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Happy National Scoliosis Awareness month!

This year, TOPS is celebrating National Scoliosis Awareness Month in June by sharing a series of drawings that illustrate ‘Ten Simple Exercises for Scoliosis and Fusions’ one at a time over the course of the month.

These exercises, hand-drawn by director and teacher Martha Carter in her simple ‘stick-person’ drawing style she uses for all her classes, suggest easy movements that anyone can try at home, the gym, the yoga studio or, in the case of the first two, in the car, on a plane, or at your desk.

Some might call them physio or stretching, or a combination of both; others may call them meditation, and others are common yoga poses. Regardless of their origin, they are presented here with guidance to help people with scoliosis and / or fusions to find new awareness and sensation in their spines, as well as their whole body.

Regardless of your age or ability, the simplicity of each pose makes them accessible to everyone. They are meant to help each person calm their often over-charged nervous system, while also learning ways to relax, decompress, stretch, re-pattern, and strengthen the spine.

We suggest that you try one at a time, in order. Take time to really feel each one, observing how they may feel slightly different each time you do them. Even though they are simple, they can be very powerful and effective. By the end of the month, you can continue to do the ones that you find most helpful, and you can also choose to do them one after the other in order as a kind of ‘flow’ sequence.

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 1. Basic Breathing - Basic Pranayama

Helps to purify the blood and respiratory systems, sending oxygen to the brain, lungs, heart, and capillaries while also calming the whole body.

  • Sit in chair, on floor, or lie down.

  • If possible, inhale and exhale through nose.

  • Consciously fill and expand belly, ribs, and torso in all directions.

  • Increasingly slow down breath, calming whole body (it helps to count both inhale and exhale to become aware of pace).

  • On exhale, use ‘hiss’ breath to help with slowing down.

  • Use inner vision to ‘see’ breath moving up and down spine.

NOTE: There are many different breathing techniques, mostly related to yoga practices, that are often combined with meditation techniques. For those who are interested in learning more, the internet has many informative articles and videos about yogic breathing that are worth checking out.

2. Sitting on chair

Warms up spine and calms nervous system

  • Sit on chair with feet planted firmly on floor.

  • Lengthen spine from tailbone to crown of head.

  • Relax all tension in jaw, shoulders & whole body.

  • Use slow, deep breathing to massage spine from inside out.

  • Use inner vision to scan your body, reinforcing your sitting position without creating tension.

  • Aim for 10 breaths, finding increased length in spine with every exhale.

Option: Either sit against chair back for comfort, or pull spine away from chair to increase strength.



Warms up spine, opens hips and calms nervous system

  • Sit on floor with legs crossed.  

  • Stretch spine from tailbone to top crown of head.

  • Use bolster, pillow, or blanket under buttocks to support spine.

  • Also use props under thighs/knees/feet where required.

  • Take slow, deep breaths, expanding your belly and ribs in all directions.                 

  • Lengthen spine, connect to pelvic floor, and open your heart.

-Aim for 5 breaths, lengthening spine, connecting to pelvic floor, and opening your heart on every exhale.

NOTE: Change leg crossing and repeat.

 4. arms stretch up wall - modified urdva hastasana

Decompresses spine, stretches arms, armpits, side body, and strengthens legs

  • Face wall and stretch arms up as high as possible.

  • Pay attention to feet pointing forward in a parallel position.

  • Option to rest forehead on wall to relax neck.

  • Use fingers to ‘climb’ up wall, giving body traction.

  • Crawl fingers over to right to stretch left body, and to left to stretch right body.

  • In each position, take 2 deep breaths into the full torso, with focus on your concavities.


 5. Table Top Stretch at Wall

Lengthens spine, stretches arms and legs, strengthens torso

  • Face wall and place palms on wall at chest height.

  • Keeping hands on wall, walk backward and bend torso to be parallel with the floor.

  • Look straight down, feeling length of spine from crown to tailbone.

  • Bend knees gently if legs feel too tight.

  • Open chest and keep shoulders away from ears.

  • Take at least 2 deep breaths into full torso while reinforcing pose.

Option: use a lift such as a slant board under heels to relieve tight legs.

 6. Cat-Cow

Mobilizes spine, opens chest, stabilizes arms

  • On all fours, plant hands below shoulders and knees below hips firmly into floor with tops of feet lying flat.

  • Curl spine by stretching waist towards sky while dropping head and tailbone towards floor.

  • Stay in this ‘cat’ position and take a deep breath into full torso.

  • Change position by arching spine in other direction while lifting head and tailbone to sky.

  • Keep shoulders and chest open, relax neck, and stick tongue out to stretch jaw.

  • Stay in this ‘cow’ position and take a deep breath into full torso.

  • Repeat movements slowly a few times, staying aware of energizing your concavities.


 7. Modified Locust - Modified Salabhasana

Strengthens spine, especially lower back

  • Lie facedown on floor with hands flat on floor under your shoulders and legs long.

  • Touch or ‘zip’ legs together and gently push pubis into floor.

  • Lift and lengthen head, hands and legs off floor a few inches.

  • Count to ten (or a number that feels right), then lower and completely relax.

  • Focus on lengthening while strengthening.

  • Repeat minimum 3 times.

Option: lengthen arms in front of body, or clasp hands with arms long behind back to increase challenge.

8: Modified Child’s Pose - Modified Balasan

To lengthen lower back, open armpit lines, and calm nervous system

  • Kneel on floor with hips on heels and bend torso forward.

  • Lengthen arms forward with focus on stretching the armpits.

  • Rest forehead on floor or use higher support like a foam block if necessary.

  • Take 2 deep torso breaths, increasing length of pose with each exhale.

  • Keeping head down, crawl fingers over to right to stretch left body concavities, and to left to stretch right body concavities.

Option: put padding under knees or hips as required.


 9. Downward Facing Dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana

Full body stretch and strengthener with benefits of  inversion

  • From kneeling, keep feet and hands firmly planted on ground and lift hips towards sky.

  • Stretch hamstrings, but bend knees gently as required. 

  • Push strongly with hands to lengthen and strengthen torso.

  • Feel length of spine from tailbone to crown of head.

  • Take 3 deep breaths, increasing position with every exhale.

Option: rest heels on a slant board or wall to relieve tight hamstrings.

10: Standing Forward Bend - Uttanasana

Stretches and lengthens your hamstrings and calves. Calms your brain, relieves stress, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, mild depression, and insomnia

  • With feet pointing forward in a parallel position, hang torso and head towards floor. 

  • Gently bend knees to relieve tight hamstrings.

  • Feel head and arms heavy, resting hands on floor, block, chair, or legs, depending on flexibility.

  • Take 3 deep breaths, letting breath fill entire torso, especially the back body.

  • Come to standing slowly to make sure you are not dizzy. 

Option: bend one knee at a time for increased hamstring stretching.


 BOnus 11. Kitchen Sink Pull

Decompresses spine, stretches arms, releases lower back

  • This pose requires a kitchen sink! (or a railing, ballet barre, fence, or something else to hang from).

  • Facing the sink, plant your feet a few inches apart with your toes near the wall.

  • Holding the edge of the sink (or railing etc) bend your knees into a squat position.

  • Drop your body weight, feeling the stretching sensation in your whole body.

  • Take 3 deep breaths, lengthening the tailbone towards the floor.

Option: move feet closer or farther from the wall for slightly different stretch sensations.



Before beginning this exercise series (or any exercise for that matter), it is VERY important that you learn about your own particular scoliosis curve pattern.

Observe the chart above, keeping in mind the following important points:

  • The figures are not anatomically correct as they do not show the right number of vertebrae.

  • Everyone’s curve is different in its position (higher or lower), in its length (how many vertebrae are involved), and in its rotation (all curves also twist backwards towards the convex side).

  • Everyone’s pattern is unique, and they sometimes go in the opposite direction. For example, the first drawing shows a thoracic curve going towards the right - which is by far the most common direction for thoracic curves - but some go to the left. Lumbar curves are mostly to the left, but sometimes they go to the right, etc.

  • VERY IMPORTANT: Study your x-rays or consult an experienced specialist to learn the direction, placement, and pattern of your own spinal curvature. By learning this, you can then identify your ‘convexities’ and ‘concavities’ and apply that knowledge to all your activities, including everything from exercise to sitting to sleep. This information will be the key to your learning how to improve your posture, reduce discomfort and, perhaps most importantly, will give you a sense of empowerment around your own body and living with this confusing, confounding condition!

TOPS HINT: The best way to learn about your curve pattern is to take a private consultation, class, workshop, or retreat, with Martha Carter or another scoliosis specialist from the TOPS Team. Find out about our upcoming workshops / retreats here. Scoliosis is a complex and multi-layered condition, and you don't have to go it alone. Please feel free to explore our resource site for more information, and to get in touch if you have any questions.