I have a crooked spine. Specifically, I have idiopathic, right thoracolumbar scoliosis. I have a mild to moderate curve that developed as a teenager. I didn’t realize fully what was happening with my spine until I took up Iyengar yoga twenty five years ago. I have appreciated many benefits from practicing Iyengar yoga for my scoliosis.
For me, I experience back pain, off and on, particularly in my right lumbar area. Scoliosis does not necessarily cause pain, as I’ve witnessed with a number of my students. For my yoga practice, I consider in every asana adjusting, to help balance the assymetry. I also practice specific poses that I have learned through self-study and studying with other Iyengar teachers with expertise in scoliosis.
This pose is one example of a pose that I practice to relieve back pain. I call it chair push for ease of remembering with my students, but can be called Ardha Adho Mukha Svanasana or half downward facing dog pose.This pose accomplishes three important movements that help to create balance in my spine. First, is traction of the spine. As the arms stretch forward, the buttock bones press back into the wall. This creates a pleasant stretch and lengthening of the trunk muscles. With the buttock bones on the wall, I receive feedback that my left buttock is light compared to my right, so I can press my left buttock bone more into the wall. This creates more equal length in both side waists. Thirdly, with scoliosis, comes a rotation of the spine. I am aware that my spine rotates to the right, so I am able to rotate my rib cage to the left to create as much evenness as possible.
Most importantly, I have gained awareness and self-understanding of my spine, through the practices of Iyengar yoga. Depending on the type of curve you have, the ways of working in each pose would be specific to your needs. I would highly recommend taking up the practices of Iyengar yoga for those with scoliosis. As always, check with your health care provider, if there are any concerns with beginning a yoga practice.