How to Lengthen the Spine With Yoga

Inversions help lengthen the spine by reversing the pull of gravity on your body.
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While yoga can’t actually help you grow a couple of inches, it can give you the appearance of being taller by teaching you how to align and lengthen your spine properly. This lengthening action not only makes you look and feel taller, it releases tension in your muscles and can help reduce back pain. It also makes it easier to move through a wider range of motion when you bend and twist. With a lengthened spine, you’ll have better posture, and you’ll look more poised.

    Step 1

    Alternate between Cat and Cow pose to loosen up your spine during your warmup. Begin kneeling on all fours, with your hips directly over your knees and your shoulders directly over your hands. As you inhale, lift your tailbone and head. This position, with your back arched, is Cow pose. As you exhale, tuck your tailbone and head. This position, with your back rounded, is Cat pose. Move through these positions at least 10 times. After this, you should have an increased awareness of your spine’s mobility so that you can focus on it during subsequent poses.

    Step 2

    Spend some time in Vajrasana, Child’s pose. From a kneeling position, move your buttocks about halfway to your heels as you exhale. On your next inhalation, stretch your arms out in front of you. Try to increase the length between your arms and your pelvis. As you breathe, think of relaxing the muscles in your back so that your spine can lengthen. Hold the position for up to three to five minutes.

    Step 3

    Practice your inversions. Most of your life, you walk around upright and gravity pulls your spine in one direction: down. When you’re upside down -- as in shoulderstand, headstand or handstand -- gravity pulls in the opposite direction. This can help you feel a lengthening in your spine.

    Step 4

    Strengthen your back muscles. The muscles that run along your spine -- erector spinae -- don’t get much of a workout if you spend your life hunched over your computer or sitting at your desk. When these muscles are strong, they can support your spine in a lengthened position. Strengthen these muscles with Locust pose. Lie on your stomach on the floor, keeping your arms stretched down along your sides. Exhale as you lift your nose, shoulders and breastbone off the floor. The movement only needs to be several inches. To protect your neck, keep your eyes focused on the floor. Breathe regularly as you hold the pose for about 15 seconds. Gradually build up the time you spend in the pose until you can do four repetitions of 30 seconds.


    • During your regular yoga practice, consciously think about lengthening your spine. If you normally have a rounded upper back, think of lifting your chest up. If your shoulders have a tendency to round forward, think of pulling your shoulders back and down. If your head normally protrudes forward from your shoulders, think of lowering your chin slightly and lengthening the back of your neck. All of these thoughts can help you achieve a lengthened spine.

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