Practice Foundations & Cautions: Scoliosis
Guidelines for Scoliosis, in General
- First and foremost, promote self-awareness. Practicing with a mirror will provide visual feedback on when the shoulders are level, for instance.
- Practice slowly, holding each pose for at least 5 breaths. Practicing with mindfulness supports a focus on alignment and on the use of the breath to ease tight and challenging areas.
- Aim for a neutral spine in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and while seated. Try to maintain alignment when moving from sitting to standing and in such poses as Utkatasana (Chair Pose), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose), Plank Pose and Vasisthasana (Side Plank).
Specific Practices Needed to Bring Relief
- Identify where the curvature is convex and where it is concave. *
- Work to strengthen the convex or longer side and stretch the concave or shorter side.
- As noted above in general guidelines, continue to lengthen the spine and neutralize the curvature during practice.
*It’s vital to ask your student questions about the type of curve in her spine, and her experience with yoga and other movement. If you do not have special skill in this area, please be sure to advise your student to work with a yoga therapist so that she will know how to adapt in a group class for her specific situation. See more in When & How to Refer Out.
The following cautions are from Amber Burke and Bill Reif.
- Approach inversions with care. Inversions may increase compression of the spine and the objective with scoliosis is to encourage elongation.
- In asymmetrical poses it may be harder to lengthen, twist or bend on one side. Refrain from forcing one side of the body to mirror exactly what the other side is doing.
- Do not push to the point of pain.
- Remember that the goal is not a perfectly neutral spine, or evenness. Rather, with the physical practices we are attempting to prevent the curve from increasing; to possibly adjust alignment (by increasing length in concave side and strength in convex side); and to enhance breathing while relieving discomfort and pain.