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A Bone Health Doctor Just Listed the 12 Best Yoga Poses to Strengthen Bones

A doctor of rehabilitation and 50-year yogi says your yoga practice is doing way more than centering your mind and opening your joints.

three people walking outside with yoga mats for bone strengthening yogaMaskot/Getty Images

If you’re like many yoga lovers, you appreciate how this one physical activity can be so beneficial, while simultaneously so gentle. Few other practices stretch your body, quiet your mind, and can even help regulate vitals such as your heart rate and blood pressure in quite the way a regular yoga session can do.

Loren Fishman, MD, B.Phil, is a New York City researcher and doctor of rehabilitation, as well as a 50-year yoga practitioner and the creator of “the Fishman method” of yoga for osteoporosis. In a conversation with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest, Dr. Fishman points out that for all its advantages, yoga can also provide a powerful boost to your long-term bone density. In particular, Dr. Fishman referenced 12 yoga poses that are particularly great for strengthening your bones for 2021 research he published in Orthopedic Nursing.

Of these 12 poses for stronger bones, Dr. Fishman says: “They all work by putting pressure on the bones of sufficient magnitude and duration.” He says in turn, this can “stimulate the osteoblasts to make more bone.” That’s thanks to their placement of “maximum torque, compression, or pressure” on particular body parts, as we outline below.

So, while a good yoga session is a helpful tool to help you get through the week, its effects are even longer-lasting than you realized. Keep reading for the 12 best yoga poses to strengthen your bones. (“With all poses, remember not to round the spine as you go into and out of the poses, and within the poses themselves,” Dr. Fishman advises.)

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man outside does bone strengthening yoga pose, the treeStígur Már Karlsson /Heimsmyndir/Getty Images

1. Tree pose (Vriksasana): Tree pose has a special way of calling you to stillness. Dr. Fishman says tree pose also adds pressure that can strengthen the upper femur and hip. He adds that a study at the University of Southern California (USC) showed a 60-percent increase in pressure, even with the foot three-quarters of way down the calf.

Dr. Fishman says tree pose is “also extremely valuable for improving balance and avoiding falls,” though he reminds us that the raised foot should always go above or below the knee—never directly on the knee joint.

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man inside does bone strengthening yoga pose, the triangleKilito Chan/Getty Images

2. Triangle pose (Trikonasana): Triangle pose “puts torque on the lumbar spine, the neck of the femur, and the hips and ribs,” Dr. Fishman says, adding that this is another pose that will help improve balance.

man inside on yoga mat does bone strengthening yoga pose, the reverse triangleturk_stock_photographer/Getty Images

3. Reverse Triangle Pose (Parivrtta Trikonasan) – Dr. Fishman explains this pose puts “great pressures develop in the proximal femurs” (this is the very top of the femur bone that connects with the hip joint), as well as the hip and lower back.

Reverse triangle also puts “helpful pressures in the ribs and wrists,” he says. Plus? “A very powerful balance-improver.”

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woman outside does warrior 2 yoga pose to strengthen bonesKlaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

4. Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II): “Fabulous mechanical disadvantage means great pressure on the entire forward (bent leg) femur,” Dr. Fishman says of full warrior pose.

He explains that “the straight leg’s rotation works on the head of femur and hip,” helping to strengthen the upper leg and hip. This is yet another pose that he says helps with balance.

woman outside on cliff with view does a bone strengthening yoga pose, side angle posesuravikin/Getty Images

5. Side angle pose (Parsvakonasana): Another boon for balance, Dr. Fishman says side angle pose torques the lower back and the top of the femur—all good things!—and stimulates the bone-making cells of the hip, too.

woman does bone strengthening yoga inside on a yoga mat with the lotus posefizkes/Getty Images

6. Locust pose (Salabhasana): Locust “raises pressures, which stimulate bone-making in the posterior elements of the spine,” Dr. Fishman says, while it also helps balance some the forward focus on the ribs of the earlier poses.

Further, locust pose strengthens extensor muscles of the back to improve posture and reverse curvature of the spine in the upper back, which can lead to fractures.

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woman does a bridge pose for bone strengthening yoga inside on a yoga maturbancow/Getty Images

7. Bridge pose (Setu Bandhasana): Dr. Fishman says bridge pose can help strengthen the ribs and lower regions of the spine.

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older woman does yoga to strengthen bones in her bedroomKoldunova_Anna/getty images

8. Reclining Hand to Big Toe 1 (Supta Padangusthasana I): Also known to be a good hamstring stretch, this pose facilitates “extreme pressure brought to bear on relevant sections” of the femur, hip, pelvis (specifically the sitz bones), and spine.

Seated versions of this and the following pose offer less intensity, but Dr. Fishman cautions for both: “The seated versions have the potential to be dangerous. Keep the spine straight and against the back of the chair. Do not round the back.”

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young woman does supine hand to great toe 2 yoga pose on a wooden floor to strengthen bonesfizkes/Getty Images

9. Supine Hand to Big Toe 2 (Supta Padangusthasana II): In the side extension variation of this pose, there is “extreme pressure brought to bear” on the upper femur, hip, pubis, ribs, and spine, he says.

woman outside on a pink yoga mat does bone strengthening yoga pose, straight-legged twistParten Kukhilava/Getty Images

10. Straight-legged twist (Marichyasana): This “puts great pressure” on the sitz bones and pelvis, as well as “great but safe pressure” on the spine.

young woman does bone strengthening yoga outside on a yoga mat, bent leg twist poseStígur Már Karlsson /Heimsmyndir/Getty Images

11. Bent-leg twist (Matsyendrasana): The bent-leg twist “puts great pressure” on the upper femur and pelvis, plus “great but safe pressure” on the vertebra.

Dr. Fishman suggests you should hug the leg to ensure a straight spine.

woman laying down doing yoga inside on a yoga mat, the corpse poseHello Africa/Getty Images

12. Corpse pose (Savasana): Truthfully, Dr. Fishman says, Savasana is “of little value for the bones per se, but truly important at the end of the session for mental and general physiological health.” That’s good enough for us.

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Sources
Loren Fishman, MD, B.Phil, Manhattan Physical Medicine Orthopaedic Nursing: "NCPD Test: Yoga and Bone Health," June 2021

Jennifer Huizen
Jennifer is a freelance writer and editor who has worked with many online sites, including Medical News Today, Healthline, Scientific American, Audubon, Love Nature, Yale Medical Magazine, and Mongabay. She covers all things science, but her passion projects usually relate to the environment, animals, and mental health. Jennifer holds a BS Hons Biology, a BA Hons English, and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, Jennifer now lives in the U.S. with her absurdly-unique rescue cat Jim Carrey and a jungle's worth of houseplants.
Kristine Gasbarre
Krissy is the senior editor leading content for TheHealthy.com and “The Healthy” section of Reader’s Digest magazine. For two decades she has worked in digital media, books, and magazines and is a #1 New York Times and internationally bestselling ghostwriter. Her work has been featured in Reader’s Digest, People, the New York Times, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Sirius/XM Oprah Radio, and more. With degrees in psychology and cultural media studies, she assisted with a clinical research project at the Cleveland Clinic and is a certified group fitness instructor, the owner of two irresistible rescued dogs, and the partner of a physician leader in healthcare quality who is also a stage IV lymphoma survivor.