Yoga For Scoliosis: General Considerations

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In this post I'd like to offer a few consideration for those practicing yoga with scoliosis. These considerations are in addition to any physical modifications to be made in the yoga postures themselves.

Scoliosis not only challenges the physical structure of the body, it also strains the nervous system and often contributes to anxiety and depression. As well, the chronic pain that accompanies scoliosis can fatigue the spirit. Therefore, it's important to not only consider one's physical actions in the case of scoliosis, but to also create a loving, caring approach. A person with scoliosis must get in right relationship with the body and step as fully as possible into the role of one's own greatest healer. Denial and avoidance are common responses to scoliosis, but these mindsets will not help you avoid the pain of the condition. Be proactive about gathering the information you need, seek guidance and support, and know that with that information, there is a lot you can do to naturally reduce chronic pain, soothe your nervous system, nourish your spirit, and minimize the progression of scoliosis.

  • Become conscious of your motion patterns and how they may contribute to inflammation and degeneration, or the progression of scoliotic curves. Musculature builds up over our movement patterns. A small action done repeatedly every day for 20 years, for example, is going to have an impact. You can begin to reverse that impact by becoming more conscious of your movement patterns and changing them.
     
  • Don’t underestimate subtlety. Treat your body as a friend not a foe. Patiently guide and teach it to find center. Gentleness alone will reduce your tension. Trust that subtle changes will accumulate to tangible results.
     
  • A person with scoliosis should practice yoga and movement consciousness everyday. All students of yoga are to work with mindfulness over ambition, but this is especially true for students with scoliosis.

  • Understand that with scoliosis, change is constant. Poses that help you at one point may no longer help at another because scoliosis shifts. It's essential to stay present and listen to what the body is telling you.

  • Use external cues such as props, walls, floorboards, and mirrors to help you with proprioception. Make sure your mat is aligned straight with the walls and floorboards. To find center when moving into or refining a pose, use the floorboards as guides, draw on your mat, or lay out a strap to give your eyes a straight line to follow. Also make sure your surroundings are as uncluttered as possible. Any props you are using should be neatly placed.

  • Always inform (and remind) your yoga teachers that you have scoliosis. If you have learned how to make informed modifications, let them know you'll be doing that.

  • Lastly, because those with scoliosis have compromised proprioception, and a distorted sense of what constitutes a straight spine, a student with scoliosis is more dependent upon a teacher for feedback than other students. I highly recommend finding a teacher with knowledge about yoga for scoliosis to work with privately. Even a few sessions can be immensely helpful. I can assist you here in Los Angeles. For those in San Francisco, I recommend Elise Browning Miller. In New York, Yoga Union has an excellent center that specializes in yoga for backcare, including posture, herniation, and scoliosis. (Yoga Union is where I completed my yoga teacher training, and I have tremendous gratitude and respect for their commitment to an intelligent, caring practice.)