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Core Opening Yoga: A Different Way To Strengthen Your Bones

By Judy Fuller, RYT, CMT

*Appeared in The Union, March 1, 2016

In our busy world of pushing and striving, Core Opening Yoga offers a new way of being in your body and life that invites ease, self-compassion and a subtle body awareness. This yoga practice is unique in that it’s centered more on “beingness” than “doingness.” Rather than focusing on strengthening your core muscles and using tension to hold yourself up, Core Opening Yoga invites you to let go, surrender those long held core tensions, and lean into your bones instead.

Why do you want to strengthen your bones?

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, “Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones. It happens when you lose too much bone; make too little bone, or both. As a result, your bones become weak and may break from a minor fall. Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” If you look at healthy bone under a microscope, you will see that parts of it look like a honeycomb. If you have osteoporosis, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb are much bigger than they are in healthy bone. This means your bones have lost density or mass and that the structure of your bone tissue has become abnormal. As your bones become less dense, they also become weaker and more likely to break.”

The currently held theory around rebuilding bone density is focused on doing weight-baring exercises.

Or, in other words, lifting weights to stimulate bones to grow more bone cells. This works great to stimulate more cells right where the muscles insert into the bone, but what about the rest of the bone? If you continue to stimulate, i.e. pull on the bone, in the same place over and over you may grow a spur or bump on the bone that shouldn’t be there and can cause problems. It can lead to stenosis and even nerve impingement in the spine. And, if you stimulate only the ends of the bones, your body will tend to stop building as many bone cells in the center of your bones, potentially making the overall bone weaker.

When we contract a muscle, calcium is needed to stimulate and maintain the engaged muscle’s contraction. If we hold that muscle in tension, even more calcium is needed to maintain the contraction. So when we habitually tighten and hold around the bones an ongoing source of calcium is needed. Our bodies will begin to pull calcium from nearby bones to keep those muscles “toned” and “tight.

What happens when you soften the core muscles around your bones and lean into the whole bone instead?

In Core Opening Yoga you bare the weight of your body in your bones and learn to soften the deep muscles around the bones, especially in your pelvis and spine. In doing so you allow the calcium trapped inside those muscles to be released. When you begin to lean weight into your bones, the bones can reabsorb the calcium released from the muscles. And your bones can build more bone cells throughout the entire bone, not just where the muscles connect. Virtually every movement and activity can become an opportunity to rebuild bone density.

Holding the weight of your body in your bones instead of your muscles is a whole new way of being in your body.

Core Opening Yoga has shown amazing results with students in reducing bone loss and regaining bone density in their spine and hipbone, including my mother in her 80’s. It does require a daily core opening yoga practice and a continual practice of body awareness throughout your day. In more serious cases I suggest ongoing private sessions & weekly classes. Breaking those old strongly held deep tension patterns takes time and practice.

Core Opening Yoga follows these principles from my Svaroopa® Yoga training:

“Muscles are for Movement, Bones are for Support,

Soften your muscles, Lean into your bones,

And your bones will grow stronger”

Testimonials:

After many years of seeing my bone density readings decline, I decided that instead of taking prescribed medications, I would try Judy Fuller’s Core Opening Yoga class as recommended by a friend. After 2 years in the class, I went to my 2-year bone density scan, and for the first time, my bone loss had stopped. Not only has this class made a major impact on my bone health, but it has also made a significant change in my overall health, decreasing stress and improving flexibility, all without the use of harmful medications.

LeeAnn

My body has always been naturally very loose. Further opening of my joints and loosening of my ligaments created tension in my muscles as they worked to keep my body together. When I got the diagnosis of osteoporosis, I realized I couldn't even feel my bones. Core Opening Yoga helped me drop into my bones, ease my muscles and put my joints back together increasing my strength, balance and general wellbeing in my body, mind and spirit.

There is an ease of relying on the support of my bones that was hard to notice when the “doingness” of muscle was dominant. When needed in the natural movement of my day, my muscles are available and strong; everything in balance, a feeling of doing without effort, the feeling of just being.

Kathie, long time Hatha Yoga teacher


Yoga For Your Back and Your Bliss

By Judy Fuller, CMT, RYT 200 and Casey Gerdes, E-RYT 500, CSYT

Yoga says "Bliss is your ultimate state." But many people ask, what is bliss? Bliss can best be described as a deep inner sense of well-being and ease. It's relaxation, inner peace, a quiet mind, and more. Most of us don't experience bliss very often. In fact, what most of us experience much of the time would probably be called the direct opposite of bliss! Why?

Core Tension

The core tension we accumulate in our bodies over time can create all kinds of physical problems and pain. By core tension, I'm referring to the tension in the muscles that are attached to the spine. This tension can pull the spinal vertebrae closer together, or out of place. In addition to causing physical discomfort, this core tension is what impedes our ability to feel blissful.

One of the ancient yoga texts says: "The bliss of consciousness is acquired by the expansion of the central energy channel (the spine)" (Pratyabhijnyahrdayam, sutra 17). This means your spine must be relaxed and open in order for you to experience bliss. In Core Opening yoga we call the process of expansion and relaxation "core opening."

Core Opening Yoga

Core Opening yoga specializes in releasing the core tensions held in the deepest layers of your body. We sequence yoga poses in a specific order to first release tension in the muscles connected to your tailbone, then carry the release sequentially up your spine through your sacrum, waist (lumbar), ribcage, shoulders, neck and skull. This spinal release opens more space for the vertebrae, the discs in between, and the delicate nerve roots that command every muscle, bone, artery, organ and gland in your body.

The result is the lengthening and softening of back and neck muscles, bringing incredible relief for those suffering from back and neck tension or pain. For myself, the chronic low back pain and sciatica present for more than 3 years was relieved in a few months of daily practice. Now, if I experience discomfort, a 20-minute yoga practice will ease it.

Core Openness

Core Openingyoga is not exercise with sweat and strain. Using supportive propping and precise alignment, this yoga allows your body to naturally unwind, from the inside out. Over time, your body relearns how to sit, stand and move from core openness; rather than from holding. Flexibility, strength, vitality and stamina naturally emerge, along with an innate sense of well-being and bliss. Dissolving inner tension allows you to live with ease, both in your body and in your deeper self.

Living with a more open spine allows you to gradually learn to surrender into a grace that is ever present within you. You begin to release your tendency to hold yourself tightly. You step more fully into living from your true Self and your Bliss.

Come to a Core Opening yoga class and experience a more open spine for yourself!


"The deceptively simple poses, combined with Judy's sensitive instruction are a powerful combination. Judy's Svarooopa® classes have made the world of difference in my back problem. I recommend her highly!" - Janet Cohen

Judy Fuller is a Holistic Somatic Practitioner, in practice since 1990, with extensive training that includes massage, bodywork, hypnotherapy, Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counseling, Svaroopa® Yoga and Embodyment® Yoga Therapy. Judy's rich background allows her to bring a unique, integrative expertise to each class and private session, helping clients overcome back pain and other obstacles to their Bliss. She currently teaches Core Opening Yoga at Full Life Yoga Studio (fulllifeyogastudio.com) in Nevada City's Seven Hills Business District, and Alta Sierra Home Studio located 1 mile from Highway 49 and Alta Sierra Drive.

All levels of students are welcome to attend. Private sessions are also available. For more information, call Judy at 530-274-2635, or visit her website: yogawithjudy.massageplanet.com

Casey Gerdes, E-RYT500, CSYT, is a Leading Svaroopa®Yoga Teacher and Advanced Svaroopa®Yoga Therapist. For more information email Casey@YogawithCasey.com, or visit her website: YogawithCasey.com