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April 29, 2024 7 min read

Scoliosis is a condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide with varying degrees of severity. Many individuals seek complementary therapies to alleviate discomfort and improve quality of life. Yoga, with its focus on posture, flexibility, and isometric strength, is often considered a beneficial practice for individuals with scoliosis.

In this article we investigate the potential benefits of yoga for scoliosis, focusing on how specific yoga poses and practices can help improve posture, strengthen muscles, and enhance overall well-being.

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a medical condition characterized by an abnormal, sideways spinal curve. The condition can vary in severity, with mild cases requiring only monitoring, while more severe cases may require scoliosis treatment like bracing or surgery. While the cause of most cases is unknown (idiopathic scoliosis), it can develop in childhood or adolescence and progress during the growth phase.

Degenerative scoliosis is a form of structural scoliosis that is caused by the gradual degeneration of the discs and vertebrae due to disease or aging. In some cases, scoliosis can also result from conditions such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or congenital spine abnormalities.

When viewed from behind, the spine should appear relatively straight from neck to tailbone with no lateral curvature at all, even though some degree of kyphosis and lordosis is normal.

However, unlike kyphosis and lordosis, which refer to the healthy outward and inward curvature of the spine, scoliosis refers to the spine's sideways or lateral curvature.

Types of scoliotic curvatures

There are three main sections of the spine:

  1. Cervical (neck)

  2. Thoracic (middle/upper back)

  3. Lumbar (lower back)

The location of the scoliotic curve typically classifies the type. Scoliosis can develop in any of the spine’s sections, it most commonly affects the thoracic spine and lumbar spine sections.

Scoliosis can affect people of all ages, but it is most commonly diagnosed in adolescence, particularly during periods of rapid growth. Girls are more likely to develop scoliosis than boys, and the condition can run in families.

How can Yoga Help with Scoliosis?

Yoga is often recommended as a complementary therapy for scoliosis. While it cannot cure scoliosis or reverse the curvature of the spine, yoga can help improve flexibility, strength, and posture, which may help alleviate some of the discomfort and pain associated with scoliosis.

However, it's essential for individuals with scoliosis to consult their healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen, including yoga, to ensure it is safe and appropriate for their condition.

People with scoliosis must attend yoga classes that cater to the demands of scoliosis sufferers, as scoliotic spines do not always behave in the same manner as straight, healthy spines.

Furthermore, a physical therapist and a qualified yoga instructor should be consulted first because the type of curvature, its location, and severity will play significant roles in the choice and performance of the yoga poses.

What to Know Before Starting Yoga for Scoliosis

Yoga has proved effective for relieving pain in multiple areas, such as the low back.

However, it is important for a person with scoliosis to know what type of spinal curvature they have and the Cobb angle. Understanding the type of scoliosis curve (e.g., thoracic curve, lumbar curve) can help determine the appropriate treatment approach and understand how the curvature may affect their body and daily activities.

The Cobb angle is a measurement used to quantify the degree of spinal curvature in scoliosis. It is measured on X-rays and helps determine the severity of the curvature and monitor changes over time. The Cobb angle also plays a crucial role in deciding the treatment plan, such as whether the condition requires observation, bracing, or surgery.

Regular monitoring of the Cobb angle is essential for individuals with a scoliosis curve, especially during periods of growth, as the curvature can progress. Knowing these details can also help individuals make informed decisions about their lifestyle, including the types of exercises and activities that are safe and beneficial for their condition.

Measuring Cobb Angle

Convex and Concave

Knowing which side of the spine is the concave (inner curve with shorter muscles) and which is the convex (outer curve with longer, stronger muscles) in scoliosis is important during yoga practice because it can help individuals focus on specific areas that may need more attention. Here's how it can be relevant:

— Postural Awareness

Understanding the concave and convex sides can help individuals with scoliosis become more aware of their posture and alignment during yoga poses. They can focus on elongating the concave side and strengthening the muscles on the convex side to improve overall alignment.

— Asymmetrical Engagement

For poses that involve asymmetrical engagement, such as side bends or twists, knowing the concave and convex sides can help individuals modify the pose to create balance and avoid exacerbating the spinal curvature.

— Focus on Strengthening the Convex Side

Individuals can focus on strengthening the muscles on the convex side of the spine to provide better support and stability, which can help reduce the progression of the curvature.

— Stretching the Concave Side

Gentle stretching of the muscles on the concave side can help improve flexibility and reduce stiffness, which is common in scoliosis.

— Avoiding Overcompensation

Knowing which side is concave or convex can help individuals avoid overcompensating or putting too much pressure on one side of the body during yoga practice, which can lead to muscle imbalances and discomfort.

Overall, understanding the concave and convex sides of the spinal curvature in scoliosis can help individuals practice yoga safely and effectively, with a focus on improving posture, strength, and flexibility in a balanced way. It is also important for the yoga instructor to be informed about the yogi’s condition and the type of scoliosis curvature they have.

Benefits of Yoga Poses for Scoliosis

Improved posture

Yoga asanas, or poses, can benefit individuals with scoliosis in several ways:

  1. Improved Posture: Yoga poses can help improve posture by strengthening the muscles that support the spine, which can help reduce the severity of the spinal curvature and alleviate discomfort.

  2. Increased Flexibility: Yoga can help increase flexibility in the spine and surrounding muscles, which can improve range of motion and reduce stiffness.

  3. Muscle Strength: Yoga poses that target the core, back, and shoulder muscles can help strengthen these areas, providing better support for the spine and reducing the risk of injury.

  4. Pain Relief: Some yoga poses may help alleviate back pain associated with scoliosis by improving alignment and reducing muscle tension.

  5. Mind-Body Connection: Yoga emphasizes mindfulness and body awareness, which can help individuals with scoliosis better understand their bodies and improve their overall well-being.

It's essential for individuals with scoliosis to work with a qualified yoga instructor who has experience working with students with spinal conditions. They can provide guidance on which poses are safe and beneficial, and how to modify poses to suit individual needs.

Yoga Poses to Improve Scoliosis Symptoms

Research published in 2021 was overseen by Loren Fishman, M.D., medical director of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and assistant professor at Columbia University Medical School in New York City, proves that certain yoga poses can relieve the symptoms of scoliosis.

According to Fishman, there are different poses that work best for different people’s individual curved spines, but “side plank is one that works well for lumbar curves.” Dr. Fishman adds that when doing the side plank, it’s key to do it with the convex side of your spine down.

He recommends the first three yoga poses on our list:

1. Side Plank Pose

Most effective because it has an asymmetrical strengthening of the spine. It's thought to strengthen the convex side of the curve's abdominal and spinal muscles.

2. Elevated Plank Pose

This version of the side plank is particularly good for the thoracic curve. It is more challenging because instead of stacking your feet on the floor, you put them on a chair or other elevation, and proceed as with the simple side plank.

3. Half-moon Pose

The half-moon pose is a back-bending yoga pose that can help with scoliosis by strengthening the latissimus dorsi and intercostal muscles on the lower convex side of the spine. In this pose, you pull on a belt attached to your horizontal foot to contract these muscles.

This video shows the proper way to perform the first three yoga poses.

Other yoga poses that could improve scoliosis symptoms because they help improve posture, strengthen the back muscles, and increase flexibility in the spine include:

4. Downward Dog Pose

The downward dog pose counteracts compression of the lumbar spine by stretching the back and neck muscles. It also strengthens the core and improves flexibility.

5. Warrior Pose

Many people with scoliosis have a right thoracic C curve or a right thoracic (primary) and left lumbar (secondary) S curve. This means that the left side may benefit from additional lengthening and the right side from additional strengthening.

Furthermore, this yoga pose helps with loosening constricted psoas muscles, often associated with lumbar scoliosis, enhancing spinal support and improved posture.

6. Cat-Cow Pose

The cat-cow pose is a yoga pose that can help with scoliosis because it stretches the muscles and tendons that support the spine, and opens up the spaces between the vertebrae. It also improves flexibility and mobility in the spine, which can prepare the body for other yoga poses.

7. Child's Pose

This gentle stretch helps elongate the spine and can help alleviate back pain. The child's pose, a forward bend yoga pose, helps elongate the spine and can help alleviate back pain. It can help with scoliosis because it relaxes and stretches the hips and back, releases tension in the upper body, and stretches the lower back.

The extended version of the pose, with the arms extended in front of the body instead of by the sides, can also help stretch the hips and lengthen the spine.

It's important to approach these poses with mindfulness and listen to your body. If you have scoliosis, qualified guidance is essential.


In conclusion, yoga can be a valuable complement to traditional treatments for scoliosis, offering a holistic approach to managing the condition. By improving posture, increasing flexibility, and strengthening muscles, yoga can help individuals with scoliosis maintain better spinal alignment and reduce discomfort.

However, it is essential for individuals with scoliosis to practice yoga under the guidance of a qualified instructor who can provide tailored modifications and ensure safety. With mindful and consistent yoga practice, scoliosis patients can experience improved physical and emotional well-being, enhancing their overall wellness and quality of life.