: Some bone issues are genetic; so, make sure you know your family history and talk to your health care practitioner about any old fractures or bone pain. Also, talk to your health care provider about any medication that might affect your bone health.
  • TESTING & TREATMENT: One of the big activities around World Osteoporosis Day is bone-strength testing for people 40 years or older and people in other high risk groups. Lifestyle changes and/or medication can help protect your bones. Furthermore, the earlier osteoporosis is detected, the effectively it can be treated.

Remember, in American English “bad” has two meanings. Take a moment to consider what you can do so that you are “bad to the bone” in a way that is “even better than good,” rather than in a way that means your bones are “horrible” or “of quality.”

“I’m here to tell ya honey
That I’m bad to the bone
Bad to the bone
B-B-B-B-Bad
B-B-B-Bad
B-B-B-Bad
(Hoo) bad to the bone”

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– quoted from the song “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood & The Destroyers

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

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“‘Cause these dry-dry bones gonna rise up, gonna rise up

Gonna rise up, gonna rise up
Gonna rise up, gonna rise up
Gonna rise up

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Take my hand let it set you free
Keep working on your destiny
There’s healing in the air, get touched
Can you feel it ’cause the message is love”

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– quoted from the song “Dry Bones” by Gregory Porter

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Have your voted for the Carry app today?

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### … thigh bones connected to the hip bones (and hips don’t lie) … ###

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