Yoga For Scoliosis with Elise Browning Miller

Shanti Productions; (800) 872-8273; VHS and DVD, 77 minutes.

Several million people in the United States are afflicted with scoliosis, a lateral (side-to-side) curvature of the spine. The condition results in uncomfortable postural imbalances and can cause a great deal of pain. Yoga teachers have been working with scoliotic students for a couple of decades now, but this is the first yoga asana program designed specifically for the condition. The work is primarily therapeutic, its goal being to reduce the pain of a scoliotic spine and improve posture and balance. But if applied early enough in the person’s life (and, as if to make this point, one of the four models is a teenager), it can also serve to some extent as a preventative measure.

The basic approach of Elise Browning Miller, she notes on her excellent Web site (, is to focus on lengthening the spine, stretching muscles that have become tight, and strengthening muscles that have become weak. Since a lateral curvature also causes a twisting of the spine, she emphasizes “de-rotating the spine and ribs, creating more balance and harmony in the body.”

Miller and her models represent a range of common scoliotic conditions, and as the practice progresses, she provides specific instructions for each type (with the camera zeroing in on the appropriate model). The first section combines natural breathing with simple, asana-based exercises that lengthen the spine, opening the compressed spaces between the vertebrae and literally making room for the spine to grow. The second, which includes several familiar standing postures and Locust Pose, is tailored to strengthen the back and improve posture and alignment. The last offers five exercises—a supported reclining backbend, a chair twist, a reclining leg stretch, another twist, and Corpse Pose—for restoring the body-mind and releasing and relaxing the tightness that often accrues from scoliosis.

A yoga teacher since 1976, Miller has a master’s degree in therapeutic recreation and is a senior certified Iyengar Yoga teacher. Yoga for Scoliosis is an absolute must-have for anyone with the condition, of whatever age and physical capacity—no prior yoga experience required. It’s also recommended for those looking to relieve lower back pain and shoulder and neck tension, and for yoga teachers and therapists seeking to broaden their knowledge.

Contributing Editor Richard Rosen teaches public classes in Northern California. He is also the author of The Yoga of Breath.