If you walk off your yoga mat feeling like you’ve added to your vertical real estate, you’re not alone. All that stretching and twisting can make you feel looser and taller — like your spine suddenly has room to “breathe.” However, while practicing yoga offers a bounty of mind and body perks, increasing your skeletal height isn’t one of them.
Still, yoga may help you appear or feel taller. Here’s how.
Why Do People Think Yoga Makes Them Taller?
If yoga won’t add inches to your height, why do people think they’ve gotten taller after a yoga sesh?
“My perception is that this is because of the fact that so many yoga poses focus on opening the chest and reaching tall and long,” says physical therapist Jessica McManus, owner of Full Circle Physical Therapy and Wellness Coaching. As a result, many people feel physically taller after their practice, she adds.
How Does Yoga Help With Posture?
Yoga may not make you taller, but it can do wonders for your posture. And less slouching may give you the appearance of greater height.
Yoga poses like downward dog can help improve mobility in your spine and flexibility in your hamstring muscles, for example. With greater mobility and less tension in your posterior chain, you should be able to stand up straighter, which may indirectly make you taller, McManus says.
Other yoga poses are like an antidote to slumping over a computer for hours on end, she says. Hanging out in a mountain pose and upward-facing dog, for example, helps stretch out the muscles in your chest and mobilize your thoracic spine (the area of the spine between your shoulder blades). The result? A more upright posture.
What Are Some Benefits of Yoga?
De-slouching posture is one of yoga’s main claims to fame, but there are many other reasons to unfurl your yoga mat.
Its science-backed benefits related to feeling taller include:
- Contributing to healthy aging by boosting quality of life
- Improving balance by increasing proprioception (awareness of your body’s position in space), as well as strengthening your ankles and legs
Can You Prevent Height Loss With Yoga?
It’s normal to lose a little height as you get older. “A good deal of our height loss with age comes from loss of water from the discs between our vertebrae,” McManus says. This degeneration is a symptom of the natural wear and tear that happens over the years.
“As this happens, we get shorter,” McManus says.
Yoga offers a potential solution. When researchers compared the bone scans of longtime yoga teachers and non-practitioners, they found that the yogis’ spines showed less degeneration of the discs. The reason may be that creating length in the spine through the various yoga poses helps move much-needed nutrients into the discs. These nutrients help your discs retain water, which keeps them supple and resistant to compression.
Thanks to yoga’s bone- and muscle-strengthening benefits, it may also help prevent height loss indirectly by retaining bone density, McManus says. Research found that practicing yoga for just 10 minutes a day improves bone density in the spine and hip bones.