Scoliosis can be really confusing. Understanding those twists and turns in the spine is really tricky. Here are my top tips for practicing yoga with scoliosis.
My yoga for scoliosis journey
My scoliosis is what orginally brought me to yoga thirteen years ago. I was fed up with running from physiotherapy to chiropractor and osteopath to another. It only ever seemed to be a short term solution and I simply didn't have enough money to sustain it.
Yoga gave me what I had been looking for for so long - relief from my back pain. I had finally found something that I was in complete control of. Something that was tailor made for MY body.
Well not at first though because I had to find my way through the yoga jungle first to find the right style of yoga for me. I had a go at Ashtanga Yoga and loved the strength and energy but I then noticed that I strengthened my already strong sides of the body even more and the weak side was neglected. I needed to slow down.
I have learned over the last ten years what works for me and what doesn't. The journey continues but I have a few tips which I would like to pass on to you:
My tips for practicing yoga with scoliosis
1. Become your own health expert
If you want to take control then you need to get very familiar with your scoliosis. Bear in mind that there is an infinite number of ways that the spine can twist and turn (even though there are some that are more common) NOBODY has got the same spine as you do. No health practitioner will ever know your body as well as you do if you really start to take an interest. But where do you start?
Get an x-ray (if you haven't had one already). If your scolioisis is severe you will most likely have one, if you haven't then do get one. Even if you have to pay for it - it's well worth in the long run.
Read as much as possible about this condition. Articles, blogs, books... whatever you can find. Really try to understand your specific curve.
2. Draw a picture of your spine
This will be a result of number one but I find it so important that I'm giving it it's own heading! Once you can really visualise your spine then you can start to work with it!
3. Find a teacher who knows about scoliosis
A qualified yoga teacher should at least know what scoliosis if course. Somebody who has been trained in yoga for scoliosis will be able to help you create a much more in depth programme however.
If you are going to a general group class then make sure that you tell your teacher about it! In a big group class your teacher will not be able to give specific instructions just for you so just bear that in mind when you choose your class.
4. Start a home practice
The more experienced you become the more you will be able to apply at home what you have learned in class. Once you start practicing at home you will experience a big transformation. You can really start to have your practice "serve" you! You can begin to assemble your own tool box of poses that are really beneficial for you.
5. Get some props
Working with props is really really helpful for scoliosis. I have accumulated quite a few over the last few years! I can tell you there are many many more that you could use! They really help to support your back and release tension in different poses.
If you only want to buy one thing I would recommend to buy a yoga bolster*!
6. Release - lengthen - strengthen - relax
If you are just starting out with your own home practice then keep it simple. I usually work with the four principles
1. Release - start with releasing some of those tight muscles before even considering anything else
2. Lengthen - lengthen short muscles
3. Strengthen - strengthen the weaker parts of your body
4. Relax - learn to enjoy Savasana 🙂
You don't always have to include all of these in every practice. If you only have time for one or two poses then start with release and lengthen!
7. Monitor your body
You might have hear your yoga teacher say "listen to your body". This sometimes doesn't work so well when you have scoliosis I find. It takes a while to start to trust your body.
So instead of giving in to any sensations maybe think about monitoring. Making notes of how you feel after different poses. Especially making a note of differences between the right and left side of the body.
*disclosure: this post contain one or more affiliate links. These are products that I personally recommend and I will receive a small commission if you decide to purchase them via my link.