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Does Yoga Help Scoliosis?

author image M. Gideon Hoyle
M. Gideon Hoyle is a writer living outside of Houston. Previously, he produced brochures and a wide variety of other materials for a nonprofit educational foundation. He now specializes in topics related to health, exercise and nutrition, publishing for various websites.
Does Yoga Help Scoliosis?
women practicing yoga in studio Photo Credit Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Scoliosis is a spinal column disorder characterized by abnormal sideways curvature of the vertebrae or spinal bones. In many cases, people with this disorder can get significant relief by performing exercises or postures from yoga. However, yoga practitioners with scoliosis must observe certain guidelines in order to protect their health.

Scoliosis Basics

Scoliosis manifests in three main forms. In congenital scoliosis, abnormal curvature of the spine develops either during fetal development before birth or during the period shortly after birth. In neuromuscular scoliosis, abnormal spinal curvature stems from the presence of muscle weakness, paralysis, lack of normal muscle control or ailments such as spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy or polio. Scoliosis of unknown origin is called idiopathic scoliosis. In addition to curvature problems, common symptoms of the condition include unusually tilted shoulders or hip bones, pain in your lower back and physical fatigue associated with extended sessions of standing or sitting, according to PubMed Health.

Yoga Basics

Yoga combines physical movements with regulated breathing and ongoing mental focus or meditation. It originated in India as part of a philosophical approach that covers all aspects of life. However, in America, the physical and mental components of yoga are regularly used without reference to their philosophical underpinnings. Collectively, the various forms of yoga that emphasize physical postures and breathing control are known as Hatha yoga.

Yoga Benefits

Scoliosis patients can typically perform some form of beginning yoga whether or not they have undergone surgery to fuse their spinal bones, according to the National Scoliosis Foundation. Yoga achieves its beneficial scoliosis-related effects by offsetting the skeletal compression that typically accompanies the disorder. When this compression is negated, people with scoliosis can experience significant increases in proper body alignment and their sense of balance, as well as significant decreases in their scoliosis-related pain. In some cases, performing basic yoga exercises can also help reduce the lateral spinal curvature of scoliosis itself, the National Scoliosis Foundation says.

Areas of Focus

When you perform yoga exercises for scoliosis, you need to focus on several different areas of your body. These areas include your spine, abdominal muscles, shoulder blades, breathing, feet, legs and the major and minor muscles of the psoas group, which help control flexing motions in your thighs. Concentrating on these areas can help with balance, reduce pain and potentially help you prevent additional abnormal curvature in your spine.

Yoga Poses for Scoliosis

Cat/Cow pose is a gently undulating movement that loosens your spine. While on all fours on the floor, you first arch your back like a cat while exhaling. As you inhale, you let your belly sag toward the floor as you raise your head and hips. Triangle pose is performed on both sides of your body allowing you to work on lengthening your spine on the concave side; and when performed on the side where you spine is convexed, you add a slight twisting movement to even out your back. Child's pose is a relaxation pose but can be used to decompress the ribs on your concave side. From a kneeling position you sit back on your heels, lay your upper torso along your thighs and stretch your arms, shoulder-width apart, along the floor in front of you. While breathing slowly and evenly, move your arms along the floor slightly to the concave side to create an even back.

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