Yoga For Scoliosis

Yoga has been cited as a source of relief for many medical issues - everything from arthritis, to joint pain, to headaches and fatigue. The health benefits are unending and many people find themselves going back not only for their but for their peace of mind as well. All of this is great but what can yoga do for more serious illnesses like Scoliosis?

Scoliosis, which is a spinal aberration that can cause spinal deformity and rib displacement is rarely a very serious problem. It’s a curvature of the spine from front to back while also rotating which can twist the rib cage and make the back uneven. There are four major types of scoliosis curves and all of them have their unique effects but the overall issue is that spine twists and as it does it begins to compress. Many people have minor scoliosis or just the beginnings of it and for the first while the symptoms are usually cosmetic but as the compression of the spine increases it can gradually create pressure and become painful.

Scoliosis can either be functional or structural. If scoliosis is structural it’s usually something that develops during adolescence and doctors are unclear as to the reasons for development in more than seventy percent of cases. With this type of scoliosis it’s a life long condition and is often handled with surgery. Functional scoliosis is based more on the muscles in the back and is usually developed over a period of time from a repetitive action such as carrying weight on one side repeatedly. This type of scoliosis is the most common and is almost always completely reversible.

While both types of scoliosis have similar symptoms to begin with the outcome over time is very different. Structural scoliosis can develop into severe posture deformities and can eventually lead to spasms and acute discomfort. However, both types can be equally benefited by a yoga practice as well as a general exercise regimen. The nice thing about a yoga practice though is that it encourages remedies for many different aspects of scoliosis. Different poses can help heal different conditions and many of the most common yoga poses are very helpful for scoliosis because of their ability to put the body back in balance.

Yoga can accomplish many different things that can ease the symptoms and pain of scoliosis such as lengthening the spine, helping decrease the twisting of the spine, strengthening the legs in order to take pressure and weight off the spine, and strengthening the abdominal muscles to prevent the back muscles from being over worked. Yoga also helps increase the amount of breath that is allowed in to various parts of the lungs which can help stretch and loosen surrounding muscles and create more evenness in the chest and back. Overall yoga can also create more balance within the body which can help prevent symptoms from getting any worse.

There are so many poses that are great for all these aspects of yoga that can do wonders for those suffering from scoliosis. For lengthening the spine you can do Child’s Pose, Cat/Cow pose, or various standing bar poses that help stretch the spine and reduce the effects of any curvature. There are also some standing poses such as Triangle and Warrior that help open up the spine and create room in the chest.

Inversions are great for people with scoliosis because not only do they invert the spine, thus releasing any pressure or tension that’s been on the spine but they also can help restore a sense of balance that may have been missing before which can help those suffering from scoliosis retain that sense of balance day to day in such a way that can help them prevent any more damage from being done. Inversions such as Handstand and Shoulderstand are particularly useful for those suffering from scoliosis and if done carefully and properly they can provide a great deal of relief.

Backbends and twists are also really great for the spine. Backbends help open up the spine and alleviate pressure while twists can help de-rotate the spine - just be sure that the spine has been sufficiently lengthened prior to doing these. Poses such as Locust Pose, Bow Pose, and Camel Pose are all great backbend poses - some are more advanced than others though so be sure to always be aware of your limits. Chair twist is a great pose for scoliosis and one that should definitely be included in your routine. It can also be extremely beneficial to do some forward bends as those release tension deep in the back and shoulders. Try a couple like Seated Forward Bend and Head to Knee Pose to round out your sequence.

It’s also very wise to finish off with Corpse pose and some breath work as this allows for relaxation which is often very difficult for those suffering from scoliosis. It’s also a time to become very aware of your body and this can be especially helpful when dealing with scoliosis in identifying areas that need some more work or attention during your yoga sequence.

Though each type of yoga posture has it’s own individual strengths when it comes to healing scoliosis one of the most important aspects is just the overall flow of movement that yoga provides. The gentle restorative feel of yoga combined with postures that reduce pain and encourage openness and release create a powerful combination that can have quite an impact in the way of healing scoliosis. Unlike a more intense, cardio heavy exercise regimen yoga has a more healing and regenerative approach that can make the difference between someone aggravating their scoliosis or beginning the work to heal it.

Some of the more painful remedies for scoliosis (the structural kind that’s found early on in life) often involve braces, surgery, and permanent metal rods that prevent the spine from moving any further but yoga offers a more holistic approach to the healing of this painful disorder. Although conventional medicine has its place it is thought that yoga may be more suited for disorders such as these as it addresses the muscles and structure of the back instead of merely treating the symptoms as a surgery often does. The goal here isn’t just to remedy the pain but to put the body back in balance and in alignment to prevent future pain and worsening of the state of the spine.

It’s important to remember throughout the practice though that the object of yoga isn’t to magically cure the body of any ailments it might have. Yoga is an ongoing practice and it requires time, dedication, and persistence to achieve the desired results from it. It’s also  wise to keep in mind that more than anything yoga is about accepting and making peace with your body, not struggling to force it to bend to your will. So don’t start up a yoga practice based on the idea of “curing” your scoliosis or “fixing” your body. Instead just choose to be mindful of your body and it’s needs and do the best you can in your yoga class to serve those needs.