Spinal Twist of Fate – How Yoga Helped My Scoliosis

Guest post by Kathryn Kusyszyn

Chiropractor: You’ve got scoliosis.
Me: What’s that?
Chiropractor: It’s a curvature of the spine.
Me: Huh?
Chiropractor: It’s quite common. Don’t worry, yours is quite small.
Me: ???

This is how, at 18 years of age, I found out I had scoliosis. I went to the chiropractor after hurting my neck in a trampoline accident. After the treatment, my neck felt better but I was very confused about this scoliosis. What was it exactly? Could it explain my chronic lower back pain?

Soon afterwards, I discovered hatha yoga classes. While I didn’t connect with the meditation part of the class, I enjoyed the stretching and especially the relaxation at the end.

Image via PowerofMovement.ca

During university I basically forgot about yoga with all the intellectual stimulation and new people I was meeting, so I rarely exercised except for riding my bike and some aquafit in the pool for stress relief during exams. Upon graduation, I travelled and worked abroad and certainly gave my body a few challenges. Fortunately I wound up working down the road from an Ashtanga Yoga Studio and it became my home away from home. Improved posture, core strength, confidence, new friends, encouragement from a wise teacher and learning to breathe all increased my energy levels and lifted my dark moods. My pain became much more manageable as did my desk job. Visiting chiropractors and massage therapists also helped a great deal.

Returning to Toronto, I found another desk job, another chiropractor and wonderful massage therapists. The company I worked for had lunchtime yoga classes and I took advantage of them twice a week. The more I practiced, the more I learned to listen to my body and take care of it. Lifestyle and dietary changes soon followed and I became a regular when a new yoga studio opened across the street.

At this time I found Iyengar Instructor Elise Miller’s work online — at last! She offered a basic sequence designed for scoliosis — for people like me! It felt great. I experimented with attending Iyengar classes and also explored other styles at my local studio, where by this time I was a teaching assistant and thoroughly hooked. I had never felt so strong both in body and mind — I doubt I’d ever known how to breathe fully or even stand tall before then.

Soon it was time to deepen my practice and I enrolled in a 6-month, 250-hour yoga teacher training program. Little did I know the transformation that would occur during this Introduction to the Eight Limbs of Yoga. I haven’t looked back. Yoga is my go-to, my salve, my quiet and peaceful time. The insights and confidence I developed led me to quit the corporate world, study nutrition and Reiki, then move to the west coast.

In October 2009, Elise Miller conducted a Yoga for Scoliosis workshop in Toronto and I jumped at the chance to work with her. Afterwards, I conducted two four-month case studies working intensively with two individuals with scoliosis who have patterns different than mine. I completed a written assignment and submitted these materials to Elise and now I am certified as a Yoga for Scoliosis specialist.

Since that time, with careful attention to my body, regular yoga practice, and liberal amounts of massage and self-care, I have a vastly improved quality of life and body experience. It is a lifelong journey and continual process of learning. Every day I am grateful for the tools and the teachings. It is my joy to share what I’ve learned from others so that they too, may benefit.

Kathryn is a yogi, bodyworker and health coach in Victoria, BC. Her passion is supporting people in accessing and acting on their inner wisdom to create a life they love. Kathryn teaches Yoga for Scoliosis and is the author of the upcoming book: Finding Centre: A Yoga for Scoliosis Companion Manual.