Kyphosis, a condition marked by an excessive forward curvature of the spine, often results from prolonged poor posture and sedentary habits. Yoga offers a therapeutic approach to address and alleviate the symptoms of kyphosis by practicing yoga poses and exercises which strengthen the upper back muscles and open the chest, thereby promoting a healthier spine alignment.

Best 4 yoga exercises for kyphosis, hyperkyphosis or dowager’s hump

The key yoga poses for kyphosis:

  1. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose): Aims to extend the spine, open the chest, and strengthen the back.
  2. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose): Focuses on stretching the front body while reinforcing upper back muscles.
  3. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose): Activates upper back muscles, aiding in correcting the rounded spine.
  4. Matsyasana (Fish Pose): Works by arching the upper back and expanding the chest, countering kyphosis effects.

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

The Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) is a beneficial yoga exercise for individuals with kyphosis, hyperkyphosis, or dowager’s hump because it directly targets the thoracic spine, which is commonly affected in these conditions.

cobra pose best yoga exercises for kyphosis

How to do Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

To perform Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) correctly and safely, follow these steps:

  1. Start Position: Begin by lying face down on your yoga mat with your legs extended straight back, feet hip-width apart, and the tops of your feet pressing into the mat.
  2. Hand Placement: Place your hands flat on the ground under your shoulders, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  3. Engage Your Legs: Firmly engage your legs and press your feet and thighs into the mat. This foundation is crucial for a safe backbend.
  4. Lift Your Upper Body: Inhale and gently lift your chest off the floor by straightening your arms. Go only as high as comfortable, keeping your elbows slightly bent to avoid locking them.
  5. Shoulder Position: Draw your shoulders back and down, away from your ears, to open the chest. Ensure your shoulders are aligned and not hunched.
  6. Gaze and Neck: Keep your gaze forward or slightly upward, ensuring your neck remains long and not strained. Avoid crunching the neck by overextending the head back.
  7. Hold the Pose: Maintain this position for 15 to 30 seconds, breathing evenly. Focus on lifting through your chest and engaging your back muscles, rather than pushing too much through your hands.
  8. Release: Exhale and gently lower your chest and forehead back to the mat. Relax your body.
  9. Repeat: You may repeat the pose a few times, resting in between, to build strength and flexibility gradually.

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) – one of the yoga exercises that help kyphosis, hyperkyphosis and dowager’s hump

  1. Strengthens the Back Muscles: This pose engages and strengthens the muscles along the spine, especially the erector spinae, which supports the spine’s natural curvature. Strengthening these muscles can help counteract the forward hunching typical in kyphosis.
  2. Improves Spinal Extension: Bhujangasana encourages extension of the thoracic spine, counteracting the flexion bias that comes with kyphosis and dowager’s hump. This extension can help reduce the curvature of the spine associated with these conditions.
  3. Opens the Chest: By lifting the chest and pulling the shoulders back, Bhujangasana opens up the front body. This action helps alleviate the tightness in the chest muscles, a common issue for those with rounded shoulders and forward head posture, enhancing respiratory function.
  4. Promotes Correct Posture: Regular practice of this pose encourages better posture awareness. As the spine becomes more flexible and the back muscles stronger, maintaining an upright posture becomes easier, reducing the stress on the vertebral column.
  5. Increases Flexibility: Flexibility in the spine and chest is crucial for correcting or managing kyphosis. Bhujangasana aids in increasing spinal flexibility, making it easier to correct postural imbalances.

Muscles activated by Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) activates several muscle groups, primarily focusing on the back, but also engaging muscles in the chest, shoulders, and abdomen. Here’s a breakdown of the main muscles activated:

  1. Erector Spinae: This group of muscles runs along your spine and is primarily responsible for extending the vertebral column. In Cobra Pose, these muscles work to lift the chest off the ground, promoting spinal extension.
  2. Trapezius: The trapezius muscles, located in the upper back and extending to the neck and shoulders, help stabilize and move the scapulae (shoulder blades) during the pose. They aid in retracting and depressing the shoulder blades, contributing to the opening of the chest.
  3. Rhomboids: The rhomboid muscles, located between the spine and the scapulae, also contribute to retracting the shoulder blades, helping to correct rounded shoulders by pulling the shoulders back.
  4. Latissimus Dorsi: While not the primary focus of the pose, the latissimus dorsi helps stabilize the lower back and aids in the extension of the spine.
  5. Rectus Abdominis and Obliques: Although Bhujangasana is mainly a back-bending pose, the abdominal muscles also engage to support the spine. They provide a counterbalance to the backbend, ensuring that the lower back does not over-extend.
  6. Pectoralis Major: This chest muscle is gently stretched in Bhujangasana, helping to open up the chest and improve posture, especially beneficial for those with rounded shoulders and forward head posture.
  7. Serratus Anterior: While subtly involved, this muscle aids in stabilizing the scapula and rib cage during the lift, promoting an efficient and safe backbend.

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) is an effective yoga posture and one of the best exercises for addressing kyphosis or hyperkyphosis due to its comprehensive back-strengthening and chest-opening effects.

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) yoga exercises for kyphosis or hyperkyphosis upper back pain and rounded shoulders

How to do Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

  1. Start Position: Begin by lying flat on your stomach with your legs stretched out behind you and your arms by your sides. Keep your palms facing upwards.
  2. Prepare Your Legs: Bend your knees to bring your heels as close to your buttocks as possible. Keep your knees hip-width apart to avoid straining your lower back.
  3. Grasp Your Ankles or toes: Reach back with your hands and hold onto your ankles. If you cannot reach your ankles, use a yoga strap around your ankles to extend your reach.
  4. Inhale and Lift: With a deep inhale, lift your heels away from your buttocks while simultaneously lifting your thighs off the floor. This action will naturally pull your upper torso and head off the floor. Ensure you are lifting with your thighs rather than just pulling with your arms.
  5. Open the Chest: Focus on opening your chest and drawing your shoulders back. Keep your gaze forward or slightly upwards, being careful not to strain your neck.
  6. Maintain the Pose: Hold the pose for 15 to 30 seconds, breathing deeply. Your body should be balanced on your abdomen, with a strong lift in the chest and thighs, creating a bow-like curve.
  7. Release: Exhale as you gently lower your thighs and chest back to the floor. Release your legs and stretch them back out. Rest your head on one side and relax your arms by your sides.
  8. Repeat: You may repeat the pose a couple of times, resting in between if desired.

How Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) helps overcome kyphosis or hyperkyphosis?

  1. Strengthens the Back Muscles: Dhanurasana engages and strengthens the entire back, including the erector spinae and the deeper intrinsic muscles close to the spine. Strengthening these muscles is crucial for supporting the spine’s natural curvature and counteracting the excessive forward curvature seen in kyphosis or hyperkyphosis.
  2. Improves Spinal Flexibility: This pose enhances the flexibility of the spine through its intense extension, which is beneficial for those with kyphosis or hyperkyphosis, as their condition often involves stiffness and reduced mobility in the thoracic spine.
  3. Opens the Chest and Shoulders: By pulling the shoulders back and opening the chest, Dhanurasana helps counteract the forward rounding of the shoulders commonly associated with kyphosis. This opening action is essential for improving respiratory function and reducing tension in the chest and shoulders.
  4. Promotes Better Posture: Regular practice of Bow Pose can lead to improvements in overall posture. As the spine becomes more flexible and the muscles supporting it stronger, maintaining an upright posture becomes easier, which is particularly beneficial for correcting or managing kyphosis.
  5. Balances Muscle Activity: Dhanurasana encourages a balanced engagement of muscles along the front and back of the body. By stretching the front body and strengthening the back, it helps rectify the muscle imbalances that contribute to the development of kyphosis.

Muscles activated by Dhanurasana (Bow Yoga Pose) exercise that help with kyphosis

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) targets several key muscle groups that play a vital role in improving posture and combating kyphosis. Here are the primary muscles activated during this exercise:

  1. Erector Spinae: This muscle group runs along the spine and works to extend and straighten the back. This helps to counteract the rounded back characteristic of kyphosis.
  2. Rhomboids and Middle Trapezius: These muscles between the shoulder blades are engaged as the shoulders are retracted (pulled back). In this yoga pose the chest is opened. This action is crucial for correcting the forward shoulder roll associated with kyphosis.
  3. Latissimus Dorsi: While primarily known for its role in pulling the arms down and back, in Dhanurasana, the latissimus dorsi helps stabilize the back and aids in lifting the chest, contributing to the extension of the thoracic spine.
  4. Gluteus Maximus: Engaging the glutes helps lift the thighs off the ground in Bow Pose, which in turn increases the back extension. This action supports the lower back and can help in developing a healthier spine curvature.
  5. Hamstrings: The hamstrings are engaged as they work to lift the lower legs and contribute to the overall arching action of the pose, helping to stretch and strengthen the back of the body.
  6. Pectoralis Major: The chest muscles are stretched in this pose. Stretching these muscles is important for individuals with kyphosis, as tight chest muscles can exacerbate the condition by pulling the shoulders forward.
  7. Serratus Anterior: Although not the primary focus, this muscle aids in stabilizing the scapula and rib cage during the pose, promoting an efficient and safe backbend.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) is one of the yoga exercises that help in decreasing symptoms of kyphosis through several mechanisms.

Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) kyphosis yoga

How to do Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

To perform Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) correctly, follow these steps:

  1. Start Position: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Position your feet parallel to each other, close enough so that your fingertips can just barely touch your heels.
  2. Arm Position: Place your arms beside your body with your palms facing down. Engage your arms and press them into the floor for support.
  3. Lift Your Hips: As you inhale, press into your feet and arms, lifting your hips towards the ceiling. Engage your thighs and buttocks to lift higher, but keep your buttocks firm without clenching.
  4. Shoulder Support: Roll your shoulders back and underneath your body. If possible, clasp your hands together under your pelvis and straighten your arms to help lift your hips higher, opening your chest more.
  5. Align Your Knees: Keep your knees hip-width apart and parallel to each other. Avoid letting them splay outwards. Visualize your knees extending forward over your ankles.
  6. Breathe and Hold: Hold Bridge Pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute, breathing deeply. With each inhale, lift a little higher; with each exhale, ensure your thighs and inner feet stay parallel.
  7. Release the Pose: To come out of the pose, release your hands and slowly lower your hips to the floor. Unroll your shoulders, letting your spine gently return to the floor, vertebra by vertebra.
  8. Rest: After exiting the pose, you may wish to draw your knees into your chest for a gentle hug to release any tension in the lower back.

How Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) helps decrease kyphosis symptoms?

  1. Strengthens the Back Muscles: By lifting the hips towards the ceiling, Bridge Pose engages the erector spinae and other spinal stabilizers. Strengthening these muscles supports the spine’s natural alignment and can counteract the forward curvature characteristic of kyphosis.
  2. Opens the Front Body: Kyphosis often leads to tightness in the front of the body, including the chest and hip flexors. Bridge Pose stretches these areas, promoting a more balanced posture and alleviating the forward hunch.
  3. Improves Shoulder Alignment: The position of the arms and shoulders in Bridge Pose can help retract and stabilize the shoulder blades, reducing the rounded shoulder posture often seen with kyphosis. This action helps to open the chest further and correct posture.
  4. Engages the Glutes and Hamstrings: These posterior chain muscles are activated to lift the hips, which can help realign the lower spine and pelvis. Strengthening the glutes and hamstrings is crucial for overall postural support and can reduce the strain on the back caused by kyphosis.
  5. Promotes Thoracic Extension: Although the primary movement is in the lumbar spine, Bridge Pose also encourages gentle extension across the thoracic region, which is directly involved in kyphosis. This gentle extension can help improve spinal mobility and reduce stiffness in the thoracic spine.
  6. Enhances Spinal Mobility: Regular practice of Bridge Pose increases flexibility and mobility in the spine, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals with kyphosis, as their condition might limit these aspects.

Muscles activated by Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) exercise that help with kyphosis symptoms

  • Erector Spinae: Strengthens the spine. Supports natural alignment.
  • Gluteus Maximus: Lifts hips. Stabilizes lower back.
  • Hamstrings: Engage to elevate hips. Support spinal alignment.
  • Quadriceps: Stabilize front of thighs. Aid in lifting hips.
  • Rectus Abdominis and Obliques: Support core stability. Enhance posture.
  • Rhomboids and Middle Trapezius: Retract shoulders. Open chest.
  • Pectoralis Major: Stretched to open the chest. Alleviates forward hunch.
  • Hip Flexors: Stretched. Reduces anterior pelvic tilt.
  • Intercostals: Stretch expands ribcage. Improves breathing.

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)

Matsyasana (Fish Pose) serves as a powerful tool in addressing kyphosis, hyperkyphosis, round shoulders, and upper back pain. This yoga pose deeply opens the chest, encouraging the shoulders to roll back and counteract the forward slump. By extending the thoracic spine, it directly targets the area most affected by kyphosis, promoting flexibility and reducing curvature. The lift in the chest not only alleviates tightness across the shoulders but also enhances breathing, offering a sense of relief from constriction.

Fish Pose strengthens the muscles of the upper back, crucial for maintaining an upright posture and easing upper back pain. As the neck stretches, tension melts away, further supporting spinal health. Regular practice cultivates better postural habits, gradually correcting misalignments associated with kyphosis and round shoulders. Matsyasana is a beacon of light for those seeking to improve posture, ease pain, and embrace a more balanced body alignment.

fish pose yoga for upper back pain rounded shoulders kyphosis

Modified Matsyasana (Fish Yoga Pose)

Performing Matsyasana (Fish Pose) correctly can help open the chest and throat, stretch the front of the neck and the pectoral muscles, and improve flexibility in the spine. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start by lying on your back, bending your knees with your feet flat on the floor aligned with your hips, and resting your arms alongside your body, palms facing upward.
  2. Slide a rolled blanket under your back, positioning it just beneath your shoulder blades at the point where your lumbar spine starts to arch.
  3. As you inhale, push your heels down to tilt your pelvis forward.
  4. Pull your elbows up towards the blanket’s top to broaden your shoulders and enhance chest expansion.
  5. Position your head so that either the back of it or the crown rests gently on the floor, ensuring you don’t exert excess pressure on your neck or head by leveraging your forearms and elbows for support.
  6. Maintain this posture for 15 to 30 seconds.
  7. To exit the pose, gently tuck your chin to your chest as you lower your torso back to the mat.

How Matsyasana (Fish Yoga Pose) helps decreases kyphosis?

Matsyasana (Fish Pose) is also one of the most beneficial yoga exercises that help decrease kyphosis. The symptoms of kyphosis will be improved through several key actions:

  1. Opens the Chest: The pose stretches the chest muscles. This counteracts the forward hunch and tightness associated with kyphosis.
  2. Stretches the Shoulders: It helps release tension in the shoulders and neck. These areas often affected by poor posture.
  3. Enhances Thoracic Spine Mobility: Matsyasana encourages extension in the thoracic spine. In this way it improves flexibility and reducing the curvature.
  4. Strengthens the Upper Back: Engaging muscles in the upper back during the pose can help correct the rounded shoulder posture.
  5. Promotes Correct Posture: Regular practice of Matsyasana can lead to better posture awareness and alignment, essential for managing kyphosis.

Muscles activated by Matsyasana (Fish Pose) that help in overcoming kyphosis, round shoulders and upper back pain

Matsyasana (Fish Pose) engages and stretches various muscle groups. It offers therapeutic benefits for overcoming kyphosis, round shoulders, and upper back pain:

  • Intercostal Muscles: Stretching these aids in expanding the ribcage, promoting deeper breathing and opening the chest.
  • Pectoralis Major and Minor: The chest muscles are stretched, helping to alleviate the tightness that contributes to round shoulders.
  • Trapezius and Rhomboids: Activated to stabilize the shoulder blades, encouraging retraction and counteracting the forward slump.
  • Erector Spinae: Strengthened as they extend the thoracic spine, directly addressing kyphosis and upper back pain.
  • Serratus Anterior: Engaged to maintain shoulder blade positioning, supporting a healthier upper back alignment.
  • Anterior Neck Muscles: Stretched, relieving tension in the neck and aiding in correcting forward head posture.
  • Hip Flexors: Including the iliopsoas, which are subtly stretched, contributing to improved posture and spinal alignment.

Frequently asked questions about kyphosis and yoga the exercises

How do you know you have kyphosis?

Kyphosis is typically identified by a noticeable curve or hump in the upper back, creating a hunched posture. It also includes rounded shoulders. Symptoms may include back pain and stiffness. In more severe cases, it can lead to difficulties in breathing and digestion due to the abnormal spine curvature. A healthcare professional can diagnose kyphosis through physical examination and imaging tests like X-rays to assess the spine’s curvature.

Can yoga prevent dowager’s hump?

Yes, yoga can help prevent dowager’s hump, primarily caused by poor posture and osteoporosis. Yoga strengthens the muscles around the spine, improves posture, and increases flexibility. Yoga exercises and poses like the Mountain Pose, Cobra Pose, and Camel Pose are particularly beneficial, as they encourage spinal alignment, open the chest, and strengthen the back. Regular yoga exercises can significantly contribute to preventing the forward curvature of the spine associated with dowager’s hump and kyphosis.

Can yoga correct rounded shoulders?

Yes, yoga exercised can help correct rounded shoulders, a symptoms of kyphosis, by strengthening and stretching the muscles that support proper posture. Specific poses target the chest, shoulders, and upper back, promoting alignment and reducing tension. Regular practice can enhance shoulder mobility and encourage a more upright posture.

How to straighten your spine with yoga?

Straightening your spine with yoga involves practicing poses that enhance flexibility, strengthen the back muscles, and improve posture. Yoga exercises and poses that help include Tadasana (Mountain Pose) for alignment, Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) for strengthening the back and opening the chest, Balasana (Child’s Pose) for relaxation and stretching the back, and Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) for overall spine health. Consistent practice, combined with attention to alignment and breath, helps in gradually improving posture and straightening the spine.

Are there any scientific studies that show how yoga exercises help improve kyphosis symptoms?

Scientific research does indicate that yoga exercises can be beneficial for improving symptoms associated with kyphosis, such as improving posture, enhancing flexibility, and strengthening the muscles around the spine. Some of these studies are:

  1. Spinal curvatures of yoga practitioners compared to control participants—a cross-sectional study
  2. A feasibility study on home-based kyphosis-specific exercises on reducing thoracic hyperkyphosis in older adults