My journey with yoga and scoliosis began when I was a teenager living in a small town in Wisconsin. I starting having some discomfort and pain in my back and was soon diagnosed with a significant curvature in my spine. The options for treatment sounded bleak – bracing and the possibility of having surgery for a spinal fusion if it got worse. I ended up wearing a back brace for about four challenging years. During the four hours a day that I wasn’t wearing the brace, I moved my body as much as I could.
Luckily, my mom was practicing yoga at the one local studio at the time and I started going along with her to classes. I ended up working with the instructor, Pat Becker, privately for awhile and occasionally with a visiting teacher from out of town. I remember getting permission to leave high school at times to go and practice yoga with them. I started to feel more aligned and at ease in my body and mind. It was empowering to be doing something to help my back and to feel the results.
I continued to practice and I eventually began my first yoga teacher training in my mid twenties. Drawing from my own experience, I was inspired to be able to help other people with scoliosis and back issues. I’ve since sought out and mentored with teachers on a similar path, including Deborah Wolk and renowned yoga for scoliosis teacher Elise Miller.
I’ve learned so much over the years through working with my own back and through each of my clients that have scoliosis in both my yoga and massage practice. Practicing yoga with scoliosis is an intimate process of relearning where your center is and adjusting poses accordingly. We need to use modifications of poses and props along with breath awareness to help lengthen, strengthen, and de-rotate the spine. It is important to learn about your own back and develop a therapeutic practice that supports your body’s needs.
With consistency and patience, often the only side effect of working skillfully with yoga for scoliosis is better alignment and balance, less pain, and the possibility of a reduction in the curvature of the spine.
I now see my scoliosis as one of my greatest gifts, as it has led me to where I am on my path with yoga today. It’s brought more awareness and compassion to every area of my life.
I feel a sense of solace and inspiration while observing asymmetrical shapes in the natural world. Like a tree in nature, each spine is beautiful and unique.
As Elise Miller states, “Through yoga, we discover that the curved spine has a wisdom all it’s own. It’s greatest power is to teach us to live our lives with balance, sensitivity, and grace.”
Originally posted on The People’s Yoga Blog October 18th, 2015