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Teaching Yoga for Scoliosis

Yoga can be a powerful healing tool for students with scoliosis. Here's everything you need to know to help them ease their aching backs.

By Elise Browning Miller

As she progresses, she will be able to add several other seated twists that are beneficial to scoliosis, including Blharadvajasana, Maricehyasana, and Ardha Matsyendrasana.

Forward Bends

Forward bends help your students release deep tension in the back and shoulders. The longer they can stay in these poses, the deeper the release will be.

Janu Sirsasana (Head to Knee Pose). Ask your student to sit at the very edge of a folded blanket with both legs straight, and pull the flesh of the buttocks away from the sitting bones. Have him bend his right knee and bring his right heel into the right groin, letting the knee fall gently to the side. Instruct him to bend forward from the hips over the left leg. In this forward bend, he should first lift the spine and draw the shoulder blades down and into the back, opening the chest. This movement counteracts the tendency of people with scoliosis to hunch their backs and round their shoulders. To achieve this opening of the chest, he might pull gently on a chair, or on a tie wrapped around the ball of the left foot. You can also place a sandbag on the protruding (convex) side of the spine. If he can come farther forward, place a bolster or blanket across the straight leg and rest the forehead on the bolster. Repeat on the opposite side.

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) and other seated forward bends can also be practiced in a similar fashion, with the aid of a chair, a sandbag, and a bolster.

Savasana (Corpse Pose) with Breathing Awareness

Relaxation is crucial to allow the body, mind, and sprit to receive the fruits of the practice. Especially for scoliosis sufferers, relaxation is difficult, for the muscles have been clenched to support the uneven spine. Ask your students to lie down on their backs on the floor, stretching both sides of the body evenly. If their backs are uneven due to the scoliosis, place a tie or small towel in the concavity of the back. Instruct them to close their eyes and breath deeply, becoming especially aware of the spine and expanding both sides of the rib cage evenly. Ask them to move their awareness through their bodies, noticing and releasing any areas of tension. Let them stay in the pose at least 10 minutes.

As the body relaxes in Savasana, the mind becomes quiet, and true healing can take place. Healing is not just a physical activity, but involves deep awareness of the mind and sprit as well. In the course of their lives our students encounter many hardships that, like their curved spines, may initially appear to be painful handicaps. By helping them learn to take responsibility for healing their backs and treating them with awareness and sensitivity, we can help them also learn to respond this way to other emotional, mental, and physical traumas.

Elise Miller, M.A. in Therapeutic Recreation from the University of North Carolina, is a Senior Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher from Palo Alto who has been teaching yoga throughout the United States and internationally since 1976. As a founding director of the California Yoga Center in Mountain View, CA, Elise teaches classes and workshops specializing in back care and sports-related injuries and is a faculty member at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco. For more detailed information on Yoga for Scoliosis, including Elise's video, please visit her website at

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Reader Comments


Thankyou! This was very useful for me


can you send me some information on scoliosis because i'm doing a term paper on it thanks Tracey



I thought this info might help your hubby enjoy yoga a little more...

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