Thanks for your patience. I just finished a week of training and am getting caught up on Forum questions.
As you note, I am not a doctor, so take anything I say with many grains of salt. Plus I have not met Gerjanne and have not examined her. So, what would a doctor who is also a yoga teacher say? I will defer to Dr Loren Fishman
and I quote him and his work with people with scoliosis a lot in my book Your Spine, Your Yoga. Basically the plan is — stretch what is short and tight; strengthen what is weak and long. Here is what I wrote in the book; I hope it helps!
YOGA FOR SCOLIOSIS
Figure 3.321 shows both a presentation of scoliosis and a theory for fixing it. Since the convex side (the open left side) is too long and too weak, it makes sense to shorten and strengthen this side. Since the concave side (the closed, right side) is too tight and too short, it makes sense to lengthen it but not strengthen it any further. A posture such as Side Plank (Vasisthasana) fits the bill nicely. As shown in figure 3.322a, the lower (left) side of the torso is contracting and strengthening. The upper (right) side is lengthening but is not bearing much load, so it is not becoming stronger.
A team led by Loren Fishman, a medical doctor and a senior yoga teacher, tested this idea on 25 scoliosis patients. Those who stuck to the practice and worked up over time to holding this one pose for 90 seconds, six days a week for seven months had a 40% reduction in the curvature of their spines. That was the average; the range of improvement was 25–75%, significant enough for several of the participants to avoid braces and even surgery.
Not all participants in the study were able to hold the full Side Plank posture, due to knee, wrist and shoulder problems, so the main posture was adapted to the patient’s needs. For wrist and shoulder issues, the version shown in gure 3.322b was used. For students with knee issues, the knees were exed and on the floor (c), but the hips were still raised. Notice that for these students, who have a single C-shaped curve, the convex (left) side of the spinal curve is on the bottom. For double-curve scoliosis, a more complicated posture was used, as shown in (d). Here both curves were worked, following the same philosophy of opening the tight side and strengthening and shortening the long side.
The researchers admit that their study of yoga postures for scoliosis was small and lacked a control group. Compliance with the protocol was also an issue, but since there were no side effects from the practice (outside of mild soreness in some wrists and shoulders) and the results were so impressive, the use of these exercises as a treatment warrants further investigation. While the patients in this study only did this posture for a minute or so each day, it would be easy to incorporate this pose and its philosophy into a full yoga practice.
NOTE TO TEACHERS: Sometimes it is okay to do only one side of a pose!
For students with an asymmetric spine, it may be a good idea to hold a pose on one side longer than on the other side, or to skip the second side completely and do the first side twice! A student with single-curve scoliosis has one side that is tight and short, while the other side may be long and weak. Rather than work both sides of the spine equally, it may be more beneficial for the student to do two side bends or two twists to the same side and not work the other side at all. For example, the student depicted in gure 3.320 has a convex curve to the left and his axis is rotated to the left, which is obvious when he folds forward. For him, it may be more beneficial to do the Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana) twice on the left side and not at all on the right side. Since his ribcage is already rotated to the left, he may only do twisting poses to the right and skip twists to the left.
Although the definition of scoliosis is a curve of the spine of 10° or more, many people have minor curves less than 10°. For these milder conditions, it may be appropriate to work both sides of the spine but for uneven amounts of time. In my own case, I have a slight curve, convex side facing left. is causes me to sit with my head slightly tilted to the right. In my yang yoga practices, I will hold a Side Plank Pose with the right side low for 45 seconds, then do the left side low for 90 seconds. In my yin yoga practice, I will first hold a twist to the left for three minutes but then hold a twist to the right for six minutes. In this way, I can maintain the range of motion of my left side and the strength of my right side while enhancing the range of motion of my right side and the strength of my left side. Awareness of my slight curvature has also led me to change some habitual movement patterns: I remind myself to carry things in my left hand or draped over my left shoulder rather using my more comfortable right side, and to sit straighter with a slight, conscious tilting to the left. These little techniques are helping me to reduce the curvature and prevent it from getting worse. They may help you or your students too.