Yoga for scoliosis? Please share your thoughts


#21

Wow, Terence…You are a gem. Thanks.

Excellent starting points to research. I’ll look into these and get back to you with additional questions that I’m sure will come up along the way.


#22

I have scoliosis that I share with a lot of family members. Along with the benefits that we all know well, Yoga practice for me has been a source of tremendous improvement in function and well being. I generally have found that a regular, symmetric practice is best as opposed to specific prescriptions because it casts a wider net for toning the back muscles and that the most improvement comes from a good regular home practice as opposed to class, where you might be pushing a bit too much or trying to stay in sync. Being in the groove beats sprinting in this case. Chiropractic treatment always failed me in that it opens range of motion without understanding all of the soft tissue. My curvature is still there and I need to be attentive to asymmetric weight loading in my back so portaging heavy canoes is out. My problem extends to my cervicals so I find that I gravitate toward forearm balances rather than headstands for inversion relief. Kofi Busia told me years ago that I should moderate my forward bending and I only really understood that lately. None of this may be relevant to you but the most powerful tool continues to be breathing into problem areas during asana practice.

BJJE


#23

Hi Dr Stitzel,

You might find the work of Thomas Hanna interesting.He authored a book called “Hanna Somatics: The Myth of Aging” a no-nonsense book which describes the Cat Stretch Series of excercises and the rationale and method behind his system and researches. He was a pioneer in the field of Somatics (which developed since the early 1900’s taking inspiration and influence from folk like Moshe Feldenkrais, his main ifluence and many others)and mind/body medicine.Though unfortunately he died in a car accident in the early 90’s so his work could have continued.

But he talked about in this book the red-light reflex, the green light reflex and the trauma reflex.These were groupings of posturl patterns within patients that presented themselves to him. The green-light referred to a posterior tilt often charactersied by tight para-vertebrals , the need to engage the world and action and the red-light reflex often characterised by tight abdominals and hip-flexors(psoas etc), relating to fear and emtional insecurity etc.

Now the third neuromuscular reflex was the side-tilt, i.e lateral curvature of the spine, aka scoliosis.


#24

Hi Dr Stitzel,

You might find the work of Thomas Hanna interesting.He authored a book called “Hanna Somatics: The Myth of Aging” a no-nonsense book which describes the Cat Stretch Series of exercises and the rationale and method behind his system and researches. He was a pioneer in the field of Somatics (which developed since the early 1900’s taking inspiration and influence from folk like Moshe Feldenkrais, his main influence and many others)and mind/body medicine.Though unfortunately he died in a car accident in the early 90’s so his work could have continued.

But he talked about in this book the red-light reflex, the green light reflex and the trauma reflex.These were groupings of postural patterns or distortions within patients that presented themselves to him. The green-light referred to a posterior tilt often charactersied by tight para-vertebrals or rear musculature , the need to engage the world and action and the red-light reflex often characterised by tight abdominals and hip-flexors(psoas etc) front musculature, relating to fear and emtional insecurity etc very loosely speeaking/ You’d have to read the book and it’s no journal .

Now the third neuromuscular reflex was the side-tilt, i.e lateral curvature of the spine, aka scoliosis.He posited that this was invariably or typically had it’s orgins in trauma be it physical and mental or both or the accumulation of stress(See Herbert Benson author of ‘The Stress Response’ which was landmark book in 60’s, and very influential, and his mind/body institue at Harvard is still there and highly respected…it changed the usual perceptions away from this schism that existed and still persists between the mind & the body in conventional medicine & medical practice).

Typically even some folk with postural distortions presented in his office that he saw & observed or treated exhibited a combination of all three though they may have had a more dominant one.

Also he suggested the origins often lay in injury to the body.He suggested that origins could have been long long time ago but that the chronic muscular tensions could persist for many years , 30-40 even after an accident. With the case of the trauma reflex pattern of neuro-muscluar tension case he suggested it often had orgins in an injury to one side* of the body. Now when that occurs the muscles he said tightened up after an injury but those reflexes located in the sensory-motor cortex(located right at the top or fonatanelle of the crown/head, two strips in front of the pre-frontals in the front,forehead etc) had failed to release.He termed this SENSORY-MOTOR AMNESIA becauuse the brain or nervous system had somehow forgotten to release the muscles often long long after the injury. In fact patieints often forgot about the injury but when quizzed they might have said it started when i fell down the stairs, or off my bike etc etc as a boy/girl/adult etc etc. It was sometmes a vague memory but the chronlogy could be linked.

The somatic excercises he designed were designed to unlock these musclular tensions through waking up the sensory motor-cortex of the brain quite literally if such excercises were done slowly and with sufficent awareness of sensations produced etc…As i say his main influence he credits as Moshe Feldenkrain before him who wroked using a similar methodology.He was his most gifted student in fact. Feldnekrais authored alot of interesting books too…he was of the first judo masters or black belts in Europe.

Now these two wer primarily academics.That was their background.Hanna was a philosphy lecturer (although i did hear anecdotally which if found interesting that he had taught asana/hatha yoga class on a football pictch so sounds like he might have had a lot of students <smiile>) at Berkeley & Florida wher he taught and was director of the postgraduate course there but he also took a year out at medical school to gain a better understanding of how the human brain worked. His wife Eleanor Criswell Hanna is current director of the Hanna Somatics institue and also wrote a book called Somatic Yoga which attempts to integrate the findings in somatics with classical yoga.

Now to me there there may be something missing from Hanna Somatics discipline & perspective. It gets at the core and the core muscles are very important foor them as is their emphasis on the nervous system.What is missiing is posssibly what yoga has which is an understanding and awareness of the subtle realm, i.e the quantum diimension which modern medicine would do best to try and integrate to better understand how the human body/mind/spirit works.That’s why i say we’re not just a collection of physical parts.I’ve tried those excercises out and thy’re good and effective though some learning required and you do get therapists tht specialise in these ssessions after a few years of training.

So Hanna Somatics is an ambitous and bold attempt to integrate and bridge that gulf between more holistic therapies like yoga and the findings and practices of mainstream medicine,physiotherapy etc.

But to me there feels lilke there was something msising from it in terms of it’s ability to produce lasting happiness and deep profound healing and joy which is what we’re all after.

P.S I would’nt get too bogged down with technical distinctions and the like the need often seen in some types of science to break things,i.e matter,down into smaller & smaller pieces, ie. individuate…Although i might distinguish between structural and functional scoliosis.When you say the picture is complicated well from a holistic or yoga perspective each individiual is unique and treated as such.I wrote about this subject here a few years ago as i used to practice and studied it before deepening in my yoga practice.Alsoanother thing i noticed seemed slightly lacking in HS was the absence of pranayama or breathing excersise to heal the body ; they could have given more emphasis probably than they did perhaps or at least the programmes i had in my posession.I remember doing a certain breathing into the belly that went up & down. within the abdominal region.Yoga is a vast science which goes deeper and there are way more tools available too…not surpirsinig given it’s 5,ooo years(?) plus of development.


#25

I’m really enjoying the level of engagement this thread has produced. I would just like to add that I have tried most of the “for scoliosis” DVD’s out on the market and I would not limit myself to that kind of inquiry Clayton.

I have practiced almost every “type” of yoga that is in the west and I’m only speaking from my personal experience that some kind of Hatha, Iyengar, Ashtanga and/or very beginner flow is appropriate for someone who has never practiced before. Someone could argue that specific styles like Forrest (Anna Forest) yoga deal with this specifically, but I could argue the other way too.

One of the very important aspects of yoga for scoliosis is to have a teacher – a good, caring and hands on teacher who knows why you are there – is critical to help you learn (from the beginning) the proper “way” to do poses. There is no “perfect” way, but because we are talking about alignment and health because of the spine for someone who has a “challenge” in that area I would say one of the most important aspects is to look to the qualifications of the teacher and introduce yourself immediately as to why you are in class. So, what I think I’m getting to is to:

  1. get that excellent teacher (which i’ve studied with so many loving, excellent, and knowledgeable teachers) to focus on you from the beginning by knowing you are not in the class to “get fit” but to make this a lifelong quest of wellness

but if you do not feel great, for any reason, then

  1. try another style if that one does not suit you

#26

Dr Stitzel,

From a yoga perspective any number of yogas out there should do something along the lines of what you’re asking but it requires commitment and dedication from the student.Labels are not important be it hatha,raja,kundalini,mantra,tantra,laya, karma & bhakti yoga.They all work.

I allude to this peice of text you wrote which caught my eye. Yes , you may be onto something here (though i would’nt get too concerned with body-image,looking in mirrors or external examiinations which are often manifestations of underlying issues though they for the western doctor it’s often what he uses along with palpation, a relatively dead art for the modern G.P, i.e feeling muscles,tissue etc etc):-

Again, agreed, but more specifically the problem seems to start off as an under development of the involuntary postural control centers in the brain stem. So we would need a yoga style that would stimulate the automatic posture re-adjustment reflexes to “learn” the new and improved body schema.
I don’t know about an underdevelopment.I see it more as mixed up signals in the brain/nervous system.When you allude to developiing girls and the growth spurt at puberty i did have this thought that perhaps sometimes in teenagers the body could conceivably develop before the nervous system can quite mature quick enough. Hence why you see teenagers that seem to walk funny and awkward or clumsily because the rate of growth is so fast and perhaps the sensory-motor(cortex) regions of the brain and abilities have’nt quite matured in keeping with the physical etc changes.


#27

[quote=Stephanieyogini;50915]
One of the very important aspects of yoga for scoliosis is to have a teacher – a good, caring and hands on teacher who knows why you are there – is critical to help you learn (from the beginning) the proper “way” to do poses. There is no “perfect” way, but because we are talking about alignment and health because of the spine for someone who has a “challenge” in that area I would say one of the most important aspects is to look to the qualifications of the teacher and introduce yourself immediately as to why you are in class. So, what I think I’m getting to is to:

  1. get that excellent teacher (which i’ve studied with so many loving, excellent, and knowledgeable teachers) to focus on you from the beginning by knowing you are not in the class to “get fit” but to make this a lifelong quest of wellness

but if you do not feel great, for any reason, then

  1. try another style if that one does not suit you[/quote]

You make a good point here Stephanieyoga.

I think it was Gary Kraftsow, it could have been, a well-known yoga therapist that said in any healing strategy the relationship between the healer,though he really does’nt do anything, but he can facilitate the triggers, and the patient, i.e the patient/healer relationship is important or paramount even…

The healer allows the conditions for the body to heal.Just knowing someone is going to heal you though they don’t really do much, as it comes from within, has enormous psychological benefit.

They’re there because they will help,listen, offer a solution etc.


#28

For a severe case you would want a one-to-one and a muliti-thronged approach(asana alone just may not cut it) using if necessary asana,meditation,pranayam and further guidance relating to diet & lifestyle.A conditon like scoliosis may have developed and/or persisted over time.So it might take some time to unwind these kind of postural distortions that got there in the first place. A teacher versed in a number of areas of yoga would be most effective.


#29

We are on the same page. I really admire Gary Kraftsow. Hopefully there are exceptional teachers near Clayton that he can direct his clients to.


#30

Hi Dr. Stitzel,

Thank you for the links to the Scoliosis Forum.

I may have misunderstood what all was written there but I believe that they rather support my theory, especially the linked article to Martha Hawes. As well, the posts pointed out that there has been very little research in this area, and I agree with those who posted there that the connection will become more clear as research continues. (Maybe you could lead the way? ;))

Please do not think I am trying to argue for argument’s sake here. I am only interested in understanding better the myriad dysfunctions resulting from a society biased in gender roles.

We know that girls are more likely to develop scoliosis. Surely there are many causes for scoliosis but until we understand them, in my opinion we are treating a symptom. I’m suggesting that we look beyond the symptom by addressing all levels of development. This is where teaching children yoga can help because it nurtures growth on all levels.

[B]In yoga, there are at least five bodies in each person.[/B] This concept is called [I]Pancha Kosha[/I]. These bodies are what I was referring to in the last paragraph by “levels” and may be what causes Western medical doctors who are unfamiliar with yoga to misunderstand the fullness of yoga’s benefits. Yoga teaches a mind-body connection that is more than what is meant by Western’s “psycho-somatic illness.”

Back to the links to the Scoliosis Forum:

There were a few posts that stood out for me. One echoed my immediate response to the label “hysterical” scoliosis which historically reflects gender bias and misunderstandings.

Another one suggests exactly my theory and the lack of research:

[I]I remember reading a theory once that had to do with the personality of the AIS kid. This theory suggested that for whatever reason [B]they tend to respond to stress or trauma by literally contorting inward in an attempt to hide or disappear.[/B] I believe it also had to do with the psoas and fight or flight response similar to Liz Koch’s theory.

… it’s fairly common that AIS kids are shy and introspective, [B]but I don’t know of any studies that distinguish between personality prior to developing scoliosis vs shyness/ low self-esteem as a result of disfigurement.[/B] And I would never suggest that this alone would be enough to cause scoliosis – just an interesting factor to add to the mix.[/I]

This post points directly to our society’s not recognizing the impact of the damages:

[I]I see the major hurdle to further investigation being the overall cultural aversion to acknowledging that a psychological problem may exist and contribute to a physical condition. Which is pretty funny in light of findings which suggest the general population suffers with depression at epidemic levels. Psychological “problems” seem a part of life, and yet many prefer to avoid the recognition of something so obvious.
[/I]

I thought another interesting point made was the connection between breathing and scoliosis treatment and psychological therapy and treatment. In Yoga, there is the connection between breath and mental state where each reflects the other. By controlling our breath, we are able to affect our mental state.

Hope this helps! :smiley:

love and light,
sparky


#31

Hi bjje,

[QUOTE=bjje;50909]Chiropractic treatment always failed me in that it opens range of motion without understanding all of the soft tissue. [/QUOTE]

You are EXACTLY right! We developed a treatment protocol called “mix, fix, & set” which is a specialized scoliosis treatmentprotocol for patients The soft tissue (spinal discs, ligaments, muscles, ect) slowly begin to adapt to the abnormal spinal position, essentially “locking” the scoliosis in place. This makes it necessary to “unlock” the spinal position from the maladapted soft tissue (MIX), so the spine can be repositioned (FIX), and finally the soft tissue can be re-trained (SET) to hold the spine in the new straighter position.

“Mix and Fix” without the “Set” will end up making the scoliosis patient worse!


#32

Hi Stephanie,

Yes, i think it might be easier for the doctor to direct his clients to someone familiar with the full gamut of yoga tools available to treat a condition such as this one.

That is a relationship a doctor could cultivate.Chiropractic(my knowledge is limited here) & yoga could conceviably complement.

I am not familar with Gary Kraftsow’s work. But this gem, the idea of the relatioonship, someone that cares, was something that stuck in my mind and is also alluded to in a book about Krishnamacharya’s contribution to yoga ‘Health,Healing & Beyond’ that talks about treating the individual, vini-yoga , a tailored approach to healing…

P.S Thanks for adding me as a friend. That is very sweet of you btw!!!.The effect of having someonne there who you can turn to who is interested in you has enormous therapeutic & psycholgical benefit.People have to make aliving but i’ve got mixed idea of money,yoga & healing going together…a slight ambivalence about it…It’s a pity that the sick often have to pay someone to get better or get the healing they deserve.

Dr Stitzel -you might want to look like Stephanie says at folk in your area .Yoga takes al ong time to learn but an experienced onne-to one teacher that knows more than just puttiing a patient through certain pre-choreographed movements in the trickier cases would be invaluable and could definitely speed up the learning component required for the patient to heal themself and not be reliant on anyone…


#33

Hi core789,

[B]EVERYONE[/B]…Please feel free to call me “Clayton”…We’re all in this together and I really appreciate all of the help, time, talent, and energy everyone is pouring into this thread to help my patients. It’s actually quite encouraging and a little overwhelming (aka: lots of new info coming at me really fast). Obviously, I under estimated the complexity of Yoga by a long shot…My apologies.

Right now, I’m just trying to take it all in and organize it in a way my brain can comprehend and adjust to a more holistic/vitalistic mentality.

[B]This is a great forum community you all have created here and thanks for welcoming me in so warmly.[/B] :smiley:

BTW, I hope you all don’t mind if I cut and paste some of this great info over onto the www.fixscoliosis.com forum (the only 100% non-surgical scoliosis treatment forum in the world) ; where the yoga and scoliosis topic is grossly under represented. On a side note, [U]all of you are more than welcome (openly encouraged really) to join the fixscoliosis.com forum and share your knowledge, experience, ideas, whatever anytime.[/U] I’m one of the moderators on that forum and I’ll make sure your posts are treated fairly and with respect; much as mine have been treated on this forum.

[QUOTE=core789;50910]
But he talked about in this book the red-light reflex, the green light reflex and the trauma reflex.These were groupings of posturl patterns within patients that presented themselves to him. The green-light referred to a posterior tilt often charactersied by tight para-vertebrals , the need to engage the world and action and the red-light reflex often characterised by tight abdominals and hip-flexors(psoas etc), relating to fear and emtional insecurity etc.

Now the third neuromuscular reflex was the side-tilt, i.e lateral curvature of the spine, aka scoliosis.[/QUOTE]

This is SUPER interesting. I’m not sure what to do with it clinically, but I know this is a piece of the puzzle that has to fit in somewhere.


#34

[QUOTE=core789;50924]
Dr Stitzel -you might want to look like Stephanie says at folk in your area .Yoga takes al ong time to learn but an experienced onne-to one teacher that knows more than just puttiing a patient through certain pre-choreographed movements in the trickier cases would be invaluable and could definitely speed up the learning component required for the patient to heal themself and not be reliant on anyone…[/QUOTE]

I’m starting to think your right core789…I do the things I do very well, but I generally find someone else more capable than myself to do the things I don’t do well (or have no idea about in this context). This isn’t about me or my ego…It’s about the patient achieving their treatment goals…plain and simple.

Hmmm, perhaps I should be asking you fine folks more about how do I create a yoga instructor interview list to make sure I’m not recommending some sort of hack job yoga instructor?


#35

Hi Sparky!

[QUOTE=sparky;50922]
Please do not think I am trying to argue for argument’s sake here. I am only interested in understanding better the myriad dysfunctions resulting from a society biased in gender roles. [/Quote]

No worries my friend. I never take anything personally and I believe conflict clarifies. Let’s face it, we’re never going to improve scoliosis treatment in the future if we just all sit around agreeing with each other. BTW, I try to include a back link to my website on every post so anyone whom is interested can very quickly click over and see how vastly different and specialized our scoliosis treatment program is in comparison to traditional Chiropractic. It is a common mistake made by many.

[QUOTE=sparky;50922]
We know that girls are more likely to develop scoliosis. Surely there are many causes for scoliosis but until we understand them, in my opinion we are treating a symptom. I’m suggesting that we look beyond the symptom by addressing all levels of development. [/Quote]

We have developed a simple equation to explain the multi-factorial cause(s) of scoliosis.

[B]Genetic pre-disposition + Environmental Factors = Scoliosis [/B]

The “psycho-somatic” aspect your referred to could very well fall under one of the environmental factors catagories. We just don’t know and it would be really tough to study.

[QUOTE=sparky;50922]
I thought another interesting point made was the connection between breathing and scoliosis treatment and psychological therapy and treatment. In Yoga, there is the connection between breath and mental state where each reflects the other. By controlling our breath, we are able to affect our mental state. [/QUOTE]

Now that is the kind of “out of the box” thinking we need. Brillant. That could be a great thread on the fixscoliosis.com forum all by it’s self.

Honestly, I think the lack of exposure this group has to “accepted” knowledge about scoliosis and it’s treatment may be your greatest advantage.

Sometimes education constipates the mind, no? :wink:


#36

HAHA …SERENDIPITY and good fortune has brought you here…

I think ‘the good Doc’ might suit you. I don’t mind it. But Clayton can be more personable :slight_smile:

I am very glad,pleased & excited you find it SUPER-interesting. When i uncovered that stuff, I did too. A light-bub literaaally went off HERE when i first encountered that work and some of it’s findings and theories.

You sound super-interested in understanding it all and trying to make sense of it.

Cross-fertilisation between the yogic sciences and other alternative medicines is ripe.It is rich ground definitely.Just a matter of time…

I’m still trying to absorb all your knowledge which i find equally fascinating… it is a sharing thing definitely of perspectives…

Your unbridled interest in what you do and enthusiasm is admirable…

Check the book i reference out…i’d even send you my copy.

With Respect:cool:,


#37

Hi Clayton or the Doc.,

Genetic pre-disposition

Never gave this thought but it’s interesting…

Well stretching and strengthening muscle alone may be insufficient and not help. Indeed in some cases it could make it worse, i would venture to say sometimes it can indeed.

The yoga interview list,well I’m not sure how you could do that unless you had an experienced teacher to make an assessment. But ideally an effective teacher/therapist that is trying to treat this would offer one-to-one sessions (rather than group classes) most certainly in severe cases.They would have a range of tools and would be offering one perhaps( especially if it is strong) at a time within the areas of asana,pranayam and meditation.The student would have it demonstrated to them the intricacies and subtleties involved within any given particular practice, they would practice themself ,then they would go away and practice on top of that.

Someone that called themselves a therapist might be easier. You would just phone up the most experienced teacher in your area.Ask them if they can teach your clients meditation,some light pranayama and asanas. Hopeflully they can do that…Then ask your patients the pain relief & the quality of life after learning such tools or a session or two.

Teachers will teach what they know and likely practice.

Another option:-

You identify teachers that have some blurb attached to what they do…website ,whatever…

1)Ask them for instance if they work with the subtle body in a steady seat for example?

2)–>And say what techniques or methods do they say know or do they use or employ in their own practice in this regard? Essentially what do they practice beyond moving the body in space? I’m thinking of breathing and meditation. Some techniques are profound but that person,i.e the student, usually needs a lititle introduction so they are’nt doubting what they are learning.

That is an example.


#38

That is just an example.But if they’ve gone deep into a personal sadhana of their own they should be able to say,yes i do this when i close my eyes or breathe a certain way.

Do they do more than asana?

Are there therapeutic applications of those other techniques other than asana,aka postures/stretching & strengthening?

How do they treat illness or disease ?

How do or might they treat musculoskeletal issues or symptoms or indeed might treat or tackle scoliosis?

What strategies or approaches might they employ?

How confident or enthusiastic do they appear when you ask such questions? They should be honest and seem like what they offer should help at least.

They really need to( understand meditation just a little bit at least) have a regular meditation practice.Ask them what that is… they might do a number of things or just have one meditation practice.

By the way they don’t need the meditation necessarily…but it might just suggest they do more than asana. You don’t necessaarily need these other tools but you’re just trying to guage at a guess roughly-speaking the depth of their own practice.

ETC


#39

Hey Clayton,

I googled to find a link to the 5 bodies so that you could better understand yoga’s approach to healing and how it differs from Western medicine and I found this short video clip–actually it’s in 2 parts–that tells about the 5 bodies in yoga along with a nice overview of yoga healing theories. It’s a pretty good introduction to better familiarize yourself with some of the basic ideas you’ll find in yoga discussions, ideas we often take for granted.

What’s really wild is his videos and my posts are almost identical in ideas! I have never seen this guy before now and yet I find that he repeats me so closely that my jaw dropped a few times! LOL (But it makes sense because I try to always stay close to the basic ideas in yoga and that’s what this guy is covering here.)

Anyway, I encourage you to view both parts because he gives a good overview that I feel is necessary for you to get a better idea of yoga.

Enjoy!

Part I (6 minutes) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsmW6tHmH6M

Part II (8 minutes) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnrcSqv1t0k&NR=1


#40

[QUOTE=Dr. Stitzel;50524]Hello all,

I’m a chiropractor who specializes in rehab based scoliosis treatment and I get A LOT of questions about the usage of Yoga and effectiveness of Yoga in regards to the scoliosis condition.

I’m hoping some of you are willing to share your thoughts, experiences, and/or knowledge with Yoga as it relates to scoliosis, so I can better inform my patients to it’s benefits and potential dangers.

Thank you all very much! :smiley:

Please feel free to address me as “Clayton”…I only used “Dr. Stitzel” as a log in name, for reasons of full disclosure. Again, thanks for you time and help.[/QUOTE]

Clayton, good to have you on the forum.
I’m just wondering if you have seen a scoliosis in athletic people. What are chances for a kid to develop this condition in the future if he always physically active? (assuming that he she doesn’t have any genetic reasons for developing scoliosis)