Scoliosis is a postural abnormality resulting in a mild, moderate or severe lateral curvature of the thoracic and/or lumbar spine. Although spinal surgery is sometimes warranted to remedy a severe curvature, exercises such as yoga may help mild to moderate cases of scoliosis by promoting awareness of proper spinal alignment, decreasing pain and minimizing further curvature to the spine, according to Yoga Journal.
The physical practice of Hatha yoga may help scoliosis by strengthening and stretching your spine and increasing flexibility of the muscles that support your posture, according certified Lyengar yoga teacher Elise Browning Miller in an article for the National Scoliosis Foundation. In addition, the mindful and meditative components of yoga may provide additional benefits by helping you be kinder to yourself in your mental self-talk. In her book, "Yoga and Scoliosis," certified yoga instructor Marcia Monroe suggests that the yogic principle of choosing opposite thoughts when you feel disturbed or fatigued by your condition may help by promoting awareness and a healthier thought process.
Certain yoga poses may provide benefits for scoliosis and help improve your posture. Beneficial yoga poses for scoliosis promote improved posture by strengthening your abdominal muscles and relaxing the muscles that support your spine. In her book, "Back Care Basics: A Doctor's Gentle Yoga Program for Back and Neck Pain Relief," physician and certified yoga instructor Mary Pullig Schatz recommends specific poses for scoliosis, including supported Downward-Facing Dog, a supported Forward Bend and the Bridge pose.
Poses to Avoid
According to physical therapist Christa Lehnert-Schroth, certain yoga poses should be avoided or modified for people with scoliosis. Prohibited poses include backbends such as the Cobra, Half-Moon, Bow and Locust pose, as these poses increase lumbar and thoracic lordosis, twisting poses such as the Spinal Twist and Triangle poses, and poses that involve bending your rib cage sideways. Inversions like the Headstand and Handstand are also contraindicated for scoliosis, as these poses decrease the natural curvature of your cervical spine.
Consult your doctor prior to beginning a yoga program if you have scoliosis or any other medical condition that may interfere with your ability to perform yoga poses. To minimize any potential risk, you should also consult a qualified, certified yoga instructor for guidance on proper alignment as well as to obtain advice regarding any necessary modifications you may need to make for your condition.
- Yoga Journal: Yoga for Scoliosis
- National Scoliosis Foundation: Yoga
- Yoga and Scoliosis: A Journey to Health and Healing: Marcia Monroe
- Scoliosis Surgery: The Definitive Patient's Reference: David K. Wolpert
- Back Care Basics: A Doctor's Gentle Yoga Program for Back and Neck Pain Relief: Mary Pullig Schatz, MD
- Schroth Method: Yoga Exercises for Scoliosis: Which Ones to Avoid
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.