Yoga for Scoliosis

 Yoga for Scoliosis

by Gill Henderson -  BA , PGCE  - Yoga Teacher, Yoga Therapist and Elise Browning Miller Yoga for Scoliosis Teacher Trainer  - www.yogawithgill.com



Yoga is a portable adaptable practice from India that is over 5000 years old which works on a spiritual, emotional and physical level. It helps body, mind and spirit to work in harmony, so life can be enjoyed and we can face whatever life brings with equanimity. Hatha Yoga includes the use of Physical asanas ( postures), Pranayama  (breathing techniques ) and Savasana.  (deep relaxation). 


Yoga for Scoliosis

As everyone’s curve/ curves are uniqueYoga for Scoliosis is taught One to One with a fully qualified Yogafor Scoliosis teacher, in order that the student’s history of Scoliosis and spinal curvature can be assessed .  An evolving Yoga practice is then devised and monitored  by the teacher so that the student  can learn a short empowering, daily sequence to practice at home.  Yoga asanas (postures)  arepractised to ‘brace’ the spine, lengthen the spine, help to de-rotate the curvature, to defy gravity as well as help the practitioner feel more centred.  

Yoga for Scoliosis can help to improve the student’s posture and potentially help to decrease their spinal curvature, as well as help to halt the progression of a curve.   It is suitable for everyone, any age as well as those who have had spinal fusion.


Yoga for Scoliosis remaps the Physical body.

‘The body with Scoliosis has developed a highly sophisticated compensatory ‘act’ and it can also learn a more refined symmetrical ‘act’ with proper instruction. ‘  Elise Browning Miller

This can be done by stretching muscles that have become tightened and strengthening muscles that have become weak .. There are specific Yoga  asanas  (poses)  that help to align the hips over the ankles and  bring the pelvis into a neutral position.  Yoga can also  create balance in the pelvis and lower back muscles by working the abdominal muscles, as well as realign the shoulder blades and shoulders, ( as sometimes one shoulder can be higher or one shoulder blade protrudes).

The asanas (poses)  thatarepractised first are the ones to help to lengthen the spine – as they will help to release tension in the back muscles, along with creating more evenness in the spine and ribs. They help to, defy gravity and  to encourage the practitioner to feel more centred and in less pain.  This stretching will also help to create more space between the vertebrae.

This is particularly importantfor a thoracic curvature as due to the lateral rotation of the ribcage the muscles on the concave side of the back can become tightened  and this will also  stretch  the muscles on the convex side of the curve.   The use of these  asanas will  bring more feeling and look of more overall balance , thus providing more ease, freedom and  greater sense of wellbeing throughout the body.

Then asanas (poses)can be included in the sequence  to strengthen the back’s muscles.   These strenghthening practices have a ‘bracing’ effect on the spine and help to prevent someone’s Scoliosis from becoming worse...  Abdominal strengtheners are also a good idea to help to bring a sense of balance to the back and pelvis , if  belly muscles are strong they will help to support the lower back and ensure that the back muscles  are not over used.

Standing asanas are practised in order to strengthen the practitioner’s  legs in order to support their back  and improve  their posture, for example  a modified  Warrior II .or Triangle pose.  These  will help the person with Scoliosis to look and feel straighter, and they can also  help  to address the lateral rotation of the spine too. Improved posture can help alleviate back pain.  Better posture uses the body’s bone structure rather thanover using muscles to stay upright.   Then balance can be found so that the spinal curvature can exist along with gravity, activating the body’s more natural plumb line.

Twistscan then be practised as they help to de- rotate the lateral curvature of the spine and take the pressure off compressed over stretched muscles, bringing a sense of release and freedom. They can help to improve the shape of the curve ( or more rounded part of the back) These Yoga practices are included in order to help toalign the  hips and shoulders as well as the shoulder-blades .


Use of Props

As the practitioner with Scoliosis can have some physical restrictions props can help make the poses easier, more achievable, as well as more comfortable.  They also provide traction, so a deeper stretch is more achievable , which can also help to lengthen the spine.

Props can help to remap the body ,and in Savasana ( relaxation pose)  these can allow the back muscles to relax and realign more fully.

The use of props can help to give encouragement tothe student, as they can perhaps achieve more that they thought they would be able to.


Emotional and Physical  balance and freedom  -

As Yoga for Scoliosis begins and ends with  breath awareness ( Prananyama)  it helps the practitioner to feel more emotionally balanced.  Pranayama( breath control) - is also used when practising Yoga asanas providing a link between breath and movement.

It can also be practised on it’s own or along with meditation as a way of accessing deep  peace and  joy.  Pranayama  has a calming effect that  can help the practitioner cope with the possible physical and emotional discomforts and challenges that Scoliosis can cause, as it is the bridge between the body and the mind. It helps to balance the Parasympathetic and Sympathetic nervous system ( the body’s  fight or flight mechanism)  which when out of balance causes stress.Yoga works form the inside out.


Deep relaxation

This important at the end of the Yoga for Scoliosis so that the remapped muscles can rest in their new position during Savasana  (relaxation pose)  . Props can be used to aid deeper relaxation into the overstretched muscles that Scoliosis can cause.  It is alsoa  time when someone with Scoliosis can become more accepting of their condition, as it can provide space  where they can let go of any worries or fears, replacing them with love and awareness.



It is important for the Yoga practitioner not to expect perfection of themselves or  the asanas ( poses) , but to find acceptance of themselves..  A short, committed  dailyYoga practice  with inner awareness will help the practitioner to ease pain, feel  straighter ,  more confident and  more empowered.

‘As there is beauty in the straight alignment of a palm tree, there is also beauty of an oak tree with it’s many twists and turns. Psychologically, doing yoga is very empowering. It gives hope that we can do something to improve our condition and quality of living’ Elise Browning Miller 

Gill Henderson

Has been teaching Yoga for 15 years.  She was diagnosed with an 'S' shaped structural , idiopathic Scoliosis at the age of 14 , which she found emotionally very difficult to deal with. It was not until her 20's that she found Yoga which instantly gave her a huge release of physical and emotional tension. A car accident in 2008 left her with a whiplash injury to her thoracic spine. She had tried all types of Yoga over the years with many teachers , but it was not until during her Yoga for Scoliosis teacher training  with Elise Browning Miller, in California,  that there was a huge release in the stuck muscles in her middle back. The pain which she had due to the injury went and she was able to straighten up completely. There was a feeling of lightness and a great deal more symmetry and alignment in how her back looked and felt. She is extremely grateful for the huge change that this release in her mid back has brought to her life and for Elise's method of teaching. She continues to practice Yoga for Scoliosis daily and share it with her students.  

For further information on Yoga for Scoliosis  please go to www.yogawithgill.com