If you have scoliosis, a sideways curve of the spine, you most likely do not have severe back pain. This doesn’t mean, however, that you don’t want to look after your spine in the best possible way. With age, the lateral curve may increase and restrict your breathing mechanism. The growing tightness with age can also worsen the achiness in your neck, shoulder and back. Yoga therapy offers a range of movements that can target the two sides of your spine separately. The aim is not to straighten the spine, as this is impossible in many cases, but to keep your spine in an optimal condition. If you look after your back well with the appropriate exercises, you are more likely to prevent pain and restrictions in the future.
Yoga for the various forms of scoliosis is very specific. Generally, it consists of strengthening the muscles of the convex side and releasing those on the concave side of your spine. It also favours asymmetrical poses so that each side of your spine can lengthen or strengthen independently.
Because yoga for scoliosis is so specific and particular for your back, it is best to work one-to-one with a trained yoga therapist. I teach in London but also offer Skype sessions if you want more guidance. Below I have described some general movements that you can already start with. They are aimed to release your spine one side at a time and strengthen the weaker (convex) side. All these poses are also beneficial for people with mild back pain (do side-plank on both sides if you don’t have scoliosis) as they release or strengthen the spinal muscles.
Asymmetrical all-fours movement
-Start on all fours, hands underneath the shoulders and knees underneath the hips.
-Place both hands further forward, about 15 cm or 5 inches in front of the shoulders and bring one knee a small step behind the other knee.
-Exhale and bend both arms, lowering yourself onto the elbows. Keep the hips over the knees so that you don’t move backward.
-Inhale and come up to the starting position.
Repeat this movement several times and then stay in the lower position for a few breaths, allowing the head to hang down so it can lengthen.
Do this position only on the side of your spine that is weaker, i.e. the convex side, which curves outward. This is where the muscles are longer, less tight and weaker. This position can strengthen that side so that the muscles might straighten the convex side more. Do the pose on one side a few times a week, on the other (concave) side once a week, but stop practicing this position if it gives you wrist or shoulder pain. Until your back and arm are strong enough, you can practise the variation below, with the lower knee on the floor. Your upper arm can either point to the ceiling or be positioned next to your head. If you are concerned about your balance in this pose, practise with a wall behind you.
Resting on the side
After having done the side-plank on one side, turn around to your other side and stretch out for a few minutes with the arm, body and legs all in one line and the head resting on your arm. This stretches the tight (concave) side gently.
Supine leg and arm movement
This is an asymmetrical pose that is generally good for your back, but because it works asymmetrically it is also beneficial if you have scoliosis. Like the first movement, it gives each side of the spine the chance to lengthen independently. It stretches the hamstrings and relaxes the lower back.
-Start lying on the back with the arms next to you and legs bent towards the chest.
-Inhale and straighten one leg to the ceiling while bringing the opposite arm next to your ear.
-Exhale and return to the starting position.
-Do the same on the other side and repeat each side 4-8 times.
Do you have scoliosis and have you tried yoga? Please leave me a comment below!