Diagnosed around 13 with scoliosis which progressed to involve 2 severe curves by the time I was 16, I’ve found yoga to be a wonderful technique for reducing pain and creating balance. At 17 years old I underwent a spinal fusion for most of my thoracic spine. Lucky this means I still have much mobility in my low back (as that curve wasn’t corrected) though hardly any in my upper. This means that when I attend a yoga class I tend to be aware and uber conscious of the effects of each pose on my spine. Post surgery I remember wishing there were classes I could take for post spinal fusions. This got me thinking into the possibilities of targeted classes before my fusion. Now that I’m fused, i’m actually MORE stable than I was before- I have EXTRA sthiram, just gotta work with the sukham (ease). Previous to the fusion, I had absolutely no stability or ease.
Many I have spoken to have said their doctors recommended physiotherapy or yoga to either help with their functional scoliosis, kyphosis or lordosis in guiding the spine back to its 4 natural (and deemed ‘regular’) curves. This is done through strengthening and conditioning, usually of the core, back/ hips or shoulder blade muscles.
Structural scolio, kypho & lordo is very different although it is still recommended by doctors that one partake in yoga or physio . Structural asymmetries have unknown causes (some could be hereditary, like scoliosis), a doctor may call them idiopathic. This means that regular work outs and strengthening doesn’t exactly stop the progression of the curve, its simply the way the spine wants to grow. As such, structural asymmetries are usually diagnosed in the early teens since one is going through a major growth spurt.
So why yoga?
Two reasons: pain management & emotional coping. It is not about ‘fixing’ your curves. It is not about making yourself ‘less deformed’. This practice is for balance and lightness. You are not deformed because you have a curve (my first doctor called my scoliosis a deformity, which haunts my mind to this day) and you are NOT meant to live in pain. You can in fact live with an asymmetry and manage your pain and an integrate your body/mind. Yoga is the vehicle that can get you there my friends!
SO all my scolio, kypho, lordo friends- I got your back!
This is something I’m still learning and don’t claim in any way to be an expert on! Please listen to your body if you decide to practice this sequence and do not BY ANY MEANS EVER move toward pain. This practice is for those with asymmetries which do not currently have any affects on organs, If your doctor has told you your ribs are twisted against lungs or heart (mine were a little), please be slow and listen to your body. If somethings not working- don’t do it. If you are new to yoga, take it slow, feel it out, notice how your body is feeling, not looking.
Most importantly know that if asana is not available to you, you can always move in your mind. Sit and meditate. Guide yourself through practice in your mind. Love yourself in all you are.
Start with meditation. Set your intention- what do you feel, what will you put energy into? Move into a flowing lateral bend, inhaling raising arms, exhale lowering to one side. This opens up the side body and gets the core active which supports your spine. Next move into dandasana, flexing the feet, shape your body like an ‘L’. Feel your spine elongate. Inhale arms up. Exhale lower. This works deep in the core helping to stabilize the low spine.
Inhale, exhale into a mini forward fold over your legs. Don’t go far, the moment you feel something stop and feel it. When you feel this is complete come to hands and knees in table. Here flow with some cat cow, arching the back towards the sky and then away from it. This is great for all 3 asymmetries and really warms up the spine, getting it ‘juicy’. Repeat as many rounds as feels good. Then push up and back into downward dog. Take a few moments, peddle the feet.
From downward dog, bring one foot forward planting it between your hands in a lunge. Option to keep the back leg active or to lower the knee. This pose works into the hip flexors which can help stabilize the low back as well. However, we don’t want to work into them too much- only go to wherever is comfortable. Now we will take a tiny twist. If you have been advised to not to twist by a doctor- please don’t do so. Plant the hand on the inside of the foot and use your core to raise the other, exhaling and twisting toward the bent knee. Keep foot firmly planted. Breathe. Lower and DO THE OTHER SIDE. Downdog, opposite foot forward. Lunge. Twist. Exhale, sitting back into child’s pose, head to mat arms in their most comfortable position for you.When ready inhale, push back into down dog.
Exhale float into plank. Inhale back to down dog. Flow here with the breath. When complete, walk your feet up and into a forward fold. Take a moment to breathe. Notice your spine. I suggest bending your knees to help stabilize. You can also place a block in between your thighs (this is my favourite). You can now either float up into chair pose (using the core! Be careful of the low back, is it dipping forward?) or sit back into boat pose. For boat pose bring feet and arms off the ground and engage the core. Inhale, bend the knees, exhale straighten them. Lengthen through the crown of the head- keep your spine long and pain free!
Exhale, lay back. Take it sloooow. Hug the knees into the chest. Rock back and forth, massaging you beautiful wonderful spine. It is what carried you here to practice today, say thank you for all it does FOR you, for it is never working AGAINST you, though it may feel that way. Takes some twists if available to you. Stretch out your hamstrings by lifting one leg closer to you body. Then allow your body to melt into the earth. I invite you to revisit your intention. Does your body feel different than it did before you practiced today? Where? How can you bring more love into those areas? More appreciation?
Allow yourself to breathe and feel, feel and breathe. Your spine is the core of your being, the centre of your body in this world of form. It has curves, just like everyone else. It has bones that protect and synovial fluid that keeps it moving. It can move in 7 different directions and guides you through your day and sleep. Whether it is off balance or laying in its 4 natural curves, it is there, working ever so hard for you. Love it, no matter how it looks. Help it, no matter how it feels. Love it,because it is a part of the wonderful,beauty of you.
The video of this practice is posted on my Instagram. If there are any questions at all, ever, big or small, please feel free to email me. I’d love to hear comments, questions, concerns, epiphanies or requests.