It seems that yoga classes are popping up everywhere these days, and this ancient Indian practice has also become very popular among online communities. Placing emphasis on psychological and physical balance, yoga is often used to improve an individual's physical ability, as well as their mental well-being. This is achieved via a combination of poses and breathing exercises, which are said to improve strength and flexibility while also combating the negative effects of everyday life (such as stress and bad posture).
While yoga has received a lot of good press in the health and wellness industry, it's important to examine how yoga is being promoted to those with specific medical conditions, including scoliosis. The benefits of yoga have been well documented, but we feel that it is also important to scrutinise the ways in which some people are presenting this approach as a viable, non-surgical treatment for curvature of the spine.
How is yoga used to treat scoliosis?
The form of yoga that is sometimes used to treat scoliosis is called hatha (which, in Sanskrit, simply means 'force'). Hatha yoga focuses on physical postures and exercises, but also emphasises proper breathing, mental exercises, and a controlled diet.
The main aim of yoga-based scoliosis treatment is to create proper alignment within the body while minimising pain and spinal damage. This is achieved by focusing on a number of key areas, including:
- Strengthening the feet and legs (supposedly relieving some of the burden on your spine)
- Straightening / lengthening the spine
- Aligning the lower limbs with the torso for improved function
- Addressing the rounding of the back
- Strengthening the core muscles to prevent the back from tightening
- Incorporation of breathing awareness to improve structural alignment
Should I use yoga to treat my scoliosis?
While yoga can lead to a number of positive benefits for scoliosis sufferers - most notably improved posture and muscle strength, as well as pain relief in some cases - the use of yoga as a scoliosis treatment should be regarded with caution. This is especially true if you are visiting a class or treatment centre that does not cater specifically to the demands of scoliosis sufferers; scoliotic spines don't always behave in the same way as healthy spines, and this can prove problematic when scoliosis patients participate in certain exercises and activities.
In particular, scoliosis sufferers who practice yoga should be careful when performing exercises that involve:
- Backward / forward bending
- Torso twists
- Sideways bends
- Shoulder stands
- Bending of the rib cage
The problem is the sheer variety of different deviations that exist in scoliosis patients. Ideally, all treatments (whether yoga-based or not) should be specifically tailored to the patient's unique condition while also assessing potential areas of concern in order to avoid secondary risks.
Is there a safer alternative to yoga for scoliosis sufferers?
For those who wish to treat their scoliosis without surgery, there are other non-surgical treatment methods available - methods that provide the corrective and strengthening benefits of yoga while also doing more to address the individual needs of the patient. Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we use our own ScolioGold treatment method: this is a combined programme of non-surgical techniques that we specifically created to address a combination of issues present in individuals suffering from scoliosis. In order to provide the best results, patient outcomes and treatments are constantly monitored and updated in line with the latest medical research in our field.
Click here to find out more about our ScolioGold treatment programme, or get in touch with Scoliosis SOS today to arrange a consultation.