Can Yoga stop you ageing? by Patricia Ezechie


London: In a society obsessed with looking young and where youth and beauty are prized above all other attributes, it is not surprising to learn that more than 22% of women in Europe use anti-ageing skin creams every week, spending billions of pounds every year on treatments and preparations in the hope that any signs of ageing can at the very least be halted if not reversed.

With more and more people also viewing cosmetic surgery and non surgical interventions like botox, fillers, peels and plumpers as essential tools in the battle against the ravages of time, could a practice as simple (and inexpensive) as yoga be the answer? Can yoga halt and maybe even reverse the ageing process?

Before you start reaching for the phone to cancel that botox appointment while simultaneously hurling your eye wateringly expensive skin preparation into the bin lets agree on what constitutes ageing. Is ageing the fact that your breasts and bottom are not quite as pert as they used to be, or is it that when you smile you have laughter lines? Is it the fact that your waist is not quite as waif like as it once was, or that when you look in the mirror these days itÂ’s seems to be your mother looking back at you?

I would agree that all of the above are physical manifestations of the ageing process, but only part of the picture with the focus being purely on the external. Is it these physical changes or the number of years you have been around that should define how ‘old’ you are or feel?

The Eastern view of age is very different. In Yoga it is the age of the spine, not the number of years (or pertness, or evidence of wrinkles) that determines an individualÂ’s age. It is the elasticity and flexibility of the spine, the tone of the tissues, ligaments joints and nerves and the relative smooth functioning and health of the bodies systems that determines age.

Before you groan and switch off please note that an added benefit of increased mobility and flexibility is increased tone (pertness), increased blood supply to all of the bodies organs (including the skin which is one of the largest organs in the body leading to plumpness and firmness) and improved posture (strengthened and toned abdominals and back). Yes, the regular practice of yoga does provide all these benefits.

Spinal health is key in the battle against age. The spine, made up of 33 irregularly shaped bones (or vertebrae), intervertebral discs, facet joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, cord and canal act as a strong yet flexible column and support for the whole body, providing and enabling the power of movement and bearing the weight of all the organs and appendages attached. When practicing yoga, the joints of the body are moved through their full range of motion, encouraging mobility and easing pressure.

The gentle stretching during asana practice (this is the physical element of yoga), releases muscle tension, stretches the joints causing the secretion of synovial fluid into the joints keeping them healthy and supple resulting in reduced stiffness preventing conditions such as arthritis and helping to improve the condition if it already exists (by very gentle practice with a qualified and experienced teacher).

Regular and continued practice of asana encourages strength and endurance, leading to increased tone in all the muscles of the body, improved blood circulation with the added benefit of the focusing on the breath helping to soothe and calm the nervous system.

The beauty of the practice of yoga is the more continued and sustained the practice the more cumulative the effects, with the long term benefits including reduced stress and anxiety levels and increased feelings of health and well being. As the nerves of the brain and spine go to every tissue in the body and therefore every tissue in the body depending upon the health of the brain and spine, the importance of the spine in the fight against age becomes apparent.

Healthy and flexible spine, healthy, flexible and youthful body! When we also factor in that during the practice of yoga the skin is continually being stretched causing stimulation of the skin cells and endocrine system resulting in firmer, healthier skin, I think the assertion that yoga can slow and possibly stop the ageing process is no idle boast.

The miracle of yoga is that it is suitable and can be of benefit to everyone, irrespective of age, size, sex, or ability. It is never too late to begin, does not require loads of costly equipment and the benefits can be felt almost immediately. The practice encourages and engenders balance in all things and an awareness of the mind and body that will enable all those who participate to begin to make positive and healthful changes to their lives.

In a society so highly focused on the external it is perhaps a timely reminder that the most sustained and maintainable changes and improvements to the ‘visible’ body are as a result of the correct and efficient working of the internal elements of the body. Get the inside working efficiently and the outside will reflect these changes with lustre and youth.

Getting older is inevitable and no amount of lotions, potions or interventions (surgical or otherwise) can hide the results of age indefinitely. We should be aspiring to embrace the wisdom and freedom that comes with increasing age while maintaining our physical and mental health, fitness and mobility, by practices like Yoga that both nurture and nourish the body and mind.

Can yoga stop you ageing? If youthfulness is defined as energy and vitality, mobility and strength, suppleness and stamina then yes yoga can!

Patricia Ezechie, is a BWY, Sivananda and Birthlight trained yoga teacher. She has been practicing yoga for 13 years and is the owner of where full details of all her classes and workshops can be found. have launched a new range of T-shirts, for autumn/winter 09. Perfect for wearing in yoga class or out for a jog in the park, the T-shirts come in an array of brooding autumn colours. To look at the range of colours visit


Get free back health information from the experts


London: How Healthy Is Your Back After National BackCare Awareness Week?

At the end of National BackCare Awareness Week, the Osteopaths at Posture Dynamics have reiterated the importance of keeping your back in tip-top shape the whole year through and highlighted how easy it is to keep your back healthy with just a few changes to your daily routine.

If you missed out on attending any of the nationwide seminars and events held as part of National BackCare Week, Daren Fletcher, the founder of Posture Dynamics recommends a quick refresher course in some of the basics of modern health. “It’s all too easy to get caught up in busy daily lives and forget that we need to make time to ensure our joints and muscles remain supple and active.”

“National BackCare Week was a timely reminder that staying active and exercising regularly plays a significant part in the prevention and management of back pain.”

Integrating the services of Osteopathy, Cranial Osteopathy, Physiotherapy, Acupuncture, Sports Massage and Pilates, Posture Dynamics have been keeping LondonÂ’s backs healthy for over a decade.

In order to prevent back pain and manage any existing pains, National BackCare Week drew attention to the huge range of exercise classes and disciplines now widely accessible in the UK.

“Lessons in arts such as Pilates and Yoga may have age-old roots but they can help to treat a very modern problem,” adds Fletcher. “These disciplines of stretching and strengthening exercises help to condition the body’s “core” and are particularly recommended for those who do have problems with sore and aching backs.”

The BackCare Charity for healthier backs also recommended making small changes to the daily office routine. At Posture Dynamics, the osteopaths regularly treat office workers in Kensington, Ealing and Victoria who experience pain and soreness due to the many hours spent at a desk or computer. Embracing the BackCare principle of making small changes, Posture Dynamics advise that even a small non-disruptive action such as standing up while talking on the phone or taking a short walk around the office every hour can relieve tension and make a noticeable difference to overall wellbeing.

For more information about keeping your back healthy, visit

How to get a healthy back – tips from the osteopath experts

The way you walk, sit or sleep effects posture and can constitute to a number of serious, long-term health issues. Leading London-based osteopaths, Posture Dynamics explain the rules to consider for good posture.

Slouching is both unattractive and unhealthy and can result in a number of common complaints such as neck and shoulder pain and lower back pain. Advising on the features for maintaining good posture, Osteopathic professional of Posture Dynamics, Darren Fletcher states, “some of the most common complaints occur as a result of bad posture. It is fundamental to be aware of this fact whether you are walking, running, sitting or sleeping.- insert quote.”

Posture Dynamics advice on a healthy back posture:

The “S” Shape: Strengthen your spine into its natural balanced “S” shape position by adjusting your chair: The hip joint should be slightly higher than the knee joint.
Desk duties: Forearms should be parallel to the floor.
When seated at a computer, ensure that the screen is positioned at arms length and the top of the screen is 2-3 inches above eye-level.

The mouse should fit comfortably in your hand. To avoid quick repetitive movements, try to cut down on mouse usage by using keyboard shortcuts.
Space: Arrange the desk layout to allow ease of movement – if space is limited, tidy your desk!

Telephone: Place in an easy to reach zone by the keyboard. Consider a “headset” if you are on the phone for 40% of the time or more.
Take regular breaks: One of the most frequent pieces of advice you will hear, and also one of the most difficult pieces of advice to follow. Try to take a 5-minute break every 20-30 minutes.
Eat well and exercise: Lack of cardiovascular exercise not only affects our general wellbeing/health, but also affects our posture.

Health management issues and prevention of future ailments is a dominant feature of the service offered by Posture Dynamics. Understanding your body and the effects of posture is one of the most important elements to a long-term healthy future. For further details and tips on how to stay healthy and prevent future osteopathic complaints, please visit:

Once a year 15 minute therapy cuts risk of broken bones in post-menopausal women, new study finds

San Francisco: A study published today for a treatment that is given just once a year has been shown to significantly decrease the risk of broken hips and other broken bones, caused by post-menopausal osteoporosis.1

The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on 3rd May found that the active treatment zoledronic acid 5mg (Aclasta) cut the risk of broken hips by 41% and the risks of breaks to the spine (vertebrae) by 70% compared to patients on no treatment (placebo). Broken bones at other parts of the body, such as wrists, were cut by 25%.

Zoledronic acid 5mg was given as a short infusion (at least 15 minutes) once a year in the three year study. All patients received daily calcium and vitamin D supplements which are essential for good bone health.

The authors state: “A once-yearly infusion of zoledronic acid (5mg) during a 3-year period was associated with a significant and sustained decrease in the risk of vertebral, hip, and other fractures. An annual infusion of zoledronic acid (5 mg) may provide a promising approach to reducing fracture risk. “1

The three-year study was carried out in 7,765 post-menopausal women, aged 65 to 89, from 27 countries including the UK. Approximately half received zoledronic acid 5mg and half placebo.

British women who took part in the study were treated at centres in Aberdeen, Sheffield, Liverpool and Glasgow.

The pharma, Novartis, is currently seeking a licence for zoledronic acid 5mg (Aclasta®) for post menopausal osteoporosis in the UK.

Over the three years, 88 (2.5%) of the women in the placebo group suffered a hip fracture compared to 52 (1.4%) of the women in the zoledronic acid 5mg group.

The researchers, led by Professor Dennis Black, of the University of California, San Francisco, said “During a 3-year period, an annual infusion of zoledronic acid 5mg significantly reduced the risk of fracture at all key osteoporotic fracture sites, including the two primary end points, vertebral and hip fractures.” 1

“A regimen of infusions once a year appears to ensure that patients will have a full treatment effect for at least 12 months.1

Despite the availability of effective treatments for osteoporosis, poor adherence to drug regimens reduces the benefits and presents a major challenge for health professionals. 4

Figures from the National Osteoporosis Society say that over 60,000 hip and 120,000 vertebral fractures take place each year in the UK. 22

The UK’s National Osteoporosis Society says that around one in five (18%) people die within three months of having a broken hip accounting for around 14,000 deaths per year in this country alone. A woman with a vertebral fracture has a four times higher risk of death than a woman with no vertebral fractures. 2

One of the authors of the study, Professor Richard Eastell, Professor of Bone Metabolism at Sheffield UniversityÂ’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said the findings provided potential good news for thousands of women suffering from osteoporosis.

Professor Eastell pointed out that “The ability to only have the treatment once a year does mean that it simplifies the whole regimen. You don’t have to remember every day to take this medication. There is no doubt that Aclasta reduces vertebral fracture, hip fracture and other breaks.”

Professor David Reid, Professor of Rheumatology at the University of Aberdeen, who led one of the UK centres involved in the study said that the hip fracture data was particularly relevant.

“Preventing hip fractures remains the holy grail of treating osteoporosis, as we know that six months after a hip fracture, nearly a fifth of patients will be dead. Reducing hip fractures by 41% is therefore highly clinically significant.”

Study Details

In this double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 3889 patients were randomly assigned to receive a single 15-minute 5mg infusion of zoledronic acid and 3876 were assigned to receive a placebo infusion at baseline, at 12 months, and at 24 months; the patients were followed until 36 months. 1 All patients in the study also received daily calcium and vitamin D supplementation.

Primary end points were new vertebral fractures (in patients not taking concomitant osteoporosis medications) and hip fracture (in all patients). Secondary end points included bone mineral density, bone turnover markers, and safety outcomes.

Treatment with zoledronic acid 5mg reduced the risk of vertebral fracture by 70% over a 3-year period, as compared with placebo (3.3% in the zoledronic-acid 5mg group vs. 10.9% in the placebo group; relative risk, 0.30; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.24 to 0.38) and reduced the risk of hip fracture by 41% (1.4% in the zoledronic-acid 5mg group vs. 2.5% in the placebo group; hazard ratio, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.42 to 0.83).

Over the three years, 88 (2.5%) of the women in the placebo group suffered a hip fracture compared to 52 (1.45%) of the women in the zoledronic acid 5mg group.

The figures for vertebral fracture were 310 women (10.9%) in the placebo group versus 92 (3.3%) on zoledronic acid 5mg.

Secondary fracture endpoints of nonvertebral, and clinical (symptomatic) vertebral fractures were reduced by 25% and 77%, respectively (P<0.001 for all comparisons). Zoledronic acid 5mg was also associated with a significant improvement in bone mineral density and bone metabolism markers.

The majority of adverse events seen with the active treatment, including flu-like symptoms, were transient and resolved shortly after the treatment. Adverse events were similar in the two study groups. However, serious atrial fibrillation was seen more frequently in the zoledronic-acid 5mg group (1.3% vs. 0.5% patients, P<0.001). The observed association might be due to chance but is being further studied in other trials of zoledronic acid 5mg.

Risks of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a long-term disease with consequences such as broken bones that only become apparent long after the condition starts. 2

Osteoporosis, which literally means “porous bone,” is a disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced. As the bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture is greatly increased. 2

One in two women will suffer a fracture after the age of 50. 2

The lifetime risk of fracture in women at age 50 years is greater than the risk of breast cancer or cardiovascular disease. 2

On the basis of current trends, hip fracture rates in the UK may increase from approximately 46,000 in 1985 to 117,000 in 2016. 2

The most common osteoporotic fracture sites are: lower vertebral fracture (120,000), hip (60,000) and wrist (50,000). 2

Compliance Issues

The total number of women prescribed medication for osteoporosis in the UK is approximately 480,000. 2

One year after an osteoporotic fracture, the majority of patients are not prescribed any pharmaceutical agents for the prevention of a further fracture. 2

A retrospective analysis of a large US population of bisphosphonate users (>35,000 women) who were followed for 2 years demonstrated a significant association with adherence to bisphosphonate therapy and risk of osteoporotic fractures3.

About Novartis

Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) is a world leader in offering medicines to protect health, cure disease and improve well-being. Our goal is to discover, develop and successfully market innovative products to treat patients, ease suffering and enhance the quality of life. We are strengthening our medicine-based portfolio, which is focused on strategic growth platforms in innovation-driven pharmaceuticals, high-quality and low-cost generics, human vaccines and leading self-medication OTC brands. Novartis is the only company with leadership positions in these areas. In 2006, the GroupÂ’s businesses achieved net sales of USD 37.0 billion and net income of USD 7.2 billion. Approximately USD 5.4 billion was invested in R&D. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 101,000 associates and operate in over 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit


1. Black et al. Once-yearly Zoledronic Acid 5mg for Treatment of Postmenopausal Osteoporosis. New England Journal of Medicine 2007 356;18; 1809-1822
2. National Osteoporosis Society. Osteoporosis facts and figures (version 1.1). (Accessed April 2007)
3. Siris et al. Adherence to bisphosphonate therapy and fracture rates in osteoporosis women: relationship to vertebral and nonvertebral fractures from 2 US claims databases. Mayo Clin Proc 2006; 81 (8): 1013 – 1022.
4. Compston. Treatments for Osteoporosis- Looking beyond the HORIZON. New England Journal of Medicine 2007 356; 18; 1878-1880

Nose stem cells may be used to repair spinal cord damage

London: British scientists are developing a technique to aid paralysed patients to walk using stem cells to repair spinal cord damage. It may also benefit stroke victims and allow some blind and deaf people to see and hear.

It takes self-regenerating stem cells from nerves in the lining of the nose and injects them into damaged points in the spine.

The cells provide a bridge enabling spinal nerves to grow and potentially to re-connect, alleviating or possibly curing paralysis.

The first ten patients will be treated next year at the National Hospital in Queen’s Square, London, following successful tests in dogs and rats.

The research has been called the ‘Superman’ spinal cure after actor Christopher Reeve, who played the superhero.

Reeve campaigned tirelessly for stem cell research after being paralysed in a horse riding accident in 1995.

He died last year aged 52 without seeing his dream come true.

Professor Geoffrey Raisman, who is leading the clinical trials, was presented with a research medal in the actor’s name by Meryl Streep in New York last week.

He told a London conference yesterday: ‘It will be historic if we can show it works. It will open the door.

‘There is enormous potential for treating injuries which at the moment cannot be cured.’

The stem cells used are in nerves which connect the nose with the brain, allowing us to smell.

Unlike most other cells in the body, these regenerate throughout adulthood.

The cells will be multiplied in the laboratory and injected into the spinal cord.

Harvesting the cells is difficult and currently only a small number can be retrieved, limiting the type of injury that can be treated.

‘At present we can only multiply the cells two or threefold,’ said Professor Raisman, who began his research 35 years ago.

‘We have to spread them as thinly as possible to form a bridge, so we can only treat small injuries.

‘If this works there will be a tidal wave of interest and we can then work to get bigger replication.’

The first patients will have suffered an injury where the nerves in their arm have lost their connection with the spinal cord, resulting in limited arm movement.

The injury normally occurs in motorbike accidents and never recovers of its own accord.

Professor Raisman, who is chairman of the committee on neurological regeneration at the Institute of Neurology, University College London, said: ‘We know that no one with this condition has ever recoveredso if we get one patient to recover it is important.

‘We are trying something that has never been done. This is a unique trial and we hope it will lead to an incredible advance.

‘There is no way currently of repairing damage to the spinal cord and nerves.

‘I have spent my lifetime on this, and this is the crucial step.’

Scientists in China are reported to have successfully treated spinal cord victims but this has not been independently corroborated.

Trials are being carried out in Australia, with results expected in 2007.

Professor Raisman added: ‘Stroke, blindness and deafness can all be caused by nerve damage and this is the first step towards a treatment.

It is something this country can absolutely lead on.’

Controversy has surrounded research on stem cells – which have the ability to become many different types of tissue in the body – where they are taken from embryos.

But the latest work uses the patient’s own stem cells – and it avoids the risks of rejection.

Professor Raisman’s team is funded entirely through donations raised by a consortium of charities including the British Neurological Research Trust.

‘Our programme costs half a million pounds a year which isn’t much in the great scheme of things, but I spend 90 per cent of my time fundraising,’ he added.

Alexander Technique

An exercise method designed to re-educate posture and balance. The patient is encouraged to use special movements while carrying out everyday activities such as sitting, lying down, standing, walking lifting. The patient focuses on the way he/she moves so that day-to-day physical activity can be carried out with minimum strain. It treats musculo-skeletal problems, back pain and repetitive strain injury. It can also assist with emotional discorders.

Further information from:

Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique
1st Floor
39-51 Highgate Road
London NW5 1RS. UK
Tel: ++ 44 (0)845 230 7828
Fax: ++ 44 (0)207 482 5435