Scoliosis is a sideway curvature of the spine which often leads to lung and back complications. Exercise and physical therapy can lead to a better overall fitness and quality of life for people with scoliosis. Scoliosis expert and yoga instructor, Elise Browning Miller stresses that yoga can strengthen the muscles which support the spine, which can result in a decrease in the lateral curve.
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Mountain pose, or Tadasana, in the Sanskrit language, is a confidence-building pose. What at first appears to be a student simply standing on a yoga mat is actually a fully engaged collaboration of the feet, legs, core and upper body. While standing upright with the feet together or slightly apart, yogis work on lengthening the crown of the head upward, toward the sky. With the legs straight and the knees soft, the back and abdominal muscles engage to create better posture and balance.
Triangle pose, or Trikonasana, is beneficial for scoliosis in several ways. According to Miller, it decompresses the ribs on the side opposite the curve and reduces the protrusion of the ribs on the side closest to the curve. Triangle pose also encourages strong oblique muscles which help create leaner and straighter waists. While in the pose, students should focus on staying within a flat plane, as if their body is sandwiched between two panes of glass.
Standing Forward Bend
Miller recommends a variety of forward bends for scoliosis students. Along with releasing tension in the neck and shoulders, Standing Forward Bend, or Uttanasana, allows the spine to elongate while the hamstrings stretch. Yoga students with scoliosis should feel free to bend the knees, creating a space to stack the torso onto the thighs. In seated varieties of forward bends, students can rest the sit bones on a folded up blanket or a foam wedge to raise the hips.
Locust pose, or Salabhasana, helps increase the strength of the erector spinae and hamstring muscles. This builds a firmer core foundation for people with scoliosis. Although there are many varieties of Locust pose, the basic version has a student lie on her stomach with her hands by her sides. She raises the chest and legs off the floor and keeps the head relaxed. To intensify the pose, the feet and legs can stay together.
Miller emphasizes that Backbends are instrumental in relieving her own pain from scoliosis. For a milder variation, students can bend back over a pillow or bolster, or even a balance ball. Once they are confident, students with scoliosis can try Bow pose, or Dhanurasana. After resting from Locust pose, a student can reach back for his ankles, keeping the knees parallel to one another. As he pushes his ankles gently into the hands, the chest and knees begin to "bow" or lift off the floor.