Healing Scoliosis through Yoga

Published on November 23, 2014

None of us is perfectly symmetric, but some musculoskeletal imbalances are so extreme that they can impact well-being and self-image. Scoliosis, a condition that leads to lateral curvature of the spine, affects 6 million people in the U.S., from infants to the elderly. The most common age of onset is 10-15 years, and 85 percent of cases are idiopathic, meaning that the cause is unknown. Medical treatments include braces and spinal surgery, but at least one doctor has found an even more effective remedy: yoga.

Dr. Loren Fishman, who studied with B.K.S. Iyengar in Pune, India, applies his yogic experience to his specialty of Rehabilitation Medicine. In a recent study of scoliosis patients, he found that a daily practice of holding Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose) led to marked improvement in spinal curvature. Dr. Fishman’s peer-reviewed research focused on 25 patients with idiopathic and degenerative types of scoliosis, with curvatures from 6 to 120 percent. All patients improved, with the greatest improvement (up to 49 percent) noted in those who adhered to the daily regimen.

You read that right: One pose, practiced 1-2 minutes daily for two months, significantly improved scoliosis. The key is practicing Vasisthasana on one side—with the convex side of the spinal curve down—to strengthen the muscles on that side of the spine.

The results of this study are especially good news for young women. While scoliosis affects boys and girls in equal numbers (doctors estimate that 2-3 percent of 16-year-olds have some lateral curving of the spine, often attributed to “growth spurts”), girls are much more likely to experience severe curvature that persists or progresses over time. When the curvature is more than 25 percent, bracing is recommended. At 40 percent, doctors may recommend surgery to fuse the spine. Curvatures greater than 70 percent may restrict mobility and affect cardiopulmonary function. Furthermore, the stigma of wearing a brace or having a visible disability often leads to psychosocial issues like body-shaming, low self-esteem and more.

Dr. Fishman has also prescribed yoga for patients with osteoporosis, sciatica, back pain and other ailments. His books and articles help illuminate the science behind yoga practices, making them a valuable resource for yoga therapists, teachers and students. Often, he is able to pinpoint a therapeutic pose or sequence to initiate healing, including the asymmetrical practice of Vasisthasana described above, or this forearm maneuver for rotator cuff injuries.

We’ve all met yoga skeptics (doctors among them), but most anyone who’s practiced yoga regularly has experienced firsthand how it increases mental, emotional and physical balance—even when, as in this case, balance is restored by asymmetrical practice.

Understanding how to work with an ailment or injury is a valuable life skill. Scoliosis is often detected by a school nurse or gym teacher. Wouldn’t it make sense to include yoga in school programs so that kids and teachers have additional tools for maintaining good health? What do you think?

Share with


Our Latest

Yoga Articles
  • Hot Yoga at Home

    Can You Practice Hot Yoga at Home?

  • Saying Thank You to a Yoga Teacher

    12 Ways to Say Thank You to a Yoga Teacher

  • Yoga for Thanksgiving

    Yoga for Thanksgiving: 10 Asanas for Gratitude

  • Siddhis

    Siddhis: Definition, Types, Tips and Dangers

  • Spiritual Health and Wellness

    12 Yogic Ways to Cultivate Spiritual Health and Wellness

  • Bhakti Yoga

    Bhakti Yoga: the Yoga of Devotion

  • Sri Yantra

    Sri Yantra: Meaning, Symbolism, and Benefits

  • Yoga Weight Loss Plan

    7 Ways To Add Yoga To Your Weight Loss Plan

Remove Ads with a

Premium Membership

Viewing ads supports YogaBasics, which allows us to continue bringing you quality yoga content. Sign up for a premium membership to remove all ads and enjoy uninterrupted access to the best yoga resources on the web.

Explore More

Yoga TipsAdviceArticlesPracticesBasicsTechniques

  • Yoga Class for Beginners

    Which Yoga Class Is Best for Beginners?

  • Warrior Poses

    The 5 Warrior Poses of Yoga

  • yoga balance tips

    The Best Tips to Boost Your Balance in Yoga

  • evening yoga

    6 Benefits of Practicing Yoga Before Bedtime

  • Daily Yoga Routine at Home

    8 Tips to Maintain a Daily Yoga Routine at Home

  • Yoga Vitamins

    The Best Yoga Vitamins for Optimum Flexibility

  • morning yoga stretches

    18 Morning Yoga Stretches and Poses to Start Your Day

  • Sri Yantra

    Sri Yantra: Meaning, Symbolism, and Benefits

  • yoga on carpet

    Practicing Yoga on Carpet: Pros, Cons and Top Tips

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Kathleen Bryant Avatar
About the author
A former teacher and forever student, Kathleen Bryant swapped her running shoes for a yoga blanket in 1992, when she joined her first Hatha Yoga class in the back room of a local crystal shop. After earning a 500-hour teaching certificate from the International Yoga College, she taught anatomy, asana, and other subjects at 7 Centers School of Yoga Arts in Sedona, AZ. Kathleen is especially interested in the therapeutic aspects of yoga and continues to learn from Rama Jyoti Vernon, an amazing yogini who inspires her students to integrate yoga philosophy and mythology with contemporary life. An award-winning author, she has also published a children’s story, a cookbook, and books that focus on Southwest culture, travel, and natural history.
Yoga Basics