FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Yoga for Scoliosis, or more accurately Yoga for Those With Scoliosis (but this a lot to say…), is a specialized yoga practice for individuals with scoliosis, a condition in which the spine curves laterally (side-to-side) and rotates. Scoliosis affects 2-3% of the worldwide population and can be a source of discomfort or pain for many. If you have scoliosis, yoga for scoliosis is an excellent way to learn about your specific curve pattern. For many, it is also an effective way to manage pain or discomfort.
What is the format of a yoga for scoliosis session or class?
A yoga for scoliosis class or session looks different from a typical vinyasa flow class which has come to be the "default" yoga class in our Western culture. Yoga for scoliosis, as I practice and teach it, is derived from the Iyengar style of yoga. In a typical 75 minute class or private session, we may do 8-10 poses. In each pose, the student makes modifications based on his or her particular curve pattern and will stay in the pose for many breaths. This allows the student to go in, to make connections in his or her body and, perhaps most important, to find and feel the spine. Most people with scoliosis (and most people generally!) have never connected with their spines. They don't know which way it curves, they don't have an awareness of how the curvature affects posture, gait, strength, breath, everything. Yoga for scoliosis brings an awareness to all of these things. Like all yoga practices, it is about the journey inward.
Is it possible to integrate what you learn from Yoga for Scoliosis into “regular yoga” classes?
Yes! The modifications you learn in a yoga for scoliosis session help inform you of how to adjust poses for your particular curve pattern. While we use props, ropes and the wall to make these modifications, you can take these modifications into a regular yoga class, even without the props. The props help you learn how to activate the muscles and the breath and how to position your body to best embody the poses for your spine. Once you begin to understand how the props are "waking up" the body, you can use that knowledge to make informed adjustments in a regular flow class. This takes dedication and practice, like everything else.
Can you take Yoga for Scoliosis if you've never done yoga before?
Yes, absolutely. It is a physical practice, however, so it is important that you have the ability to move from one position to the next. If you have trouble sitting on the floor or getting up off the floor from a seated position, a group class may not be the best place to start. Private sessions may be more appropriate, but there is always a way to begin a yoga practice.
Who should take Yoga for Scoliosis?
I would encourage anyone with scoliosis who either is curious about their spinal curves or who has discomfort in their back in daily life (or both) to try a Yoga for Scoliosis class or private session. As with any other yoga class or physical practice, you should consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about engaging in physical movement, especially if you have severe scoliosis or you are in severe pain. Yoga can be a great pain reliever but it's not a substitute for medical care or physical therapy. If you've had spinal fusion surgery, it's important to have your doctor's approval before beginning yoga and it is advisable to wait at least a year for the bone fusion to solidify.
Does Yoga for Scoliosis “cure” scoliosis?
No, yoga for scoliosis will not "cure" scoliosis. To my knowledge, nothing actually cures scoliosis, but unlike certain forms of physical therapy (for example, the Schroth method) or more interventional or invasive methods such as bracing and surgery, yoga for scoliosis is not known to nor is it designed to halt the progression of scoliosis or to reverse the curvature. Just because it doesn't cure scoliosis, however, doesn't mean it isn't beneficial. If practiced with curiosity and attention, yoga for scoliosis can be both empowering for the student and can help bring a student out of pain.
The empowerment that is gained from a yoga for scoliosis practice is not to be understated. In my opinion, it is the most important and longest lasting effect of this work. To be sure, scoliosis is a medical condition (typically, we first find out about it as a diagnosis from a doctor), but it is also something that a person who has it walks around with every day of his or her life. Scoliosis, especially if it is a source of pain, can have profound effects on the experience of living. Yoga for scoliosis bridges the medical diagnosis of scoliosis with the daily experience of living with a crooked spine. It allows the student to take control of his or her spine, to connect with it and to live with it in a positive and healthy way. To me, that is better than any quick fix or cure. It is the gift of awareness, the gift of yoga.
Check out one student's perspective of this work and the benefits she gained from it: