What is Bone Breathing? (+2 guided exercises)

Updated: August 26, 2022

Could daily life itself, and the mess of madness that comes with it, be negatively affecting your bone health? 

Think about it. There are mounting deadlines at work. The balancing act of maintaining relationships. And the downright uncertainty of everything right now.

And that’s all before you turn on the news…

It can all get pretty stressful, right?

And studies reveal that chronic stress can chip away at your bone density.

But don’t worry, research shows deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress. So today I’m sharing a 2-minute deep breathing exercise called “bone breathing.”

I like to think of it as meditation for your bones.

But first, let’s take a look at the role stress plays in bone health and how deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress-related bone loss.

(Click here to jump straight to the exercises if you prefer)


How Does Stress Affect Bone Density?

Chronic stress causes accelerated bone loss and weaker bone quality. That’s because stress leads to hyperactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis.

It’s a complex system, but here’s the basic run down. The HPA axis represents the way the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands interact with each other. 

Your hypothalamus is located in your brain. And it activates the pituitary gland when triggered by stress. In turn, this bean-shaped gland stimulates the adrenal glands. 

And your adrenals release cortisol, a major stress hormone, into your bloodstream.

So more stress leads to more cortisol output. And overexposure to cortisol coupled with other stress hormones can disrupt many of your body’s processes, including bone formation

What’s more, chronic stress has been linked to increased systemic inflammation –– an underlying cause of bone loss. 

Inflammation over-activates osteoclast cells that break down bone. Plus, certain inflammatory cytokines can even cause cell death in osteoblasts, the cells that build bone!

In other words, chronic stress slows bone development while stimulating bone break down. This eventually leads to bone loss. 

So we know that stress plays a key role in bone health. And the results of a study involving 11,020 postmenopausal women help put it into real-life context.

After taking measurements of their bone mineral density (BMD) at the femoral neck, lumbar spine, and total hip, the subjects were monitored for six years. 

At the end of the study, results showed that high social stress was linked to decreased BMD. In fact, each point higher in social strain (measured with a self-reporting questionnaire) was associated with 0.082% greater loss of femoral neck BMD. 

It also showed a 0.108% greater loss of total hip BMD. And a 0.069% greater loss of lumbar spine BMD. That may not sound like a lot, but if you move a couple points up the “stress scale” the excess bone loss will start to add up!

But the good news is that lowering your stress levels can help reduce your risk of excess bone loss.

And a great option to lower stress is bone breathing exercises.


What is Bone Breathing?

If you do yoga, bone breathing won’t be completely new to you as this technique has roots in yogic procedures. 

But if it all sounds like Greek to you, that’s okay. This practice is very simple. 

Bone breathing involves focusing attention on various parts of the skeleton as you take slow, deep breaths. Easy, right?  

Ancient Taoist masters used to refer to the practice as bone marrow washing. 

It was their belief that guiding the breath through the bone marrow with attention created a positive flow of energy that “washed” the bones. 

Although no specific research has been done on the particular claims of bone washing, there’s a lot to support that deep breathing exercises can reduce stress. And as we know, less stress is good news for your bones.

(And we’ll get into the research on why shortly). 

With each deep, slow breath your body releases built-up stress. And as we covered, lowering stress can reduce excess bone loss.

For that reason, I’ve created two videos to show you how to do bone breathing correctly:

Tips: Try breathing with your eyes and mouth closed. Draw air in while slightly contracting your throat. You’ll notice with this contraction that your breath slows to a calming pace and creates an ocean-like sound.

Tips: Tailor this breathing technique to suit your body. Sit with a straight spine if lying down doesn’t work well for you. Breathe with your eyes closed. 


Can Bone Breathing Really Benefit Bones?

When you do bone breathing exercises, you’re putting your breath in the driver’s seat of your autonomic nervous system.

This system has two arms. And they both have control over the heart. 

The parasympathetic nervous system slows down the heart rate. While the sympathetic nervous system speeds it up.

Breathing exercises encourage the parasympathetic nervous system to take over the sympathetic nervous system

So you relax your breathing and your body as a result, which reduces stress. But that’s not the only benefit. You also minimize the effects of oxidative stress.

This is important since findings show that oxidative stress is implicated in postmenopausal osteoporosis because it promotes bone loss.

If you’re wondering, oxidative stress is a state of an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. When this occurs, free radicals can harm cellular structures. 

Although it’s impossible to completely avoid free radical exposure, a study revealed that breathing deeply has a powerful effect on them. 

In the study, sixteen athletes were monitored during a training session. After the exercise, they were divided equally into two groups. 

Eight subjects spent forty minutes performing deep breathing in a quiet place. And the other eight subjects spent the same time sitting in a quiet place reading a magazine. 

Results showed that deep breathing reduced free radical production, increased antioxidant levels, and lowered stress. All of which are great for bone health!

Granted, the sample size of this study was very small. And the participants were athletes which makes the results hard to generalize to the public. 

But despite this, it’s a promising study. And a good first sign that more research should be conducted.


Bone Breathing for Better Bones Takeaways

If you’re looking for an easy way to reduce stress, bone breathing and breathing exercises could be an option that works for you.

It doesn’t take long to do. Plus, it’s a great technique for helping you lower bone-damaging stress. So it’s another powerful tool to add to your toolkit for healthy bones. 

I hope you found this helpful. Give these breathing exercises a go and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Article Comments

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  1. Patricia Humphrey

    June 26, 2021 , 9:20 am

    Thank you for these 2 excellent breathing techniques.
    Cheers Patricia

  2. Blaire AlgaeCal

    June 30, 2021 , 1:48 pm

    Our pleasure, Patricia! We’re so glad you enjoyed them ?

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  3. Allah yar chishti

    June 26, 2021 , 10:51 am

    beautifull very very good

  4. Blaire AlgaeCal

    June 30, 2021 , 1:48 pm

    Thank you, Allah! 🙂

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  5. Kelvin V Neilson

    June 27, 2021 , 3:25 pm

    Thank you for sharing this information. I will be developing a habit of implementing these tools starting today!

  6. Blaire AlgaeCal

    June 30, 2021 , 1:58 pm

    You’re so welcome, Kelvin! We hope you enjoy trying out these tools 🙂

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  7. Lolita

    July 3, 2021 , 5:05 pm

    I do this when I have difficulty falling asleep, sometimes it helps me and sometimes it does not seem to work.

  8. Marie Frank

    July 6, 2021 , 9:04 pm

    How fascinating to learn that some of the breathing exercises I do with yoga are bone healthy!

    Wonderful demonstration. Thank you.

  9. Blaire AlgaeCal

    July 7, 2021 , 11:43 am

    Absolutely! We’re so glad you liked this demonstration, Marie ?

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  10. Tina Biggs

    August 17, 2021 , 10:39 am

    I’m going to try these

  11. Megan AlgaeCal

    August 17, 2021 , 11:28 am

    So happy to hear this, Tina! Let us know what you think afterwards 😀

    – Megan @ AlgaeCal

  12. Janet

    December 13, 2021 , 8:44 am

    Thank you. Trying the 2 exercises was wonderfully refreshing.

  13. Kirby Johnson

    December 13, 2021 , 12:00 pm

    Hello!

    So glad you found them helpful, Janet! You can find more excellent resources to support your bone-health journey HERE. Plus, we’re always available to answer any questions you might have! Keep up all your fantastic work!

    – Kirby @ AlgaeCal

  14. Joanne

    December 13, 2021 , 4:54 pm

    Wonderful , I am excited to try these breathing exercises.

  15. Kirby Johnson

    December 15, 2021 , 2:11 pm

    Hi Joanne,

    We think you’ll love them! Thanks so much for connecting and prioritizing your bone health. We’re looking forward to seeing you on our other blog posts!

    Kirby @ AlgaeCal

  16. Barbara Alpert

    May 11, 2022 , 11:45 am

    I love that exercise and breathwork can change your bone density!

  17. Mahin

    May 11, 2022 , 3:56 pm

    Although I am doing yoga breathing exercises almost every day for the past eleven years , but
    These two breathing exercises amazingly make me so relax .
    Thanks to Algaecal

  18. Susie Lagabon

    May 12, 2022 , 1:25 pm

    Wow these simple exercises are very relaxing! Thanks for sharing!

  19. ElWanda

    May 14, 2022 , 10:30 pm

    Good article how stress affects poor bone health. The breathing exercises were easy to follow. I’m going to practice these daily. Thank you.

  20. Sondra “Sunny” Burwick

    May 15, 2022 , 10:31 am

    good article, great information. I do breathe work for my brain, calming, and to strengthen my lungs, and yoga breathing for meditation, but I didn’t realize there was “bone breathing”. Seems easy to do and will definitely add to my routine.

  21. Caroline Marie Medley

    May 15, 2022 , 9:37 pm

    What a surprise!
    Will try it! had not idea stress had such an impact on bones.

    Thank you

  22. Caroline Marie Medley

    May 15, 2022 , 9:37 pm

    What a surprise!
    Will try it! had not idea stress had such an impact on bones.

    Thank you

  23. Linda

    May 22, 2022 , 1:30 pm

    The exercises are easy to do. I’ll definitely incorporate them

  24. Anna J

    May 25, 2022 , 7:18 pm

    I intermittently meditate, so have done some yoga breathing. I did not know there could be an effect on my bones. Thank you for this information. I will make an effort to start regularly practicing these exercises.

  25. rose

    October 10, 2022 , 9:06 am

    Great information explaining the root cause of how stress can change bone density and how to manage stress.

  26. Brianne Bovenizer

    October 10, 2022 , 2:53 pm

    Hi Rose,

    Thanks so much for commenting, we’re so happy to hear you enjoyed this article! 🙂

    – Brianne @ AlgaeCal

  27. Elena Brady

    October 10, 2022 , 12:12 pm

    Thank you so much for this exercise.

  28. Brianne Bovenizer

    October 10, 2022 , 2:51 pm

    Hi Elena,

    Thanks for commenting, we’re so happy you liked this article! 🙂

    – Brianne @ AlgaeCal

This article features advice from our industry experts to give you the best possible info through cutting-edge research.

Prof. Didier Hans
PHD, MBA - Head of Research & Development Center of Bone Diseases, Lausanne University Hospital CHUV, Switzerland,
Lara Pizzorno
MDiv, MA, LMT - Best-selling author of Healthy Bones Healthy You! and Your Bones; Editor of Longevity Medicine Review, and Senior Medical Editor for Integrative Medicine Advisors.,
Dr. Liz Lipski
PhD, CNS, FACN, IFMP, BCHN, LDN - Professor and Director of Academic Development, Nutrition programs in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health.,
Dr. Loren Fishman
MD, B.Phil.,(oxon.) - Medical Director of Manhattan Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Founder of the Yoga Injury Prevention Website.,
Dr. Carole McArthur
MD, PhD - Professor of Immunology, Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City; Director of Residency Research in Pathology, Truman Medical Center.,