Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis that affects the spine, hip area, and lower back. Some people with AS practice yoga to help relieve pain and stiffness and improve flexibility.

AS belongs to a group of diseases called spondyloarthritis, affecting 3.5–13 in every 1,000 people. While some medications can help, there is currently no cure. However, yoga may have many benefits, such as preventing stiffness and improving flexibility.

This article examines how yoga can help with AS and how a person can get started.

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Yoga derives from an ancient practice and has become a popular way of promoting physical and mental well-being. It has many benefits, including helping to reduce stress and anxiety. It can also be an effective way for people with AS to manage pain.

Regularly practicing yoga can strengthen the core muscles and stretch the back muscles to support the spine. The Spondylitis Association of America recommends practicing stretching exercises daily, as this can help:

  • improve flexibility
  • reduce stiffness, swelling, and pain
  • preserve range of motion
  • reduce the risk of joint fusion

Read more about the health benefits of yoga.

There are many different types of yoga, each with a different focus. The best type for AS depends on a person’s strengths and needs. People with AS may wish to try the following types of yoga:

  • Hatha yoga: This is an introduction to basic yoga poses, focusing on one pose at a time. It is suitable for beginners and a useful place to start.
  • Restorative yoga: This low intensity form of yoga focuses on flexibility and gently relaxing the body. It may be suitable for people with impaired mobility.
  • Vinyasa yoga: This continuous, flowing type of yoga can be more challenging. It is more advanced and useful for building strength.

Learn more about yoga.

The Art of Living recommends beginning under the guidance of a qualified yoga teacher. However, this is not essential. The organization also advises:

  • starting with a gentle warm-up to help prepare the body
  • doing only as much as is comfortable
  • finding ease and steadiness in the poses to prevent the risk of injury
  • practicing yoga gradually but regularly to build strength and improve flexibility over time

The following yoga movements may benefit people with AS, as they focus on areas such as the spine and pelvic joints.


Cat cow
  1. Begin on the hands and knees, with the spine in a neutral position.
  2. Place the hands directly under the shoulders and the knees directly under the hips.
  3. On each inhale, gently arch the back, allowing the belly to drop toward the floor. Gently gaze upward.
  4. On each exhale, round the back and tuck the tailbone in, drawing the abdominals toward the spine. Press the hands into the ground and release the head toward the floor.
  5. Repeat this motion for 1 minute.

Bird dog

Bird dog
  1. Begin on the hands and knees, with the spine in a neutral position.
  2. Ensure the hands are directly under the shoulders and the knees are directly under the hips.
  3. Inhale and extend one arm straight out and forward with the thumb pointing upward while extending the opposite leg straight back, with the toes and hips pointing downward.
  4. Breathe as usual and hold for 5 seconds.
  5. On the exhale, round the back and touch the elbow to the opposite knee.
  6. Repeat 10 times and then switch to the other side.


  1. Begin by lying face down on the mat. Place the tops of the feet on the floor and keep the feet in line with the hips.
  2. Place the hands on the mat, facing forward, and align the elbows under the shoulders.
  3. Push into the mat with the forearms and hands, drawing the chest forward and head upward.
  4. Press the pelvic triangle into the mat while engaging the legs and gently lengthen the tailbone toward the heels.
  5. Hold the pose for 1 minute.

Supine twist

Supine twist
  1. Begin by lying on the back.
  2. Place the arms out to the side in a “T” position with the palms facing up and the legs flat on the mat.
  3. Inhale and bend the right leg, drawing the knee in toward the chest. Keep the shoulders grounded.
  4. On the exhale, place the left hand on top of the right knee and draw it across the left side of the body. Allow the spine to rotate gently. Turn the head toward the open arm for a deeper stretch.
  5. Hold this pose for 5–10 breaths, return the knee to the center, and repeat on the other side.

Downward-facing dog

Downward facing dog
  1. Begin on the hands and knees, with the spine in a neutral position.
  2. Spread the fingers, pressing the hands into the ground.
  3. Exhale, stretch the elbows, and curl the toes under, lifting the knees off the floor.
  4. Lift the hips up and back, creating an upside-down “V” shape with the body, pressing the heels toward the floor.
  5. Draw the belly button in toward the spine.
  6. To advance this movement, stretch one leg up and back. Then repeat with the other leg.
  7. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.

Pelvic tilt

Pelvic tilt
  1. Begin by lying on the back.
  2. Bend the knees toward the ceiling and keep the feet flat on the floor.
  3. Tense the abdominal muscles while flattening the back toward the floor, lifting the pelvis upward.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat the exercise 10 times.

Yoga programs are widely available in the following formats:

For accessibility and convenience, YouTube is a useful place to find free online yoga classes. To find in-person yoga programs, people can search Yoga Alliance’s directory by region or check their local directory.

Yoga is a gentle and mindful exercise that can benefit people with AS and prevent it from worsening. While existing joint damage is irreversible, practicing yoga regularly can increase flexibility and mobility.

People can find free yoga programs online or search an online yoga directory for local classes. Being guided by a professional instructor may be beneficial but is not necessary.