The Skeletal System, the Yoga Way!

By Claire Diab and Dennis Boyle

The adult human skeletal system consists of 206 bones as well as a network of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage that connects them. It provides a framework for our body, protecting our brain, heart, and organs and offering points of attachments for our muscles so that we can move. Our bones also produce red and white blood cells and store minerals like calcium to be released into the body when needed.

Our bones are living tissue, and the body is constantly breaking down bone and building new bone. This is the reason our bones grow so rapidly during childhood and how bones can heal after a break. By age 30, however, our bone density peaks and the body no longer lays down new bone as quickly as it breaks it down. Bone loss normally begins around this time. Fortunately, with a healthy diet and regular exercise, you can decrease your risk of bone loss, osteoporosis, and even fractures as you age.

Build up a strong bone bank account. Any activity that moves muscle will build bone strength, and weight-bearing exercises are particularly beneficial   Weight-bearing exercises are exercises done with the feet on the ground, such as walking, running, dancing, etc. (swimming and cycling are not weight-bearing exercises). When we are weight bearing, our muscles have to work to counter the effects of gravity, and the pull of the muscles strengthens the bones. Exercising while you’re young is like making deposits in your bone account. After age 30, it’s even more important to make sure your deposits are balancing out the withdrawals!

Build bones with yoga. Yoga is not only a weight-bearing activity (for our legs AND our arms), but it is low impact, which means it is less stressful for our joints. It’s the perfect way to build strong bones. Here are two great weight-bearing yoga poses that you can easily add to your daily routine.


Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

Stand with your feet together (or hips width apart if it’s more comfortable) and your toes facing forward.

Inhale and reach your arms overhead with palms facing each other. Then exhale and sit back into an imaginary chair.

You should feel your weight through your heels and should even be able to lift your toes off the ground if your weight is balanced.

Keep your chest lifted and your spine straight. Draw in your belly toward your spine and relax your shoulder blades down and back.

If you feel tension in your low back, lower your arms to reach forward rather than upward. Or you might choose to bring your hands to a prayer position with thumbs touching your chest.

Try to hold for 20-30 seconds if you can, breathing all the while.




Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)

Begin in a balanced standing posture with feet hips width apart, toes facing forward. Then step your feet into a wide stance, about 4 feet apart, keeping your feet parallel.

Take your left foot and turn it 90 degrees to the left, then turn your right foot slightly so that it’s angled at about a 45-degree angle. Be sure that your heels are in line with each other.

Reach your arms out so that they are parallel to the floor. Relax and soften your shoulders; avoid shrugging your shoulders toward your ears.

Then bend the left knee to bring the front thigh parallel to the floor. Keep the left knee aligned just above the ankle, creating a 90-degree angle at the knee. Keep your left hip open so that you can look down and see the left big toe.

Straighten the right knee and ground down through the outer edge of the right foot. You should feel weight evenly pressing through the front foot and the outer edge of the back foot. Keep you body aligned straight up and down, not leaning forward or backward. Glance out over your front hand.

Continue to breathe and try to hold the position for 20-30 seconds.

Straighten the front leg to come out of the pose and repeat on the opposite side.


Claire Diab is an internationally recognized Yoga therapist. She is the director of the Yoga Program for the Chopra Center founded by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. David Simon. She is an adjunct professor of Asian Studies at Seton Hall University. She is the author of several books and DVDs on Yoga including “Yoga For Firefighters.”


Dennis Boyle is a retired fire director and acting chief with the West Orange (NJ) Fire Department. He was the recipient of the 1999 New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs “Fire Officer of the Year” award.

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