yoga and becoming tall(er)


I know that I have grown at least a 1/2 inch — possibly even 3/4 of an inch— since I started practicing yoga, about 14 years ago.  This “growth spurt” has been measured and documented at my doctor’s office.  Since I am in my late (nay, let’s say, mid)- forties , this change is certainly not due to the natural growth process  and, as far as I can tell, would have been impossible without my diligent practice of yoga.

According to most sources yoga asanas strengthen the back and spine, which in turn corrects and straightens the posture.  Conventional wisdom dictates, however, that yoga will not increase the length of your skeleton or bones,  or change the genetic code that determines your adult height.   Yoga exercises will improve  posture and help keep posture-related muscles from degenerating due to atrophy or old age.  In this way, yoga can make you appear and feel taller but not actually increase your height. What we know for certain is that yoga can and does increase blood circulation, clear the digestive system of toxins and give a boost to energy levels. This increases the fluid in disks of the spinal column and in turn strengthens the cartilage in the spinal column.   But does this account for the actual, measured change in my height at this point in my life? It makes sense to me that  spine lengthening poses over time would indeed create  more space in the spinal column, allowing for an actual increase in height.   BKS Iyengar, , in Light on Yoga, talks about the importance of establishing the tallest spine/posture we can imagine in each pose.      Although Iyengar is defintely speaking anatomically  about proper alignment, I believe, he is also referring to being the tallest we can be in our lives…. in other words, inviting us on a very spiritual and emotional level, to inhabit our bodies in space fully, not to shrink or become small or less, as so many of us have learned to do to accomodate others and our lives.   Rather, we can move through space, fully engaged in the practice of yoga, growing taller on all levels, taking up the space that we deserve…. growing into our true height, if you will.   so today, at 5′ 3′ I am happily arriving in  that space and making it home.