Scientists are increasingly recognising that physical activity plays a crucial role in managing scoliosis, and one activity that’s gaining significant traction is yoga for scoliosis.
Yoga for scoliosis provides people with an alternative way to manage pain and prevent their condition from deteriorating, and is even linked to improving spinal alignment.
In this article, we’ll explore:
- What is scoliosis?
- Can people with scoliosis do yoga?
- 5 benefits of yoga for scoliosis
- 10 yoga poses for scoliosis
If you’re looking to provide some well-needed relief to your body, keep reading!
What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis, which causes a sideways curve of the spine, is typically associated with children – but in reality, the disorder affects people of all ages. In most people, the cause of scoliosis is idiopathic – unknown.
The curve can happen on either side of the spine and in different places in the spine. The convex side of the spinal curve contains lengthened muscles that are weak from being overstretched, whereas the concave side contains shortened muscles that are denser and less flexible.
However, scoliosis is more than spinal curvature: It’s also the accompanying headaches, back pain, fatigue, joint pain, digestive troubles, breathing difficulties, stress and more.
Can people with scoliosis do yoga?
Absolutely! Yoga is fun, inclusive and accessible to all types of bodies.
However, due to a more limited range of movement, there may be some poses that you might struggle with more – or that may even be dangerous to try with your condition. This largely depends on your unique experience of the disorder.
Depending on the location and extent of your spinal curvature, scoliosis can affect the alignment of your:
- Rib cage
Yoga for scoliosis involves poses designed specifically with spinal curvature in mind. Different postures will have special benefits for specific types of scoliosis.
For example, in order to decrease a lateral curve, you’ll need to focus on lengthening the spine before gently bringing it back to centre and build up the surrounding muscles to keep it in place.
Those suffering from posterior rotation will want to focus more on twists, although other postures also help to stretch and strengthen the muscles necessary for improved alignment.
In order to maximise the effects of yoga for scoliosis and avoid injury, it’s important to understand what your pattern of scoliosis is.
5 benefits of yoga for scoliosis
Yoga for scoliosis offers not a cure for scoliosis, but a complimentary approach to medical and surgical methods that can help treat discomfort and train the muscles to better support the spine.
With an increased connection to their physiologies through yoga, people with scoliosis often find a renewed ability to work with their bodies, rather than against them.
The benefits of yoga for scoliosis include:
1. Increased flexibility
The concave side of the spine has shortened, tight muscles, that pull on the spine and cause compression, resulting in intense pain as well as worsened scoliosis. Increasing flexibility of the concave side helps prevent pulling and better supports the spine.
2. Decreased pain and stiffness
Through increasing flexibility of the spine, yoga can reduce compression and pain by relieving the pressure on the vertebrae and surrounding bones and tissues.
3. Stretches and strengthens core and spinal muscles
The muscles and connective tissue on the convex side of the curve are constantly being overstretched, making them weak. Strengthening these muscles through yoga poses will help the muscles better support the spine and prevent further deterioration.
4. Improved oxygen and blood flow
Scoliosis can cause restricted oxygen and blood flow to the compressed areas of the body. Yoga poses involve careful breathwork that help redirect blood flow back to these areas.
5. Improved spinal position
Some yoga exercises for scoliosis can help rotate the body back to alignment and build muscles to help hold the correct spinal position.
10 yoga poses for scoliosis
Whilst you should expect for some poses to feel challenging, at no point should you experience any pain. If you do, stop immediately.
Feel empowered to work within your body’s capacity, and be gentle.
1. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha)
This reclining backbend and chest-opening pose helps stretch out your hips, back and shoulders.
- Raise your hips and press your interlocked arms into the mat.
- If this pose feels too intense, try a supported bridge by placing a yoga block under your lower back.
2. Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana)
This pose helps create length in the spine, stretches the hips, claves and hamstrings, and improves posture.
- Start in a standing forward bend pose, knees slightly bent to avoid hyperextension, and straighten your elbows and lengthen your torso away from your legs on the inhale.
- The focus in this pose is not to touch the floor but to find length in your spine. It may be helpful to bring your hands to your shins, knees, or thighs instead of the ground.
- Create a gentle arch in your spine by gazing forwards gently, taking care not to compress the back of your neck.
3. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This pose calms the nervous system and relaxes the spine.
- Sit down on your heels, allow your buttocks to relax over your heels. You can place blankets under your feet for more comfort. Inhale deeply into the back.
- To even out the sides of your back, pay special attention to the concave side with the compressed ribs by moving your arms toward the convex side, keeping your arms a shoulders-width apart.
4. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
With your condition in mind, make sure your emphasis is different when you stretch to each side.
- When you’re stretching to the concaved side, lengthen your spine to open compressed ribs on the underside of the body and decrease the protrusion of the ribs on the upper side.
- When stretching towards the convex side, twist to create more evenness on the sides of the back.
- If you find yourself putting too much pressure on your leg by leaning on it, you can use a yoga block to rest your hand on.
5. Cat-Cow Pose (Marjariasana)
This pose focuses your breathing and loosens your spine.
- Make sure your wrists are directly below your shoulders and your knees are below your hips. Inhale as you push your core to the floor and raise your head, and exhale as you tuck your head in and round your spine toward the ceiling.
- Start by practicing this pose for 1-3 minutes at a time. Move between your cat and cow slowly, gradually increasing the speed as you feel your spine become looser and more flexible.
6. Mountain Pose
This pose can improve your balance, strengthen your core and help your posture.
- Stand tall upon your mat, feet a hips-width apart and pressing firmly into the ground. Make sure that you activate the muscles in your thighs and core, as well as tuck your tailbone under your navel.
- Pull the crown of your head up towards the sky, using each exhale to create more length.
7. Tree Pose
This pose stretches and lengthens your spine, improving your posture.
- Start by standing in mountain pose, as described above. Fix your gaze on a focus point in front of you and shift your weight onto one leg, slowly raising the other off the ground. Bring your raised foot to the inner thigh of your straightened leg and rest your sole against it, pressing hard.
- Square your pelvis so that it is straight and stretch your arms to the ceiling, palms pressed together. Hold the pose for 30 seconds before switching legs.
8. Downward-facing Dog
This pose lengthens the group of muscles that run along your spine.
- Start on all fours with your knees under your hips and shoulders stacked over your wrists, making sure your fingers are spread.
- Press your hands into the mat and lift your hips into the air by straightening your legs.
9. Locust Pose (Shalabhasana)
This pose is key for increasing strength in the erector spinae muscles and the hamstring muscles. It can also help relieve stress from the body, decrease fatigue, and improve lower back pain.
- Lie face down on your mat and extend your arms to the side, keeping them in line with your shoulders whilst making sure your hands are below shoulder blade level.
- Exhale and lift your head and chest off the floor, engaging your buttocks and thighs to lift your legs off the ground when you’re ready.
10. Shoulder stand (Salamba Sarvangasana)
This pose helps release the chronic tension in the neck and shoulders commonly felt among those with scoliosis.
- Try to have as much support as possible in order to encourage the chest to open and prevent the weight of the body from falling on the neck and shoulders. Do this by placing blankets and yoga blocks under your back and glutes, and stretch your legs up a wall, resting on it as long as necessary.
- Interlace your fingers and roll your shoulders under you, pressing your hands into the ground to support your shoulders. See if you can lift your legs off the wall and balance here for a minute.
- Gradually increase the time you hold this pose up to 5-10 minutes.
We hope you found this article useful!
Yoga for scoliosis is a great way to manage the challenges and pain that accompany scoliosis. However, its important to remember that every condition is different and poses that work for some people may not work as well for you.
With this in mind, we always recommend consulting a doctor or physiologist before you begin your yoga for scoliosis journey.
If you enjoyed this article, check out ‘Restorative Yoga Guide: 8 Best Restorative Yoga Poses’ for gentle, therapeutic poses designed to help you decompress and unwind.