Scoliosis is a condition where the spine curves causing an ‘S’ shape. It occurs in varying degrees and causes the body to compensate, over working muscles on one side of the body, allowing others to weaken, setting up a cycle of deterioration and increasing discomfort or pain.
Yoga focuses on balancing the body during asana practise and is an effective method to combat the progression of scoliosis and alleviate pain; however it is a long term commitment and offers no quick fix as there may be years of regression to undo. Yoga will not completely correct the spinal curvature but will get the body to a place of harmony between the curvature and gravity by stretching the muscles that are being over worked, strengthening the muscles that are being underworked, building up core strength to support the spine and of course stretching and loosening up the spine itself.
Important areas of the body to focus on include:
- Feet and legs – ensure that you stand with equal weight
- Spine – stretch and lengthen, avoid twisting and back bending or do so moderately
- Iliopsoas muscles – strengthen for seated posture
- Scapula – retract and depress to avoid rounding the back
- Abdominal muscles – strengthen to help support the spine and unload back muscles
- Breath – using breath to stretch the intercostal muscles on the concave side of the spine
Here are some beneficial asanas (in no particular order) to assist with scoliosis that can be built into any daily sequence. Feel what works best for you and your level of practise.
- Bidalasana (Cat/Dog tilts)
- Stretch the spine with Balasana (Child’s pose)
- Anjaneasana (Low lunge) open up hips
Standing poses – strengthen legs, hip flexors and iliopsoas muscles:
- Trikonasana (Triangle pose) with different emphasis on each side. Focus on stretching the tight side and strengthening the weaker side
- Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon pose) benefits similar to Trikonasana
- Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) stretch and strengthen the legs, iliopsoas and spine
- Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) to lengthen the spine, retract and depress the scapula
- Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle pose) benefits similar to Trikonasana
Forward Bends – to release tension in the shoulders and back; stay in the pose for longer than usual:
- Paschimottansana (Western Facing Forward bend)
- Janu Sirsasana (Head to Knee pose)
- Rajakapotasana (Pigeon pose) stretch the gluteus muscles
Back Bends – release tension and increase mobility. Approach back bends slowly:
- Passive backbend over a block
- Bhujangasana (Cobra pose) to strengthen the back muscles, again focussing on the weaker side
Inversions – strengthen the arms, shoulders and upper body whilst lengthening the spine in a different gravitational plane
- Ardha Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Half handstand). Hand stand prep against the wall with legs at 90 degrees to upper body
- Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm balance)
Finally, Savasana allows the body to relax, releasing all the tension due to scoliosis. There are further benefits from mentally tuning out and focussing inward, noticing how your body feels and how it improves over time with a regular practise.
Jean-Paul Lassale (200hr Jan-May 2014)