Posted by: eveyoga | November 15, 2010

Scoliosis and Yoga

A question appeared on the Facebook group: Yoga Therapy 2010 @ Byron Yoga Centre regarding the advisability of backbends and inversions for yoga students with scoliosis. A very good query, too, given that so many people have curvatures of the spine.

An American yoga teacher named Elise Browning has an amazing story regarding her own journey with a severe scoliosis, assessed at a 49 degree deviation in the thoracic and a compensatory lumbar curve when she was only a teenager. Elise didn’t take the surgical option and instead found help in therapeutic yoga. I recommend her books and dvd:

A quick answer for Sinead, in the meantime….

Backbends that strengthen the back can be useful when introduced slowly and methodically, such as Bhujangasana (pictured) or Salabasana. Also, a passive backbend with a bolster or 1-2 blankets rolled up and placed under the shoulder blades, head supported, and arms stretched over head.

As for inversions, poses that help traction the spine like Adho Mukha Svanasana in ropes or hanging from a belt looped around a door knob, or positioned in a “yoga swing”, or supported sarvangasana (with chair, blanket, bolster), and the old standby, Viparita Karani, sacrum supported on a bolster.

When, as a teacher, you look at your student, your aim is to decrease their lateral curve and decrease posterior rotation. Tractioning and anti-gravity poses work well to bring the student back into alignment, but strengthening legs, abs, and spinus erectus muscles are absolutely necessary too.



  1. Great question, great answer. I’ve wondered about this myself. I’m often suprised to find people with severe scoliosis doing yoga and wondered how best to help.


  2. Thanks Eve; I teach a lot of people and they have a lot going on:)
    It is good to receive your experience on scoliosis and to receive
    the further reading suggestion…always learning

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