Monday, 6 July 2009

Sun Saluations for the Scoli-Yogi!

These are a variation of the Satyananda sun salutations that I devised. Because scoliosis (and upper back scoliosis in particular) can have a knock on effect on shoulder rotation and back mobility the chaturanga/upward dog or astangasana/cobra versions of sun salutations were always virtually impossible for me to practice properly so I originally devised these for my home practice. After some time teaching yoga therapy I found a lot of people came to me with shoulder issues due to too many chaturangas, so now I teach these as a matter of course.


Monday, 29 June 2009

Putting it all together 2

It has been a dreadfully long time since I updated this. I have been working on all sorts of things - including the incorporation of Pilates into both my practice and teaching and considering training as a Pilates teacher as well as a yoga teacher. But for now I thought it was time I put some of the postures I have been writing about together in another sequence.

Once again we'll begin lying down; knees bent, feet on the floor with the heels in line with the sit bones. Place one hand on the chest and one hand on the lower belly and observe the breath and the movement of the breath under the hands for a few moments until the breath has become steady soft and even. You can then hug the knees to the chest and rock on the back in any way that feels good for you. Finish up the centreing part of the practice with any sort of supine twist that is approriate for you. Then come onto the right hand side and come to sitting back on the heels towards the back of the mat.

Time for the surya namaska variation from my post dated 20 January 2009. Take 3-5 rounds, moving slowly with the rhythm of the breath. Finish sitting back on the heels and take a couple of conscious breaths before coming to standing.

Virabhdrasana 1 - use the practice from my post dated 13 January 2009 and repeat 3-5 times on each side.

Parsvokonasana modification - from my post dated 1 April 2009. Repeat 5 times to each side slowly with the rhythm of the breath and then hold for five breaths. Remember that this is the peak of the practice -- the central pose we have been working towards so take it slowly with inner awareness.

Padottanasana variation - from my post dated 6 May 2009.

Step back to standing towards the back of the mat in tadasana, taking a few conscious breaths before coming down to kneeling.

One more round of modified surya namaska - holding the downward dog for five breaths.

Come into savasana for a few moments

Finish the practice with some gentle pranayama. I advise 6 rounds of alternate nostril breathing with a 1:1 ratio.

I will write more on pranayama very very soon :-)

Wednesday, 6 May 2009


Like standing forward bends, here is a pose that people with scoliosis can find difficult. In fact, this is a pose that anyone with tight hamstrings find difficult.

Like all yoga asana the trick is in getting the posture correct from the feet up right from the start.

Beginning with the feet wide, the pelvis square and the hands on the hips, draw the attention to the soles of the feet. Be aware of the four corners of the foot (big toe joint, little toe joint, outside heel, inside heel) and draw down with those four corners whilst lifting the arches of the feet. With the legs wide it is very easy to roll into the arches so make sure you are lifting them from the get go!

Lift the toes and place them back down gently on to the mat. This ensure the toes are soft and not gripping onto the floor.

Now to me Paddotanasana is a posture to stretch out the back of the body after poses such as Trikonasana and Parsvakonasana. It is a hamstring stretch as well but for people with scoliosis and/or tight hamstrings, there is no need to push the posture.

So from your grounded standing position with the hands on the hips, exhale and begin to hinge forwards from the hips until the body is parallel with the floor - ie, coming to a flat back position rather than drawing the crown of the head towards the floor. Make sure the feet stay grounded and the weight is evenly distributed through the heels and balls of the feet. Feel as though you are tucking your tail bone under and drawing the crown of the head towards the wall in front of you. Your gaze should be towards the floor, chin slightly tucked in and back of the neck long.

Inhale back up to standing.

Repeat five times.

On the final one you can hold the posture, draw the navel in towards the spine and hold for five breaths, coming up on an inhale.

Step the feet together and bring the hands into prayer position in front of the chest.

Namaste Yogis :-)

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Modified Parsvakonasana

Side angle poses such as Parsvakonasana and Trikonasana can be difficult when a yogi has back or joint problems - there is a lot of strain on the sacro-iliac joint and pelvis when coming into the full posture (ie bringing the hand to the floor or foot). Also with a scoliosis there is a danger of curving into the posture on the side of the convex curve, rather than stretching the spine out into a side bend.

However, side stretches are as important for stretching, strengthening and aligning the spine as more vertical postures so I am loathe to leave them out of a practice altogether - a modification is therefore called for!

Standing with the legs wide, the feet parrallel and the hands on the hips take a few moments to check in on your breath and your alignment. Then turn the right foot out and the left foot in slightly, lining up the heel of the right foot with the instep of the left. Square the shoulders back to the front.

On an inhale, bring the arms out to shoulder height, palms facing down.

Exhale - bend the right knee over the ankle and bring the right forearm on to the right thigh. Stretch the left arm, hand and fingers up to the ceiling, feeling the energy in the fingertips and drawing down through both feet equally.

As you inhale return to the starting position. Repeat 5 times holding the last one for 5 breaths.

If you want to you can then come to trikonasana from here by straightening the right leg as you inhale and bring the right hand on to the right shin (no lower). Turn the head to look up at the left hand if that feels OK on the neck and hold for 5 breaths.

To come out bend the right knee again and come into a Warrior 2. Take a breath here and on an inhale straighten the leg, release the hands to the hips and bring the feet to parrallel again.

Repeat to the other side, noticing any differences between one side and the other - especially if you have a scoliosis.

Finish with a gentle forward bend to release the lower back.

Namaste Yogis :)

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Living for Today

"Stop my feet in their daily tracks so that I might not miss today in some vague hope of tomorrow"

I read this line in a book of daily Celtic prayers that I have.

This line, to me, sums up everything that yoga is about.

It is part of the human condition somehow to always be leaping ahead or behind. Living in the future or the past. Filling our lives with "if onlys". "If only I hadn't done this.... then I would be happy". "If only I had this.... then I would be happy."

There is nothing wrong with planning your tomorrows; with having a goal to work towards. There is nothing wrong with learning from the mistakes of the past. But all we really have is this moment, right now. How we feel, how we breathe, how we are right now is what we should be concentrating on. Contentment in every breath.

Yoga is about being in the moment, embracing this moment - regardless of the pain you may be in, or the treatment you may be waiting for. Yoga is right here, right now. And so should you be.

It's not easy, our minds wander onto happier thoughts, places we would rather be, thing we would rather be doing.

Take some time each day to check your thoughts, and when they wander into some vague plan of the future bring your attention back to the rhythm of your breath, that physical manifestation of your here and now, and enjoy that breath, that moment for what it is. Right now.


Thursday, 29 January 2009

Putting it all together

I have looked at various modifications of classical yoga postures for scoliosis and fibromyalgia over the last few months and now I think it's time to put it all together into a sequence.

The following sequence is suitable for whatever time of day you like to practice. It is a slow, gentle sequence focussing on drawing in and retaining energy and working on lift and alignment. It should take about 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Begin lying down - knees bent, feet flat on the floor hip width apart. Bring the arms onto the floor beside you, away from the body with the palms up then bend the elbows and allow the palms to rest on the lower ribs being aware of their movement as you breath. Take some time to let go and connect with your breath. Be aware of your alignment and allow the shoulderblades and lower back to sink into the floor.

When you are ready as you inhale bring the arms out to the sides again, straightening the elbows, opening out the chest. As you exhale bend the elbows again and draw the palms back to the low ribs. Continue for as many breaths as feels good for you, visualising yourself drawing energy in on the inhale and sealing that energy in on the exhale.

Stretch the arms out to shoulder height along the floor with the palms facing up for supine twists - 3 dynamically to each side and then holding for 3 breaths to each side. I would recommend to people with scoliosis not to turn the head and just concentrate on the spinal twist and the breath.

Come up to sitting back on the heels and take 3-5 rounds of modified surya namaskar as described in my post of 20th Jan 09.

Come to standing and take the Virabhadrasana 1 sequence as described in my post of 13 Jan 09.

Take 3-5 repetitions of modified Uttanasana (see post of 10 Sept 08) to release the lower back and then return to sitting on the heels.

Take one repetition of modified Surya Namaska - this time holding the down dog for 5-10 breaths, thinking about maintaining length and releasing the back and shoulders.

Finish sitting, either cross legged or kneeling, whichever is more comfortable for you. Place the palms on the lower ribs once again. As you inhale stretch the arms out to the sides visualising yourself drawing in energy, as you exhale return the palms to the low ribs once again and visualise yourself sealing that energy in. Repeat for 5-10 breaths.

Finish by sitting in stillness for a while, listening to the rhythms of the breath and body.

When you are ready bring the hands into namaste infront of the heart centre and bow the head - aknowledging without judgement how you feel right now.

When you are ready, open the eyes and enjoy the rest of your day!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Modified Surya Namaska

It occurs to me that there is one overriding factor that links both scoliosis and fibromyalgia - chronic tiredness. With fibro it's a given but one forgets with scoliosis how exhausting it can be to just stand or sit upright all day long when the spine has other ideas - muscles go into spasm, vertebrae can become inflamed. The fibre optic cable of the spine doesn't quite transmit its data correctly and the next thing you know you're zonked.

Sometimes then (and nearly all the time for me) full sun salutations are just not a possibility. If you suffer from chronic fatigue a series of Surya Namaska can drain you of the energy it is meant to be creating! So the question is, can we create a flowing sequence that feels like Surya Namaska, energises and opens the heart like Surya Namaska but at the same time conserves the energy? Of course! With yoga anything is possible and I have found that the trick is to do a floor based sequence rather than one that requires constant movement from standing to floor.

Begin sitting back on the heels with the hands on the thighs and check your alignment and breath.

As you inhale come to standing up on the knees raising the arms alongside the ears, stretching the fingertips to the ceiling and opening out the heart.

Exhale down into a long child - buttocks to heels, forehead to the floor, arms stretched out ahead of you (try to keep the arms alongside the ears as you lower down).

Inhale to all fours and cow stretch - lengthening the pelvis, opening the chest and lifting the head.

Exhale, tuck the toes under, push down through the hands and come up into Downward Facing Dog.

Inhale all fours, cow stretch.

Exhale long child.

Inhale standing up on the knees stretching the fingertips to the ceiling (trying to keep the arms alongside the ears as you raise up).

Exhale back to sitting on the heels checking in on the alignment and the breath.

Can be repeated as many times as you feel you need. You could try holding the down dog for a few more breaths each time, building up to holding dog for 8-10 breaths.

Work to the rhythm of your breath and to your own individual needs each day.

And enjoy the flow of breath, movement and energy!