My Advice if you Have Scoliosis
Learn the three cues that reverse your scoliotic tendencies. That is the most important piece of advice I can give students with scoliosis. That would be three cues, particular to your scoliotic pattern, that you can perform simply in a yoga pose or exercise.
For example: For a Right Thoracic (major curve), left lumbar curve (compensatory curve) where the ribcage is highly rotated and visually prominent, the three cues could be:
LEAN TORSO LEFT
DEROTATE RIBCAGE LEFT/TWIST LEFT
REACH LEFT ARM DIAGONALLY LEFT
For this curve pattern (which is the most common pattern), the body is leaning right, their bodyweight is in the right leg, and the head is drifting towards the right foot. When the thoracic spine bows out to the right, and rotates right, the majority of the bodyweight will be leaning right. 55- 75% of the weight is managed by the right leg. Which brings us to the central principle behind scoliotic correction:
“Do the OPPOSITE of your body’s tendency in order to find Balance.”
When your bodyweight, ribcage and head are shifting right, LEAN LEFT.
When the ribcage rotates right, DEROTATE LEFT.
When the left ribs narrow and collapse, ELONGATE the left side and REACH LEFT.
Some systems “elongate” or lengthen the spine first. This works great if your spine is centered. However, if your scoliosis is displacing your weight predominantly to one leg, elongation efforts don’t have enough momentum to shift the spine. Therefore, shift the weight and the torso to the opposite side FIRST, to foster a true spinal elongation.
PRACTICE: You can try this for yourself, even if you don’t have scoliosis!
Stand up. Lean your torso right (widening your right rear ribs and narrowing your left ribs), twist your ribcage right. Can you feel more weight in your right leg? Do your right ribs feel heavier and sinking with gravity toward the earth?
Now stretch your arms overhead and lengthen your spine while still leaning right. Can you sense how more weight poured into your right leg? Or maybe your arms went up and over to the left to act as a counter-balance. Those left ribs might have narrowed more! Or your shoulders may have scrunched up without the spine moving much at all.
Instead, from the starting point, lean your torso left till you feel the weight come into your left leg (Imagine you are angling your torso to 10 o’clock on an old-fashioned analog clock face.) Now ‘derotate’ the ribcage (twist left; sternum to 10 o’clock). Finally, elongate. Reach your left arm diagonally up and out to the left to stretch those narrowed left ribs. You have reversed the scoliotic dynamic. You have “unfrozen” the frozen position of the scoliotic spine.
And yes, you have “overcorrected.” You are not “centered” yet. You are deliberately moving opposite of your habit to unlock the scoliotic pattern. This overcorrection is so powerful, that when coupled with isometric contractions and corrective beathing, you can return true center, with weight equal in both feet, and a much straighter spine[i]. Repeated over time, with concentration and high awareness (using mirrors to see that the correction actually happens), the spine begins to correct easily and quickly.
Doesn’t Scoliosis Move the Spine Both Left & Right?
To be clear, a scoliotic spine “zig zags,” with certain parts shifting left and other parts moving right. And sections of the scoliotic spine can both rotate left and right. This is what can make scoliotic corrections confusing (for teachers and students!) However, for many scoliosis patterns with a large thoracic curve, there is a fundamental, more primary bodyweight shift and lean in the posture. Correct this, and the reason for all the counter-shifting parts starts to fade over time. The body remembers its true midline, and the bodyweight finds both legs more evenly.