Teaching Yoga for Scoliosis
Roll a firm blanket into a cylinder or use a bolster. Have your student lie back on the folded blanket or bolster so that her shoulder blades are resting on the roll. Her head and shoulders should rest on the floor. Ask her to stretch the legs out through the heels to prevent lower back compression, and lift the breastbone. Instruct her to bring the chin down toward the chest and lengthen the neck. Now let her extend the arms straight overhead and rest them on the floor, if possible. Suggest that she feel the breath evenly expanding the rib cage. Ask her to try to breathe into and expand the compressed side of the rib cage. If she feels the convex side of the back protruding onto the roll more than the concave side, place a small hand towel or tie under the concave side so that the back touches the blanket evenly. She can also do this passive backbend over the edge of her bed.
Salabhasana (Locust Pose). This backbend is very important for scoliosis, because it strengthens the erector spinae muscles and the hamstring muscles of the legs. This strengthening helps to ensure adequate support of the spinal column in all back bending poses.
Ask your student to lie face down and extend the arms out to the side, in line with the shoulders. On an exhalation, have him lift the head and upper chest off the floor, keeping the buttocks firm and pressing the thighs strongly down. Ask him to lengthen the arms out to the side so the shoulder blades stretch away from the spine, keeping the hands below the level of the shoulder blades. Instruct him to exhale as he releases. Repeat three to five times.
Now have him stretch the arms overhead and feel the muscles of the back lengthening from the pelvis. Ask him to lift the arms and place the palms on the seat of a chair in front of him. Then have him stretch the arms out once again and move the chair farther away to lengthen the spine. Suggest that he gently lift the abdomen and floating ribs to support the front of the spine. Ask him to press down strongly with the palms on the chair as he presses the thighs downward and lifts the spine further. Instruct him to exhale as he releases. Repeat this three to five times. He can also do this pose with the legs lifted as well as the arms.
As your students become more advanced, they may wish to attempt more advanced backbends, such as Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), Ustrasana (Camel Pose), and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Facing Bow Pose) .
Twists Twists are very important for scoliosis because they help to derotate the spine. Caution should always be taken to lengthen the spine before twisting.
Chair Twist. Ask your student to sit on a chair with her right side to the back of the chair and her hands placed on each side of the back of the chair. Have her place her feet firmly on the floor, knees and ankles together. With an inhalation, ask her to lengthen the spine; with the exhalation, instruct her to gently rotate from the navel, stretching the ribs away form the pelvis. Have her press with the right hand into the back of the chair to create more twist, and with the left fingers pull on the back of the chair, drawing the left shoulder blade away from the spine. Ask her to continue to breathe into the pose and twist further with each exhalation. With an exhalation, let her slowly release the pose. For a right thoracic scoliosis, emphasis should be put on twisting in this direction. Twist both ways twice, but instruct her to stay longer on this side.
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