Having a back problem of any kind can cause questions to arise about the safety of practicing yoga, or any other exercise. If you have a scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, and have tried yoga before, you might not be sure if it was right for you. It can be confusing.
Is yoga safe and can it be helpful to you? Yes. Scoliosis is a condition that can improve with stretching and strengthening, both of which can be accomplished with a specific yoga practice.   Many useful poses are taught in basic yoga classes. The problem with general practices is often the focus on symmetry and alignment does not always take into account a spine with a curve which presents with elongated and weak muscles on one side of the body and short and strong muscles on the other, but never that straightforward.
Depending on the severity of the curve, some poses may be painful or feel like they are making the curves more pronounced. Asymmetrical poses often need to be altered and done differently from one side to the other in order to address long term postural goals. The goal of each practice should be the mindful alignment of your body – mindfulness being the key here.
And yoga is about more than just asana, or poses. Pranayama, breath, is another important aspect of a well rounded yoga practice. Because of the rotation of the spine seen in scoliosis, compression of the ribs on one side of the body is common. In yoga, breathing is used to assist in finding optimal alignment and expansion the lungs, which is beneficial to most everyone. Awareness of holding patterns and challenging the respiratory system can help with pain, which is experienced by a good many people with a scoliosis.
Scoliosis is a condition very often addressed by physical therapist. If scoliosis is a concern for you and you are interested in establishing a yoga practice, the Physical Therapists at Evolution, all certified yoga teachers, can help you start a practice or modify your current practice.
There is also an upcoming workshop focused specifically on yoga and scoliosis on Oct. 4th, from 2-4.
~ Andrea Trombley, PT

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