Let me begin by saying I have practiced yoga for over 40 years and remain a daily practitioner of yoga. Having completed a Yoga Teacher Training in 1982 certified by Kripalu Yoga (SDF) of Napa Valley, California, I have personally practiced a wide variety of yoga techniques. So… I am by no means hear to demonize or vilify yoga as an exercise regime. However, I do think it is important for those with scoliosis to read this article before beginning any routine.
Though yoga is often recommended by well intentioned yoga instructors, too often “scoliosis yoga” comes with counterproductive maneuvers that can make curves worse. While these moves are often very positive for normal bodies, some of these scoliosis yoga exercises can be damaging to the scoliosis patients progress.
Scoliosis is a peculiar condition in that each person with scoliosis will have a unique postural distortion. Because of the complexity of curve type, size, modifiers, sagittal profiles, and associated ligamentous instabilities, it is not possible for a person to simply do “Scoliosis Yoga”. For example, you may be improving one aspect of the curve at the expense of another area of the curve. A more realistic approach is to have a specialized Yoga for Scoliosis program developed by a practitioner who is familiar with both Yoga and Scoliosis.
When Scoliosis Yoga is being done properly, no damage will take place AND the practitioner will be able to accomplish a specific, rehabilitative goal with each posture.
Ironically, Yoga for scoliosis may have a positive effect on symptoms, but it will not have any significant impact on halting curve progression or reducing the scoliosis spine curvature. The latest research is indicating that the scoliotic spine is primarily a neurological under-development (most likely due to a genetic predisposition) known as idiopathic scoliosis. Environmental influences (bio-mechanical, biochemical, and activity related) seem to be the primary drivers of scoliosis curve progression when combined with a significant genetic predisposition for idiopathic scoliosis. Surprisingly these drivers can be things like specific types of bacteria exposure or even nutritional deficiencies!
Scoliosis is complex and different in each person and the type of scoliosis yoga poses that are best for you are determined by a complex equation reflecting the nature of your condition. Some movements may be contraindicated in your situation and be perfectly fine for someone else who also has scoliosis. No two scoliosis yoga patients are the same and no one scoliosis yoga patient is ever the same twice. YOU ARE CONSTANTLY CHANGING AND YOUR SCOLIOSIS YOGA PROGRAM MUST CHANGE WITH YOU! It is also important to know that yoga for scoliosis alone can not prevent scoliosis nor can it stop its progress. You need to combine the scoliosis yoga program with professional specialized care to fully manage your condition (treatment options). A scoliosis doctor who understands yoga (or exercise therapies generally) can determine the classification, modifiers, and level of curvature in your spine and then work with you to develop an appropriate pose selection. BEFORE starting any exercise program whether it is yoga, pilates, isometric, or any other exercise regime, check with the physician treating your scoliosis who has a greater understanding of the principles stated above. If an unqualified doctor or yoga instructor suggests scoliosis yoga please be cautious before proceeding.
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