Kyphosis is a medical condition where the top of the spine becomes more curved and rounded, resulting in a hunched position or a hunchback.
There are many causes and many treatments; some simple, and some more severe.
A common type of kyphosis is postural kyphosis, which results from muscle issues or bad posture.
Luckily, as postural kyphosis can arise from poor posture and muscle weakness, it can also be strengthened and improved.
Yoga is one type of physical therapy that can greatly improve postural kyphosis through practice, consistency, and dedication.
This guide will delve into:
- The condition of kyphosis
- Yoga as a therapy option for kyphosis
- 10 of the best yoga poses that can help with kyphosis and potentially improve the condition over time.
Let’s get started!
So what is kyphosis, and what are some of its common causes?
Definition and Causes of Kyphosis
According to the Mayo Clinic, kyphosis is an ‘exaggerated, forward rounding of the upper back’ and is also known simply as a hunchback.
There are different types of kyphosis, including postural and age-related conditions.
Different types affect different people; for example, congenital and Scheuermann’s kyphosis are both concerned with bone structure and genetics rather than environmental causes.
A few common causes of non-structural kyphosis which we’ll cover today are poor posture, weak muscles in the back and around the spine, obesity, and aging.
These variables can have a significant impact on why the back is becoming rounded and can therefore help identify possible treatments as well.
Symptoms and Complications
Some common symptoms of kyphosis are a visibly rounded upper back, back pain, stiffness, muscle fatigue, and difficulty or pain when straightening the back.
There are some potential complications in more severe cases where kyphosis can put pressure on the spine, causing neurological problems. However, this is very rare.
There may also be some difficulty breathing as the spine compresses the lungs, and most prominently it can result in a reduced quality of life.
Importance of Management
It is essential to take kyphosis seriously and do all that you can to improve your spine function and curvature of the back. This is important for quality of life and reducing symptoms.
A few major reasons why kyphosis should always be managed include straightening of the spine, pain relief, better well-being, better mobility, and a better quality of life overall.
Yoga for Kyphosis
Yoga is a meditative and physical practice that has a multitude of health benefits, including the management and improvement of kyphosis.
Common courses of treatment for kyphosis such as physical therapy and yoga can be easily incorporated into a routine.
Benefits of Yoga for Spinal Health
Yoga has many physical and mental benefits to its practice, including the promotion of good spinal and muscle health – correcting poor posture along the way.
Yoga focuses on stretching and aligning the body in a way that feels good and allows us to breathe deeply.
The human body is entirely connected, so strengthening the core and other muscles through yoga can certainly help support the spine.
Because yoga is all about alignment, posture can be corrected over time as one becomes more mindful of their body’s natural positioning and the improvements that can be made.
Along with building and strengthening muscle, these aspects can all help correct posture and promote spinal health.
Safety and Precautions
As with any physical exercise, it is important to know your own boundaries and the limits of your body.
It’s crucial for individuals with kyphosis to not push yourself too far, and allow the consistency of yoga and physical therapy to work its magic over time. You shouldn’t expect to see results immediately!
Recommended Yoga Poses for Kyphosis
1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Tadasana is a simple yoga pose that has foundational benefits for other poses, as well as teaching proper alignment skills:
- Start by standing straight with feet hip-width apart
- Align your ribcage on top of your hips and tuck your pelvis under
- Stay like this with palms facing forward and arms slightly away from the body
- Optionally, raise the arms directly upward for a stronger stretch.
2. Cat-Cow Stretch (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)
The cat-cow stretch is another simple and common yoga pose with foundational benefits that train core, back, and arm strength:
- Start in a tabletop position with a neutral spine, as flat as possible. Knees should be hip-width apart directly under your hips, and hands should be shoulder-width apart, directly under your shoulders
- Flatten your palms to the floor
- Push the middle of your spine toward the ceiling, and push through your hands and shoulders. Tuck your chin into your chest. This arched upward position is the cat. Stay like this for a breath!
- Now, push the spine downward and arch your back. Squeeze the glutes to reduce lower back pressure, and lean into your palms. Face forward, and stay like this for a breath. This arched downward position is the cow
- Alternate these two poses.
3. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is another excellent basic yoga pose that many flows begin with and come back to. It stretches the back and arms and allows a moment for reflection.
- Start in a tabletop position. Move your feet together behind your knees
- Gently roll back to sit on your feet, keeping your palms on the floor
- You can even rest your head on the floor in between your arms for an upper back focus!
- Take some breaths here, and stretch your arms out further forward for a stronger stretch.
Additional Beneficial Poses
Some other yoga poses that are good for kyphosis include:
4. Cobra Pose
- Lie flat on your stomach with your arms bent at the elbows, with palms next to your shoulders
- Gently straighten your elbow, pushing up into your palms, and arching your back upward.
5. Bridge Pose
- Lie flat on your back and bend your knees up
- Bring your feet under your knees, and push your hips upward. Keep your arms flat by your side with palms facing down.
6. Downward Facing Dog
- Start in a high plank position, on your palms and on your toes
- Push your hips up to create a V shape with your body.
7. Forward Bend
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart
- Bend over forward and place your palms on the floor if you can. Bend your knees if you need to, and let your head hang heavy to stretch the back.
8. Warrior 2
- Stand with your right foot forward, and your left leg behind you, foot pointing to the left
- Align your hips to your front, and lift your arms in the air like with a mountain pose
9. Locust Pose
- Lie flat on your stomach with your arms by your side and palms facing up
- Lift your legs and chest off the floor, creating a boat shape.
10. Bharadvaja’s Twist
- Sit cross-legged, and place one foot on top of the opposite thigh
- Place the same hand as the thigh onto your other thigh, and reach your other hand around to meet your foot.
Incorporating Yoga into Your Kyphosis Management Plan
Consistency and Progression
Consistency is key with many physical therapies, and that includes yoga as well.
Don’t be discouraged if it is challenging at first! Keep practicing and gradually you will improve with time.
Try to do it 3-4 times a week, and as you improve, incorporate more and more movements.
Don’t go too hard too fast, or you might burn out! Be patient with yourself.
Complementary Therapies and Lifestyle Changes
As with all medical conditions, it is important to consult a professional.
Yoga is a very incorporable practice that can multitask with exercise, meditation, and therapy.
Some other therapies you could try in combination with yoga include massage, nutrition, and regular exercise.
Combining these things makes for a better possibility of improving your kyphosis and making healthy lifestyle changes for good.
Can yoga completely cure kyphosis?
Yoga is a great form of physical therapy, especially for those with kyphosis.
However, everybody is different, and it is unlikely that yoga alone can completely cure kyphosis.
In mild cases, yoga in combination with other therapies may greatly help kyphosis if consistently practiced over a long period of time.
How often should I practice yoga for kyphosis?
When beginning, try to practice yoga at least 3-4 times per week for kyphosis.
You will get better with time, so don’t push yourself too hard! Once you improve, you can start to practice every day.
Is it safe to practice yoga with severe kyphosis?
As with any medical condition, it is important to consult a medical professional first.
Yoga is a form of physical therapy, and gentle poses are safe to practice with kyphosis. However, it is very important to know your own body and your own limits.
Can children with kyphosis also benefit from yoga?
Children with kyphosis can certainly benefit from yoga as a physical therapy. Kyphosis in children is often structural, not genetic or abnormal. Yoga can help to alleviate pain and strengthen muscles around the spine.
Should I consult a healthcare professional before starting yoga for kyphosis?
It is always important to consult a healthcare professional before beginning any form of physical therapy for a medical condition.
Some gentle poses will be fine, but anything more intense should be approved by your doctor or relevant healthcare professional first.